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Illustrator Insider Training: Rethinking the Essentials is the first installment in a series of courses designed to show experienced Illustrator users to how master core features and build art more efficiently. Adobe Illustrator has evolved dramatically over the years, and many creative professionals may be missing out on features that have been added to the latest versions. This course takes a fresh approach to core concepts, such as paths, attributes, object hierarchy, groups, and layers. Advanced techniques such as combining multiple effects and customizing textures are also included. Exercise files and a free worksheet are included with the course.
What we've established until now is that we can use the Appearance panel to control the presentation of our artwork. We also know that even when we've applied some kind of a presentation--meaning fill or stroke attributes to our objects--there is something inside of Illustrator called a basic appearance. A basic appearance is an object that has a single fill and a single stroke applied to it. As soon as we start adding multiple attributes, or we start adding Live Effects, those objects now have complex appearances. Now if we take a look at the piece of artwork that we have on my document right now, this file called expanding.ai, if I select this artwork right now, I can see clearly through the Appearance panel that this object has four different stroke attributes, three different fill attributes, and the Live Effect, which is a drop shadow.
So it's obvious that this object right now has a complex appearance. Now remember, all of these attributes are simply adding to the presentation of the artwork. The structure is still the same. I have a single path inside of this document. But what if I decide that I don't want all of these strokes here? Yes, I can go ahead and I can start to take these strokes and drag each of them individually to the trash can here, or even select one and then click on the trash can to delete a fill. There may be times when I just want to wipe the slate clean. I want to keep my original structure, but I want to start over again when I think about the appearance itself.
Well, if you look at the bottom of the Appearance panel here, there is a button called Clear Appearance. Now with my artwork selected, if I were to now click on this button, Illustrator actually removes the entire presentation aspect of that artwork. It completely wipes the slate clean. I now have none set for my fill. I have none set to my stroke. My opacity is reset completely to its default. All the additional fills and strokes are removed. And any live effects like, for example, that drop shadow is also removed from the object. It's like taking a big eraser and just wiping the slate clean.
All I am left with now is the underlying structure of my artwork. Now, I am going to press Command+Z or Ctrl+Z on Windows to undo that, because I want to show you yet another possibility, another way to take my artwork right now and kind of reduce it down to its basic premises. If I go to the flyout menu of the Appearance panel, I'll see there is an option here called Reduce to Basic Appearance. By the way, you'll see that Clear Appearance also appears here as a menu item. We applied it before by using this button down here. But there is also an option here called Reduce to Basic Appearance.
Remember, we discussed before a basic appearance is an object that has a single fill and a single stroke. If I choose Reduce to Basic Appearance, Illustrator throws out the extra fills and strokes. It leaves me with just one stroke attribute and one fill attribute, so you the difference here. Before, when I cleared the appearance, Illustrator got rid of everything, even the fills and strokes, so that all I was left with were attributes of none. But here when I reduce it to basic appearance, Illustrator keeps one fill and one stroke attribute.
Now, I am going to press Undo for a minute here. I want to go back to my original artwork that has the complex appearance, because I want to show you one other very important element when it comes to working with appearances. Say I have some artwork right here. It's a single path, yet I have multiple attributes applied to it. I want to somehow take this artwork, and I want to make it compatible with versions of Illustrator before Illustrator 9-- in other words, make it compatible with PostScript artwork. Or I want to bring it into another application that does not support these multiple appearances.
Let me give you a classic example. If I have artwork right now inside of Illustrator, it's a single object, yet it has multiple attributes applied to it. If I wanted to copy and paste this into Adobe InDesign, we all know that Adobe InDesign is another Adobe application. However, InDesign does not have the ability to support multiple attributes-- meaning multiple fills or strokes--on a single object. So as it is right now, this object is not compatible with InDesign. What I can do is go up to the Object menu and choose an option here called Expand Appearance.
Now before I actually apply this command, I find it interesting that this command is not available in the Appearance panel itself. We've just seen that directly through the Appearance panel, I can completely clear an appearance or reduce an object from a complex appearance to a basic appearance. However, if I want to expand that appearance, I need to come all the way here to the Object menu. I am going to choose Expand appearance. What just happened now is that Illustrator took my artwork and expanded it, meaning that it kept the exact same visual appearance.
If you look at this right now, it does not look like the artwork has changed anything. It looks just the same as it did before. However, the difference is that now Illustrator replicated that exact same design using objects that only have basic appearances. In the event where Illustrator might encounter some kind of a Live Effect that can only be reproduced by using pixels-- for example, that soft drop shadow that was in the background--Illustrator actually converted that to a physical pixel-based image. Let me show you what I mean. Right now, you can see that in my Appearance panel it says that I have a group that's currently targeted, and there are contents inside of that.
We'll actually talk a lot more about groups and contents in the next chapter. But here right now, I have multiple objects inside of my document. I'll switch to my Direct Selection tool, and I'll click on let's say this part right here and drag it away, and you'll see that this is simply a regular rectangle that has an opacity on it. This one over here has just a fill that has its pattern inside of it. Then I have my solid fill right here, and then I have an image, which is the background right now, which is an actual drop shadow.
If I take a look over here at the strokes, I'll actually use my Group Selection tool here to select just let's say the stroke right here, and you'll see that the strokes are actually all split up into different pieces. So what Illustrator did by expanding this artwork is it took my single path that had multiple attributes and it turned it into multiple paths with single attributes. This now is completely compatible with any version of PostScript, or by placing it into InDesign, for example. Now let's take a step back here for just a moment. I'm not inferring in any way whatsoever that you should actually be using the Expand appearance command every single time that you want to create graphics that are compatible with other applications outside of Illustrator, or with previous versions of Illustrator.
Far be it from the case; that would be a lot of work in your head. What's good to know though is that when you are working inside of Illustrator and you move artwork to other versions of Illustrator, or into applications like InDesign for example, Illustrator in the background automatically expands its artwork to make it compatible with those applications, or those versions. Just to give you an idea on how this works, when I actually have a single object with multiple attributes selected inside of Illustrator and I copy it, what Illustrator places on the clipboard are two versions of that artwork.
One version is completely native to Illustrator. It contains the complex appearance, so that if I ever re- paste it back into Illustrator again, even inside, for example, another Illustrator document, I get the full rich complex appearance. However, Illustrator doesn't necessarily know where I want to paste that graphic. So if I copy something inside of Illustrator, and then I switch over to InDesign and I paste into InDesign, Illustrator takes the expanded basic appearance artwork and pastes that version into InDesign. So this all happens behind the scenes, and I don't think about it.
In fact, if you really want you go in a more basic direction, every time that you print artwork from Illustrator, Illustrator, nine times out of ten, is printing to a device that's a PostScript-based device. Most image setters today are PostScript- based, and they can't print artwork that contains multiple strokes and fills on a single object. So what happens is that when you press Command+P or Ctrl+P to print your document, Illustrator expands everything into basic appearances, so that it can print on any device. However, your artwork remains fully editable inside the Illustrator environment, so you can be completely comfortable working with appearances inside of Illustrator, knowing that Illustrator will automatically expand things as necessary as you are working.
I am going to press Command+Z a few times to go back to my object here before I expanded the appearance. Now I have a single piece of artwork here inside of Illustrator with multiple attributes. I have an object that has a complex appearance. And I know that if I want, I can break apart that complex appearance by expanding the appearance. But I'll tell you there are very few times that I actually do that manually. For example, maybe I want to get at one of these elements that are here. Maybe I'd like to have one of these attributes as a completely separate object. Let me give you a basic example of when I might use Expand appearance.
I am actually kind of move over here for a second, and I'll draw just a regular rectangle. Maybe I'll draw it about 1 inch in size right here. Notice I have Smart Guides turned on, so as I draw the rectangle, by holding down the Shift key I can see I am creating a rectangle of about 1 inch by 1 inch. I'll press D on my keyboard. That's, by the way, a very important keyboard shortcut to know. D, which stands for default, resets your artwork to the default setting of a single white fill and a black 1-point stroke. In my mind, it's the easiest way to reset an object back to a basic appearance.
Now, I am actually going to change my fill color here to maybe this light yellow, and let me change my stroke over here to actually none, and I'll make sure that I am clicking over here where it says Path so that I am targeting the entire path. I want to apply let's say a 3D effect here, for example, so I am going to go to the Effect menu, and I'll choose 3D > Extrude & Bevel. Now I created a 1-inch-by-1-inch rectangle here, so where it says Extrude Depth, even though these are measured in points, I can type in 1in for 1 inch and I get a perfect cube. If I click on the Preview button here, I'll see what that looks like, and I'll click OK.
So the reality though is that I've created this as an effect. If I go into Outline mode by pressing Command+Y, I can see that the structure of my path has exactly stayed the same. I have not changed at all. However, I have given the presentation of this artwork a 3D appearance. Now it could be though that I want to continue to modify this artwork though, and I want to actually get at the different sides of the shape. See right now, because these are simply the Appearance settings, I can't actually modify or change or even select these because the paths don't exist for the three different sides of my cube.
So what I could do is go to the Object menu, choose Expand Appearance, and now Illustrator reduces those down to physical shapes. Now use my Selection tool, maybe my Direct Selection tool, I have the ability to select the individual parts of that cube and modify them further. So in this example here, what I'm doing is that I am using Expand appearance not to make my artwork any more compatible with other versions of Illustrator or other applications-- remember, Illustrator handles all that for us in the background. What I am doing is I am using Expand appearance to be able to actually get at some artwork, so I can make further modifications to that artwork.
In other words, I have turned my presentation into actual physical structure inside of my document.
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