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When it comes to dealing with complicated artwork, Illustrator has a great system for helping you keep yourself organized. This is called the Layers panel, and in this movie, we will be exploring it in its entirety. The Layers panel is actually located in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen, and you can undock that by clicking, and dragging it out. Once it's out, you'll see all of the layers that are in this particular document. I've got things like Photo, Logo, Buttons, and Background. When you first open up a piece of artwork inside of Illustrator, especially if it comes from someone else, my recommendation is to immediately open the Layers panel, and start to look around.
The Layers panel is a great roadmap for your document to let you know exactly where everything goes, and how it's put together. Let's take a look at all of the components of the Layers panel. Over here on the left, you have something called the visibility toggle. This is a little toggle switch that allows you to turn layers on and off. For instance, on the Photo layer, if I click, it temporarily turns it off. The Logo, the Buttons, and the Background; each one is able to be controlled independently.
Here in the middle, you'll see a color, which corresponds to the layer; each new layer that you create in Illustrator has its own specific color. You can change the layer color at any time. To the right of the color, you'll also see a small thumbnail representing what's on that current layer. If this is too small, that's okay; you can change that in the Layers panel options, and I'll show you how to do that a little bit later. Right next to the thumbnail is the layer name. By default, Illustrator names the layers very generically, so you might want to go in and change those.
If you wanted to rename a layer, it's actually pretty simple. Let me create a new layer by coming down here, and clicking the New layer icon. Once I do that, I can double-click, and change the name. So let's say I wanted to put something out here like a home button. I will put Home Btn, hit Enter, and I now have a new layer labeled Home Btn. To the right-hand side, you will see a little indicator called a Target. This indicates what you have currently selected on your artboard. Right now I don't have anything selected on my artboard, so none of these are active.
If I clicked on something, you would automatically see a little indicator light pop up next to whatever layer it was that I was targeting something on. At the bottom of the Layers panel, you get some information about the current document you are working on, such as how many layers exist in the current document. Right now I have five layers: Home Button, Photo, Logo, Buttons, and Background. You also have a locate object button. If you know a specific object that you're looking for, you can click this, and it will expand down the current layer you're working on, and allow you to find that specific object.
Any time you want to collapse this, just hit the main triangle for that layer, and it will automatically toggle it back up. You'll also see things like make or release a clipping mask. We haven't discussed that yet, but once we do, you will get a little bit better understanding of what that means. Create New Sublayer; if you're working on a layer, and you want to create a layer within that layer, you would work on creating a new sublayer. You can also create new layers directly from here as well. And then finally, if you want to throw a layer away, you would use the Delete Selection right here. If at any time you want to change the way the Layers panel behaves, you can go up to the Layers panel menu, and go down and choose Panel Options.
Inside of the Panel Options, you can actually choose whether or not you show only the layers. You can change the row size; in this case, I will bump it up to Large. Then you can also choose the thumbnails; do you want to see all of the thumbnails, top-level only, groups, or objects. You can turn all of that on and off at your discretion. Then I will hit OK, and you can see there that it automatically changes to the bigger row size, and making the thumbnails a little larger as well, and hopefully a little easier to see what's on each layer.
In any case, you should always try to use layers to keep whatever you're working on in an organized state. That way, you can easily find things any time you need to, and you can target specific pieces of artwork without having to dig through several sublayers that can become really confusing. I use layers all the time, and I hope that you do too.
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