Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics
Illustration by Richard Downs

Exploring the transparency flattener settings


Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics

with Mordy Golding

Start your free trial now, and begin learning software, business and creative skills—anytime, anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts.

Start Your Free Trial Now

Video: Exploring the transparency flattener settings

So we've been talking about flattening itself and how it happens and what happens in that process, but what we haven't focused on yet is exactly all the settings that you have inside of flattening. For example, when parts of your artwork do need to get rasterized, what resolution do those areas get rasterized at? Or additionally, how does Illustrator determine when artwork becomes too difficult to work with and for performance reasons it decides to rasterize areas on its own? Let's take a close took at the Flattener Settings dialog box and see exactly where all these settings come into play. I'm actually just going to simply create two regular shapes here that have some kind of transparency in them, just so that we can make that command active.
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 2m 4s
    1. Welcome
      1m 41s
    2. Using the exercise files
  2. 33m 20s
    1. Introducing Live Paint
    2. Drawing in Illustrator
      4m 21s
    3. Creating a Live Paint group
      2m 54s
    4. Using the Live Paint Bucket tool
      3m 17s
    5. Using Live Paint with open paths
      2m 29s
    6. Detecting gaps in Live Paint groups
      4m 17s
    7. Adding paths to a Live Paint group
      3m 41s
    8. Using the Live Paint Selection tool
      5m 44s
    9. Releasing and expanding Live Paint groups
      2m 55s
    10. Understanding how Live Paint groups work
      3m 4s
  3. 49m 35s
    1. Introducing the trace options
    2. Setting expectations: Live Trace
      2m 26s
    3. Using the Live Trace feature
      1m 51s
    4. Understanding how Live Trace works
      5m 41s
    5. Making raster-based adjustments
      5m 52s
    6. Tracing with fills, strokes, or both
      2m 55s
    7. Making vector-based adjustments
      6m 12s
    8. Adjusting colors in Live Trace
      4m 39s
    9. Using Photoshop with Live Trace
      5m 22s
    10. Releasing and expanding Live Trace artwork
      2m 57s
    11. Saving and exporting Live Trace presets
      2m 36s
    12. Tracing in Batch mode with Adobe Bridge
      1m 35s
    13. Turning an image into mosaic tiles
      2m 28s
    14. Tracing an image manually
      4m 22s
  4. 1h 24m
    1. Introducing 3D
    2. Setting expectations: 3D in Illustrator
      2m 53s
    3. How fills and strokes affect 3D artwork
      4m 43s
    4. Applying the 3D Extrude & Bevel effect
      6m 25s
    5. Applying a bevel
      5m 40s
    6. Showing the hidden faces of a 3D object
      4m 49s
    7. Applying the 3D Revolve effect
      5m 22s
    8. Visualizing the revolve axis
      3m 5s
    9. Applying the 3D Rotate effect
      1m 35s
    10. Adjusting surface settings
      9m 33s
    11. Understanding the importance of 3D and groups
      3m 24s
    12. Preparing art for mapping
      10m 19s
    13. Mapping artwork to a 3D surface
      14m 21s
    14. Hiding geometry with 3D artwork mapping
      4m 0s
    15. Extending the use of 3D in Illustrator
      8m 7s
  5. 44m 37s
    1. Introducing transformations and effects
    2. Using the Transform panel
      12m 37s
    3. Repeating transformations
      5m 23s
    4. Using the Transform Each function
      3m 48s
    5. Using the Convert to Shape effects
      5m 49s
    6. Using the Distort & Transform effects
      5m 12s
    7. Using the Path effects
      6m 58s
    8. Using the Pathfinder effects
      4m 18s
  6. 28m 24s
    1. Introducing graphic styles
    2. Applying graphic styles
      10m 8s
    3. Defining graphic styles
      8m 47s
    4. Previewing graphic styles
      2m 10s
    5. Modifying graphic styles
      3m 30s
    6. Understanding graphic styles for text
      3m 16s
  7. 22m 49s
    1. Introducing advanced masking techniques
    2. Understanding clipping masks
      7m 15s
    3. Using layer clipping masks
      6m 30s
    4. Creating opacity masks
      8m 32s
  8. 1h 6m
    1. Introducing color
    2. Considering three types of color swatches
      7m 7s
    3. Managing color groups
      2m 58s
    4. Understanding the HSB color wheel
      3m 57s
    5. Understanding color harmonies
      2m 58s
    6. Using the color guide
      3m 54s
    7. Limiting the color guide
      3m 17s
    8. Modifying color with the Recolor Artwork feature
      6m 25s
    9. Using the Edit tab to adjust color
      5m 44s
    10. Using the Assign tab to replace colors
      8m 37s
    11. Making global color adjustments
      2m 17s
    12. Using Recolor options
      7m 3s
    13. Converting artwork to grayscale
      3m 23s
    14. Simulating artwork on different devices
      3m 18s
    15. Accessing Kuler directly from Illustrator
      2m 7s
    16. Ensuring high contrast for color-blind people
      2m 42s
  9. 53m 19s
    1. Introducing transparency
    2. Understanding transparency flattening
      2m 31s
    3. Exercising the two rules of transparency flattening
      10m 53s
    4. Understanding complex regions in transparency flattening
      4m 50s
    5. Exploring the transparency flattener settings
      8m 37s
    6. Using transparency flattening and object stacking order
      6m 39s
    7. Using the Flattener Preview panel
      6m 31s
    8. Creating and sharing Transparency Flattener presets
      2m 25s
    9. Working within an EPS workflow
      5m 3s
    10. Understanding the Illustrator and InDesign workflow
      5m 10s
  10. 50m 1s
    1. Introducing prepress and output
    2. Understanding resolutions
      8m 27s
    3. Discovering RGB and CMYK "gotchas"
      5m 42s
    4. Using Overprints and Overprint Preview
      7m 43s
    5. Understanding "book color" and proofing spot colors
      8m 1s
    6. Collecting vital information with Document Info
      2m 28s
    7. Previewing color separations onscreen
      1m 12s
    8. Making 3D artwork look good
      2m 16s
    9. Seeing white lines and knowing what to do about them
      2m 41s
    10. Creating "bulletproof" press-ready PDF files
      3m 45s
    11. Protecting content with secure PDFs
      2m 48s
    12. Using PDF presets
      2m 47s
    13. Moving forward: The Adobe PDF Print Engine
      1m 48s
  11. 35m 44s
    1. Introducing distortions
    2. Using the Warp effect
      4m 20s
    3. The Warp effect vs. envelope distortion
      3m 48s
    4. Applying the Make with Warp envelope distortion
      2m 45s
    5. Applying the Make with Mesh envelope distortion
      2m 41s
    6. Applying the Make with Top Object envelope distortion
      3m 45s
    7. Editing envelopes
      5m 0s
    8. Adjusting envelope settings
      4m 2s
    9. Releasing and expanding envelope distortions
      1m 45s
    10. Applying envelope distortions to text
      1m 27s
    11. Using the liquify distortion tools
      3m 5s
    12. Customizing the liquify tools
      2m 39s
  12. 28m 56s
    1. Introducing blends
    2. Blending two objects
      6m 18s
    3. Adjusting blend options
      5m 47s
    4. Blending three or more objects
      2m 9s
    5. Blending anchor points
      5m 36s
    6. Replacing the spine of a blend
      4m 32s
    7. Reversing the direction of a blend
      2m 15s
    8. Releasing and expanding a blend
      1m 47s
  13. 46m 56s
    1. Introducing charts and graphs
    2. Setting expectations: Graphs in Illustrator
      3m 19s
    3. Creating a chart
      8m 2s
    4. Importing data
      3m 34s
    5. Formatting data
      5m 1s
    6. Customizing a chart
      10m 22s
    7. Combining chart types
      2m 40s
    8. Creating graph designs
      6m 0s
    9. Styling and updating graphs
      5m 33s
    10. Ungrouping graphs
      1m 49s
  14. 26m 36s
    1. Introducing Gradient Mesh
    2. Understanding the Gradient Mesh feature
      9m 34s
    3. Using Gradient Mesh to add contoured shading
      6m 14s
    4. Using Gradient Mesh to create photorealistic effects
      10m 25s
  15. 8m 18s
    1. Introducing flare effects
    2. Drawing a lens flare
      3m 28s
    3. Modifying a lens flare
      1m 27s
    4. Using a mask with lens flares
      2m 58s
  16. 29s
    1. Goodbye

please wait ...
Watch the Online Video Course Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics
9h 42m Intermediate Apr 03, 2009

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Covering a wide range of topics, from advanced masking to chart creation, Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics reveals a whole new level of power, creativity, and efficiency with Illustrator. Instructor Mordy Golding explores how to work with Live Paint groups, get the most out of the Live Trace feature, and take advantage of Illustrator’s wide range of effects. He also discusses advanced transformation techniques, powerful 3D functionality, and important color concepts. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Tracing artwork both automatically and manually
  • Mapping artwork to complex 3D surfaces
  • Using pressure-sensitive distortion tools
  • Recoloring artwork across a document
  • Using Excel data to create charts and graphs
  • Understanding how transparency really works
  • Creating high-quality, press-ready PDFs
  • Building efficient files with graphic styles
Mordy Golding

Exploring the transparency flattener settings

So we've been talking about flattening itself and how it happens and what happens in that process, but what we haven't focused on yet is exactly all the settings that you have inside of flattening. For example, when parts of your artwork do need to get rasterized, what resolution do those areas get rasterized at? Or additionally, how does Illustrator determine when artwork becomes too difficult to work with and for performance reasons it decides to rasterize areas on its own? Let's take a close took at the Flattener Settings dialog box and see exactly where all these settings come into play. I'm actually just going to simply create two regular shapes here that have some kind of transparency in them, just so that we can make that command active.

I'll change the opacity of these two shapes to 50%. So now I have at least some artwork that's selected and has some transparency inside of it. I'll go to the Object menu and I'll choose Flatten Transparency to bring up the Flatten Transparency dialog box. Now let's take a look at what we have here. I have first of all something called a Preset. We're going to focus on this in a few movies from now, instead of choosing High, Medium or Low Resolution settings here, I'm just going to leave it right now set to the Medium Resolution setting. The first thing we have to look at over here is something called a Raster/Vector Balance slider. This is a slider here which on the left side says Raster and on the right side says Vector. I have a little triangle here and notice that if I go all the way to the left, I have a setting value of 0, and if I go all the way to the right, I have a value here of 100.

So first let's understand exactly what this slider means and what it represents then we'll talk about exactly what the values actually do on this particular slider. Now we have discussed before that purely in a case of a very complex file, Illustrator may decide to rasterize certain areas of a file, strictly for performance reasons. Instead of having to worry about calculating every single overlapping shape or atomic region, Illustrator may identify an area as being very complex and in doing so it may decide to rasterize that area just so that it could print the file or process the file faster.

Now the real question here is what is considered complex to Illustrator? I mean, after all, it's a computer. What could possibly be complex? So the answer is that this slider basically determines the complexity level of what Illustrator is looking for. As you move your slider towards the left here or towards the value of 0, you're giving Illustrator more and more leeway or you're basically telling Illustrator that even that the file is somewhat complex, you're free to go ahead and rasterize areas at will. The more that you move the slider towards the right or towards the Vector side, you're telling Illustrator to keep more of your artwork vector. And only when it's really, really complex, then should you go ahead and rasterize some of that content. Now it's important to realize that there are two values on the slider that are really important: the values of 0 and of 100.

At the 0 level, you're basically telling Illustrator, you know something? Just go ahead and rasterize the entire file. Imagine, if you will, if you take everything inside of your document inside of Illustrator and you copied and pasted it and brought it into Photoshop and everything just became one image. That would be the same thing as you're printing with your file right now set to 0 on the Raster/Vector Balance slider. By choosing 0 here for Rasters, you're telling Illustrator to simply rasterize your entire document and print it as an image. If you were to move your slider all the way to the right and choose the 100 value setting, you're basically disabling Illustrator's ability to rasterize content because of performance reasons.

At the 100 setting, Illustrator's second level of rasterization does not exist. Illustrator will only rasterize things in this particular setting if it has no other choice. If rule number two of flattening, meaning don't change the appearance of your artwork, comes into play only then will Illustrator go ahead and rasterize something. But even if takes a half an hour to process your file, at this particular setting, Illustrator will go ahead and maintain all your artwork as Vectors. Now you noticed before that the default setting inside of Illustrator is set to the Medium Resolution setting and in that particular case the Raster/Vector slider is set to 75. That basically tells Illustrator that only files that get really complex should you go ahead and rasterize certain areas. But it also means that as a default setting inside of Illustrator, Illustrator does have the ability or you can say the freedom to go ahead and rasterize areas that it deems as being very complex.

Again the main reason why this is the default setting inside of Illustrator is strictly for performance reasons. Instead of having to constantly wait a very long time for your to print your documents out of a printer, by having the Raster/Vector slider set at 75, just about all of your documents for the most part will print in a pretty speedy fashion out of your printer. So now that we're aware of what the slider does, let's take a look at some of the other settings here inside of the dialog box. The first one here is called Line Art and Text Resolution. Now Illustrator is a very smart application. There may be times as we discussed where Illustrator is forced to go ahead and rasterize artwork. But Illustrator also knows what that artwork is before it rasterizes it. Is that artwork in image, for example? Is it a particular gradient, or maybe it's some text or line art? Depending on what that artwork is, it may choose to rasterize it at different resolutions. Now for example, line art and text are very clean and sharp and you want to go ahead and rasterize that at a higher resolution. Things like gradients or meshes can be rasterized at a lower resolution, because those are considered continous tone.

As such, even if that is turned into pixels, you may not be able to see any jagged areas on the edges, simply because the nature of that type of artwork. So here in the Flatten Transparency dialog box, we have the ability to choose resolutions for how different types of artwork get rasterized. Now these settings come into play for both either when Illustrator is forced to rasterize something or if you allow it, meaning you have any value other than 100 here on a particular slider. These values also choose how those objects get rasterized. So if your artwork is line art or text, Illustrator rasterizes those at 300 ppi.

If the artwork is a gradient, then those get rasterized at 150 pixels per inch. Now if you're using, for example, a rip that rasterizes artwork at 1200 ppi or 2540, you may choose to enter that value right here, of course, knowing that the file would just take that much longer to process. When it comes to Gradient or Mesh Resolution, I'll tell you that it's rare that you'd ever want to have that value over something like 300 ppi. Now there are three other options that exist right over here. One is called Covert all Text to Outlines. Now there may be times where you have certain parts of your text that overlap transparent regions.

If those areas get rasterized, in your output you may see that the rasterized text looks a little bit heavier or fatter than the rest of the text that exists purely in vector form. By choosing this option, when Illustrator performs transparency flattening, it will convert all text to outlines ensuring that all of your text does look consistent. The same thing applies here to strokes. If you convert all of your strokes to outlines again, all of your stroke weights, even if they cross transparent boundaries, by converting them to outlines will all appear consistent. Finally, there is an option here called Clip Complex Regions. Now we've already discussed what a complex region is.

Those are the areas where if your slider is set anywhere less than 100, allows Illustrator to go ahead and rasterize certain areas strictly due to performance reasons. Now as we all know, raster images are always rectangular in shape. So what the Clip Complex Regions setting does is it actually creates masks or vector masks around each of the images that are created. Well, this particular option does add a tremendous amount of complexity to your file, after all, it does add all of these masks. It does help prevent something called stitching where you may see different color shifts across a single file.

Now specifically in this Flatten Transparency dialog box, we have two additional settings. One is called Preserve Alpha Transparency and one is called Preserve Overprints and Spot Colors. Now remember that we're performing transparency flattening manually at this point. So these particular options are available because they may still apply to the artwork inside of our document. Preserve Overprints and Spot Colors will simply tell Illustrator to preserve overprints where they don't necessarily interact directly with transparency and also preserve spot colors in my file, which again are usually preserved using overprints. That's why Illustrator informs us that we need to have Overprint Preview turned on in order to see those flattened spot colors.

The Preserve Alpha Transparency setting actually flattens all transparency settings except for opacity values. The reason why that may be important is because maybe you want to take your file and your artwork and you want to bring it into a program like Flash, which does support this type of opacity, but not in the other transparency modes that Illustrator does support. Now I know that all of this information right now is a lot, especially considering that all this is contained within a single dialog box. However, the good news is that you can capture all this information using these presets right over here. But in another movie we'll learn how to create our own presets which we'll use as we need.

There are currently no FAQs about Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics.

Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.

Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

Join now Already a member? Log in

* Estimated file size

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.

Mark all as unwatched Cancel


You have completed Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.

Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member ?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

The classic layout automatically defaults to the latest Flash Player.

To choose a different player, hold the cursor over your name at the top right of any page and choose Site preferences from the dropdown menu.

Continue to classic layout Stay on new layout
Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.