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Getting the most out of the Layers panel


From:

Illustrator Insider Training: Rethinking the Essentials

with Mordy Golding

Video: Getting the most out of the Layers panel

So we now have a clear understanding of just how valuable the Layers panel is. We know that we can use it even if we aren't creating layers at all inside of Illustrator. Keeping all that in mind, I just wanted to show you a few quick tips and tricks about how to get the most out of the Layers panel itself. Now I'm going to open up the flyout menu, or the Panel menu here, of the Layers panel itself. I want to show you a few settings here. First of all, let's scroll all the way to the bottom where it says Panel Options. If I choose that, the Layers Panel Options dialog box opens up, and there are several settings here.
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  1. 8m 22s
    1. Welcome
      1m 15s
    2. Exploring the Illustrator Timeline
      5m 12s
    3. Getting the most out of this training
      1m 30s
    4. Using the exercise files
      25s
  2. 16m 27s
    1. Starting off on the right foot
      27s
    2. Knowing the difference between structure and presentation
      4m 38s
    3. Understanding paths and attributes
      4m 56s
    4. Distributing stroke weight along a path
      2m 25s
    5. Bottoms up: Object hierarchy and stacking order
      4m 1s
  3. 51m 9s
    1. The all-important Appearance panel
      37s
    2. Understanding attribute stacking order
      6m 45s
    3. Targeting individual object attributes
      7m 32s
    4. Adding multiple attributes to a single object
      9m 31s
    5. Modifying appearances with Live Effects
      7m 11s
    6. Using multiple strokes to create a border design
      4m 36s
    7. Using multiple strokes to create a map
      5m 52s
    8. Using multiple fills to mix spot colors
      4m 59s
    9. Using multiple fills to create textures
      4m 6s
  4. 46m 2s
    1. Learning to live with appearances
      30s
    2. Basic appearance vs. complex appearance
      4m 27s
    3. Clearing or expanding an appearance
      10m 52s
    4. Controlling the appearance of newly drawn art
      5m 11s
    5. Saving appearances with graphic styles
      6m 54s
    6. Changing artwork by modifying a graphic style
      7m 39s
    7. Uncovering a treasure trove of graphic styles
      5m 1s
    8. Copying appearances with the Eyedropper tool
      5m 28s
  5. 33m 28s
    1. Why do we create groups?
      1m 48s
    2. Applying an effect to a group
      4m 38s
    3. Understanding the difference between targeting and selecting
      4m 44s
    4. Knowing the dangers of ungrouping artwork
      2m 21s
    5. Using Isolation mode to preserve group structure
      6m 59s
    6. Adding a stroke to a group
      6m 13s
    7. Adding a 3D effect to a group
      3m 36s
    8. Extending the concept of groups to type objects
      3m 9s
  6. 46m 34s
    1. Are you a layers person?
      33s
    2. Learning to use the Layers and Objects panel
      9m 27s
    3. Making selections and editing stacking order
      6m 38s
    4. Reading and using the target circles
      8m 43s
    5. Copying artwork and appearances
      5m 37s
    6. Adding effects to layers
      9m 56s
    7. Getting the most out of the Layers panel
      5m 40s
  7. 47m 19s
    1. It's more than just a drop shadow?
      48s
    2. Adding basic texture with Mezzotint
      7m 50s
    3. Generating custom textures with Texturizer
      12m 22s
    4. Adding a stroke to an image with Outline Object
      5m 54s
    5. Aligning text precisely with Outline Object
      6m 31s
    6. Adding callout numbers with Convert to Shape
      4m 36s
    7. Enhancing performance with Rasterize
      2m 30s
    8. Avoiding pitfalls when using effects
      6m 48s
  8. 31m 59s
    1. Asking yourself the "what if?" question
      33s
    2. Outlining artwork with Offset Path and Pathfinder Add
      5m 36s
    3. Adding captions with Convert to Shape and Transform
      7m 1s
    4. Creating a crosshatch effect with Scribble
      5m 44s
    5. Creating buttons with Round Corners and Transform
      13m 5s
  9. 25m 21s
    1. Working with other people's files
      36s
    2. Setting up a workspace that makes sense
      9m 43s
    3. Learning to "read" an Illustrator file
      5m 48s
    4. Controlling pixel resolution
      9m 14s
  10. 1m 2s
    1. Next steps
      1m 2s

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Watch the Online Video Course Illustrator Insider Training: Rethinking the Essentials
5h 7m Intermediate Feb 25, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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.

Topics include:
  • Targeting individual object attributes
  • Adding multiple stroke and fill attributes
  • Modifying appearances with live effects
  • Applying effects to groups and to layers
  • Understanding both selecting and targeting
  • Copying artwork and appearances from layers
  • Using the Outline Object effect
  • Enhancing performance with the Rasterize effect
  • Creating quick and easy captions and buttons
  • Setting up a meaningful workspace
  • Controlling the pixel resolution of effects
Subject:
Design
Software:
Illustrator
Author:
Mordy Golding

Getting the most out of the Layers panel

So we now have a clear understanding of just how valuable the Layers panel is. We know that we can use it even if we aren't creating layers at all inside of Illustrator. Keeping all that in mind, I just wanted to show you a few quick tips and tricks about how to get the most out of the Layers panel itself. Now I'm going to open up the flyout menu, or the Panel menu here, of the Layers panel itself. I want to show you a few settings here. First of all, let's scroll all the way to the bottom where it says Panel Options. If I choose that, the Layers Panel Options dialog box opens up, and there are several settings here.

First, let's focus on Thumbnails itself. Thumbnails are the little icons that appear to the far-left of the layers themselves that give me a little preview of the artwork on that layer. Between you and me, I have no value at all in these little teeny little thumbnails here. I really can't see at all where this artwork is, and here's a little secret: Illustrator has to work really hard in order to create those thumbnails. You see, when Illustrator re-draws your page, Illustrator uses its valuable memory for screen re-draw. However, once it's done drawing with the artwork on the screen itself, or on your artboard, it also has to draw each of these shapes inside of the little icons here, or in these thumbnails.

Now if you have a lot of layers open, it could take Illustrator a long time to actually build those, so some people who complain about performance when they have really large files inside of Illustrator. One way to really kind of speed things up just a little bit is to actually turn these thumbnails off. You can actually control exactly what kind of objects get thumbnails. Right now, Illustrator by default is displaying thumbnails for objects, groups, and also for layers. However, there are many times when I just turn all of these off. In doing so, Illustrator will not display any thumbnails at all.

Now, another thing to note here is the actual Row Size itself. By default, Illustrator uses a Medium size. The Row Size refers to how much space each entry here inside of the Layers panel takes up. Now if I've a very complex document and I really want to see as many layers and objects in my file as possible, using Medium or Large may not allow me to see enough information at once. So if I'm working with very complex documents, I may even choose to go with a small Row Size. So just to show you what these settings actually do, I am going to click OK, and you can now see what my Layers panel looks like.

It's just simply a list of words. I still see my target circles, the functionality of everything is the same, but I speed up my screen re-draw, because they don't have the thumbnails, and I can also see a picture of more detail at once. For example, I could reveal the contents of the Store group, the Logo group, and each of the settings inside of it as well. Now I want to show you one of the settings inside of that dialog box, so I'll go back to the Panel menu and choose Panel Options. And at the top over here there is a check box that says Show Layers Only. You know, in this entire chapter, we've been talking about how powerful the Layers panel is.

We know that if we're not actually using layers, we can actually view each group and each object inside of our document inside of the Layers panel. Well let's say you actually have no interest in that whatsoever; you just want to have Illustrator work the same way that it is used to work back in Illustrator 8, or Illustrator 7. When you see a layer, you just want the layer and nothing else. If that's the case, you can check this box over here, which is Show Layers Only. I'll turn this Medium setting back on, and I'll turn the Thumbnails for layers on now, just so that you can see what it might look like. And when I click OK, you can see just the layers.

You will not see any objects. Notice the triangles are gone, and now inside the Layers panel I have no way to actually see the objects or the groups or the entire hierarchy of my file. The Layers panel right now is strictly purely for layers. Of course in this mode right now, you don't have the ability to see the target circles and the meatballs to understand where certain complex appearances may apply. All you have visibility of is just the layers themselves. So as we said before, with power comes responsibility. If you don't want all that responsibility, you can simply turn that off by viewing just the layers inside of the Layers panel.

Keep in mind, however, that if you get files from other people, keeping your Layers panel set just to view layers may hinder your ability to help reverse- engineer that file. Now, let me show you one other setting here inside of the flyout menu. If I go back over to here to the Panel menu and I choose Paste Remembers Layers, this is the setting that's actually a toggle. Now if I select a whole bunch of artwork and I copy it from one document to another, Illustrator will take it even though it may be on five different layers in one document. When I paste it into that new document, it will all be collapsed into one layer, meaning I'll lose my layer structure.

However, if I want my artwork to be copied from one document to another, and I want the artwork to actually maintain its layer structure, by choosing Paste Remembers Layers, Illustrator will indeed preserve that layer structure when I copy it from one document to another, or even when copying and pasting within the same document. Now this one final thing to note about these settings here, both Paste Remembers Layers and also Panel Options, and that is that these settings are actually locked to the document itself-- meaning that right now, if I were to save this document called layers 2, then the settings that I've just chosen into the Panel menu will be maintained for this document, but if I create a new document that will default to the basic setting that I have inside of my new document profiles when I create that document.

Meaning the actual appearance of the Layers panel, the settings that we've just been discussing, aren't saved in a workspace per se. So if you're really kind of a person that really wants to create your layers but you want to hide the Thumbnails and you want be able to set your Row Size to Small and you want that to be your default setting for all new documents, you need to actually make that change to the new document profile document and therefore, every time you create a new document, it will take on those settings.

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