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Learning to use the Layers and Objects panel

From: Illustrator Insider Training: Rethinking the Essentials

Video: Learning to use the Layers and Objects panel

There are plenty of people who are really organized and create wonderful artwork, and they organize all their artwork using the Layers panel. Now I'll tell you, I am not really that organized, yet I still use the Layers panel. In fact, to me it has become the number two panel inside of Illustrator-- obviously, right after the Appearance panel. To show you what I mean by that, I am actually going to bring out the Layers panel. It's kind of hidden down here at the bottom, so I am just going to click on that tab and drag it out. I am actually going to click and drag it and attach it here to the bottom of the Appearance panel, so they will kind of work together.

Learning to use the Layers and Objects panel

There are plenty of people who are really organized and create wonderful artwork, and they organize all their artwork using the Layers panel. Now I'll tell you, I am not really that organized, yet I still use the Layers panel. In fact, to me it has become the number two panel inside of Illustrator-- obviously, right after the Appearance panel. To show you what I mean by that, I am actually going to bring out the Layers panel. It's kind of hidden down here at the bottom, so I am just going to click on that tab and drag it out. I am actually going to click and drag it and attach it here to the bottom of the Appearance panel, so they will kind of work together.

I am actually going to extend this down all the over here, because we're going to taking a close look at the Layers panel throughout this entire chapter. Now admittedly, the Layers panel is kind of a bad name, because it only describes half of what the Layers panel is really supposed to do. You see, when Illustrator 9 came out, Adobe give us the ability not only to see layers inside of the Layers panel, but also to see object. You see, by every layer there is little triangle-- what we call a disclosure triangle. When I click on that, I'll actually see the contents of all the objects that appear inside of that layer.

At least in my experience, I've met many people who find this incredibly annoying; they think that Illustrator has all these layers here. In fact, I'll click on this triangle right over here for the Roads and Tracks layer, and now I'll see all the elements inside of that layer as well. If I take a look at the Background layer, I can see over here there is a group, but if I click on that triangle, I can reveal all of the contents of the group. In my opinion, the panel shouldn't be called the Layers panel; it should be called the Layers and Objects panel. Let's get a few things straight over here, A lot of people refer to these as All layers, and they're not; anything that has a gray background-- notice over here where it says Roads and Tracks and Background--those have a gray background behind them, so in the Layers panel, layers are displayed with gray backgrounds.

However, you can see that these other elements here have white backgrounds behind them. That's because in the Layers panel objects and groups display with white backgrounds. So I'm really seeing both layers and also objects here inside of the Layers panel. In fact, what I'm seeing right here is a complete hierarchy of my entire document; this is one of the reasons why I feel the Layers panel is so valuable. It gives you his visual representation of everything that exists inside of your file.

Remember that in Illustrator we have this thing called stacking order and we always read things from the bottom upwards. So I can also see that Illustrator first started creating this document by creating a Background layer, and it added element in this order. It created one path, then another path, then this text that says Train Station, then Main Street, then the Direction Text, then it created this group, and then it created a second layer with these two paths inside of it. So it's a great way to get an overall view of exactly what your document actually is.

But even more important than that, the Layers panel is crammed with all these little visual cues that can help you figure out what's going on inside of your file. It also gives you key feedback and allows you to get a better user experience when working inside of your document. For example, here inside the Layers panel, you see that all in the way in the upper right-hand corner of the Road and Track layer there is this, like, little, teeny black triangle, this little guy right here. That indicates that the next object I draw is going to be drawn on that layer.

Notice if I were to click on the Background layer, the triangle now moves to that layer. That means if I start drawing a shape-- let's say take my Pen tool or Rectangle tool--the shape that I am going to be drawing is going to appear on that layer. Now on the far left over here, I have these eyeballs that allow me to hide or show a layer, and the box over here allows me to also lock a certain layer. Notice because I have access to all of my objects inside of my document, I can also do this on an object-by-object basis. There is also a little stripe of color that appears on each layer, and that allows me to better identify, as I'm working on my artboard, which objects belong to which layers.

For example, if I click on this right now, you can see that its selection color is in blue, which is the color for this layer. But if I click on, for example, this object right here, that gets highlighted in red, so I right away know that that belongs on the Background layer. You can change any of these colors simply by double-clicking on the name of a layer. In the Layer Options dialog that appears, I can rename that layer, I can choose colors from this list, or I can actually double-click on this to bring up a picker so I can choose my own color. Let me click Cancel here. But I want to spend a moment here about naming layers.

You of course know that it's really important to name your layers, but remember that we also have the ability to see all of our objects and groups inside of the Layers panel, so it's also incredibly helpful--especially when working on very complex documents--to also name all the objects in your file. For example, you see here inside of my Layers panel right now that I have these elements called path. That's the default name that Illustrator gives me when I create a path inside of Illustrator, but it doesn't really help me understand what that is. I need to actually click on this object here and see, okay, that's what that path is. And I can click on this one, and I can see that's what that path is.

But we are not limited to just naming layers inside of Illustrator; I could also name Objects. So, for example, I am going to double- click on this path right here and notice that this Options dialog opens up. I am going to rename this to be Main Street. Next, I'll double-click on this path, and I'll rename this one Train Tracks. Let's take a look at some of the elements here in the Background layer. Now I have a group here. If I click on it right over here, I can see that that group right now is the building that I am referring to as where this Hansel & Petal store is located.

If I look at my Layers panel, I also see that it is a group, and that within that group I have another group and a path. I am going to double-click on the upper group over here and call this one store. This group is actually the logo, so I'll type in "Logo" here and then this group right over here is simply going to be the Building. Actually, that isn't a group at all; it's just simply a path. Now, by default, when you create text objects, Illustrator changes the name of that text object to match the text that you see on the artboard. I have two more paths here at the bottom.

This one is actually the background, so I am just going to call this one Background and this path is a Train Station, so I am just going to simply call that Station Building. Why am I taking the trouble to actually name all these objects and groups? Well, I am doing this because I want to show you yet another useful element of working with the Layers panel. You know, previously we had discussed something called Isolation mode inside of Illustrator, meaning if I have a group for some objects and I double-click on that, I can actually automatically lock everything else in my file and only work specifically with the thing that I've isolated.

For example, let's say I wanted to make some changes specifically to the logo here, the Hansel & Patel logo. I really don't want to bother with anything else, so I am going to double-click on this to isolate it. We know that everything else inside of our file becomes grayed out. We know that a gray bars appears at the top of the screen. But if you look at my Layers panel right now, all those other element inside of my file, all the objects that are now kind of dimmed out, have completely disappeared from the Layers panel. My Layers panel now is only showing me the relevant items right now of the things that I've isolated.

So it tells me now that I am in Isolation mode and I've isolated the Store group, which contains the Logo group and the Building path. If I decided that I wanted to modify the Building path, I can double-click on it to isolate that. Notice, by the way, it temporally comes to the front, so I no longer see the logo. But again, in Isolation mode all I currently have in my entire document right now, from my perspective, is just this single, one path. But because I've taken the trouble to actually name all the elements inside of my document, if I look at the breadcrumbs--those are the little elements here that appear inside of the gray bar.

We call them breadcrumbs, because, like that story of Hansel and Gretel, if you go ahead and you leave breadcrumbs in the forest, you have a way to find yourself back. So as I get further and further into my document, I am leaving breadcrumbs to identify exactly where I am, so I can always find my way back. Currently, what have I isolated? Well, I'm currently now in the Background layer inside of a group called Store-- this is the icon for a group--and I'm currently viewing or isolating a path-- that is this little LEGO element right here--called Building. So if I take the time to actually name my paths and my groups, this actually reads as a sentence, and I could start to make some sense about where I am inside of my document.

Now if I'm the only one ever working on a file, taking the time to name every single element doesn't seems to make a lot of sense. However, if I am working on a team, or I know that I am sending this graphic for someone else to work on, the more information I can put into that document, the easier the time that other person will have in making edits to it. And likewise, if I am getting files from somebody else, it would help me understand the structure of the document if they took the time to actually name all their elements as well. By the way, we can step back through the breadcrumbs by simply highlighting, for example, Store, and clicking on it to then go back to that part of the isolation.

I can also click on the arrow here to completely exit Isolation mode as well. So you can see that this is a pretty simple document we're working with here. You wouldn't necessarily think that I would need to start working with layers; yet, we are already finding that the Layers panel can be very useful when working with our artwork. In the following movies in this chapter, we'll learn even more ways to use the Layers, or should I say the Layers and Objects, panel to our advantage.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Illustrator Insider Training: Rethinking the Essentials
 
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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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