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While it's certainly true that one of the benefits of working with envelopes is that they are non-destructive, meaning I can always edit the artwork inside the envelope, the content or the envelope itself. There may be times when I want to work with the actual vector paths themselves that have already been distorted. Because the elements are live, I'm not able to actually touch or manage those particular parts of the path. Likewise, there may be times when I just want to undo the envelope all together. So we can actually do that by applying two separate types of commands inside of Illustrator. I can either expand my artwork or my envelope in this case. In which case I'll then be able to actually edit the actual vector paths themselves as if they have been modified or distorted or I can release the envelope returning them back to their original shapes.
Let's see how that's done. I'm going to take this file here. It's called expand_release. I'm going to click on the envelope right here, go to the Object menu, chose Envelope Distort and I'll choose this option that called Release. By doing the Release option I now basically separate out the original path. I now have the original path that was used as the envelope and I have the live text itself, which just put inside of the envelope. Let me Undo that and go back to my original step here and now I'm going to select my envelope. I'm now going to choose Object > Envelope Distort and in this case here I'll choose Expand and in doing so I now have the ability to actually access all the vector paths themselves and make modification to them.
Now notice that right now I have lots of anchor points on these paths. Now unfortunately there is nothing you can do about that. That's simply the way that the artwork is expanded. However, once you do this step you can always go to the Object menu, choose Path and then choose to Simplify those path as necessary. I'll click Cancel here. So there you have it. Two ways to undo an envelope. Either expanding it so that you can work with actual distorted path themselves or releasing it to return the shapes back to their original state.
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