Illustrator CS6 Essential Training
Illustration by John Hersey

Setting preferences


Illustrator CS6 Essential Training

with Justin Seeley

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Video: Setting preferences

One of the first things I do when I open up a new application, is I always completely review the preferences to see if there's anything in there that A, I should be aware of, or B, that I need to change in order to make that application work the way I want it to, and Illustrator is no different. Now I know this probably isn't the most exciting thing in the world, but this is definitely valuable information and something I think more people should explore and get to know. Because if you don't set your preferences up before you get going, how do you know that Illustrator is even doing the stuff that you want it to do? Exploring this panel is going to be a great way to get your workflow started off on the right foot.
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  1. 1m 15s
    1. What is Illustrator?
      1m 15s
  2. 2m 17s
    1. Welcome
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 19s
  3. 41m 25s
    1. Understanding vector graphics
      5m 0s
    2. Setting preferences
      9m 24s
    3. Touring the interface
      9m 41s
    4. Exploring the panels
      6m 54s
    5. Working with the Control panel
      4m 25s
    6. Creating and saving workspaces
      6m 1s
  4. 43m 42s
    1. Creating files for print
      4m 42s
    2. Creating files for the web
      3m 36s
    3. Managing multiple documents
      3m 25s
    4. Navigating within a document
      5m 21s
    5. Using rulers, guides, and grids
      6m 59s
    6. Changing units of measurement
      1m 50s
    7. Using preview modes
      3m 10s
    8. Creating and using custom views
      3m 12s
    9. Locking and hiding artwork
      3m 43s
    10. Creating and using artboards
      7m 44s
  5. 1h 1m
    1. Setting your selection preferences
      5m 57s
    2. Using the Direct Selection and Group Selection tools
      4m 6s
    3. Using the Magic Wand tool
      5m 45s
    4. Using the Lasso tool
      4m 9s
    5. Selecting objects by attribute
      6m 48s
    6. Grouping objects
      3m 7s
    7. Using isolation mode
      4m 48s
    8. Resizing your artwork
      3m 55s
    9. Rotating objects
      2m 10s
    10. Distorting and transforming objects
      6m 27s
    11. Repeating transformations
      5m 7s
    12. Reflecting and skewing objects
      4m 54s
    13. Aligning and distributing objects
      4m 38s
  6. 29m 28s
    1. RGB vs. CMYK
      1m 46s
    2. Adjusting Illustrator color settings
      5m 10s
    3. Process vs. global swatches
      5m 6s
    4. Creating spot colors
      3m 40s
    5. Using the swatch groups
      2m 33s
    6. Working with color libraries
      3m 18s
    7. Importing swatches
      4m 4s
    8. Using the Color Guide panel
      3m 51s
  7. 57m 37s
    1. Understanding fills and strokes
      4m 18s
    2. Working with fills
      4m 58s
    3. Working with strokes
      8m 46s
    4. Creating dashes and arrows
      8m 1s
    5. Creating variable-width strokes
      4m 3s
    6. Using width profiles
      3m 32s
    7. Outlining strokes
      3m 51s
    8. Creating and editing gradients
      5m 45s
    9. Applying gradients to strokes
      3m 8s
    10. Applying and editing pattern fills
      4m 52s
    11. Creating your own pattern fill
      6m 23s
  8. 20m 20s
    1. Understanding paths
      2m 41s
    2. Understanding anchor points
      4m 20s
    3. Working with open and closed paths
      5m 28s
    4. Joining and averaging paths
      4m 9s
    5. Using the Scissors tool and the Knife tool
      3m 42s
  9. 37m 57s
    1. Understanding drawing modes
      4m 23s
    2. Creating compound paths
      5m 15s
    3. Creating compound shapes
      4m 11s
    4. Working with the Shape Builder tool
      6m 32s
    5. Working with the Blob Brush and Eraser tools
      5m 26s
    6. Working with the Paintbrush and Pencil tools
      7m 9s
    7. Smoothing and erasing paths
      5m 1s
  10. 35m 53s
    1. Exploring the Pen tool
      2m 39s
    2. Drawing straight lines
      5m 12s
    3. Drawing simple curves
      5m 23s
    4. Understanding the many faces of the Pen tool
      6m 10s
    5. Converting corners and curves
      1m 46s
    6. Your keyboard is your friend
      2m 14s
    7. Tracing artwork with the Pen tool
      12m 29s
  11. 35m 34s
    1. Adjusting your type settings
      4m 10s
    2. Creating point and area text
      3m 36s
    3. Basic text editing
      2m 14s
    4. Creating threaded text
      4m 59s
    5. Using the type panels
      9m 48s
    6. Creating text on a path
      5m 12s
    7. Converting text into paths
      1m 43s
    8. Saving time with keyboard shortcuts
      3m 52s
  12. 27m 25s
    1. Exploring the Appearance panel
      4m 44s
    2. Explaining attribute stacking order
      1m 40s
    3. Applying multiple fills
      3m 1s
    4. Applying multiple strokes
      4m 20s
    5. Adjusting appearance with live effects
      4m 46s
    6. Saving appearances as graphic styles
      8m 54s
  13. 20m 44s
    1. Exploring the Layers panel
      4m 18s
    2. Creating and editing layers
      3m 27s
    3. Targeting objects in the Layers panel
      3m 3s
    4. Working with sublayers
      3m 0s
    5. Hiding, locking, and deleting layers
      4m 14s
    6. Using the Layers panel menu
      2m 42s
  14. 46m 0s
    1. Placing images into Illustrator
      2m 53s
    2. Working with the Links panel
      6m 5s
    3. Embedding images into Illustrator
      3m 12s
    4. Cropping images with a mask
      5m 8s
    5. Exploring the Image Trace panel
      12m 14s
    6. Tracing photographs
      8m 6s
    7. Tracing line art
      4m 33s
    8. Converting pixels to paths
      3m 49s
  15. 19m 22s
    1. What are symbols?
      2m 45s
    2. Using prebuilt symbols
      3m 3s
    3. Using the Symbol Sprayer tool
      4m 19s
    4. Creating new symbols
      3m 50s
    5. Breaking the symbol link
      3m 19s
    6. Redefining symbols
      2m 6s
  16. 12m 9s
    1. Defining a perspective grid
      4m 29s
    2. Drawing artwork in perspective
      3m 49s
    3. Applying artwork to the grid
      3m 51s
  17. 35m 8s
    1. Printing your artwork
      6m 16s
    2. Saving your artwork
      2m 2s
    3. Saving in legacy formats
      3m 0s
    4. Saving templates
      4m 19s
    5. Creating PDF files
      5m 23s
    6. Saving for the web
      4m 46s
    7. Creating high-res bitmap images
      3m 58s
    8. Using Illustrator files in Photoshop and InDesign
      5m 24s
  18. 56s
    1. Next steps

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Watch the Online Video Course Illustrator CS6 Essential Training
8h 48m Beginner May 07, 2012

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Adobe Illustrator can be used to accomplish many different design tasks, from illustration to app development. This course demonstrates core concepts and techniques that can be applied to any workflow—for print, the web, or building assets that will find their way into other applications. Author Justin Seeley explains the elements that make up vector graphics (paths, strokes, and fills) while showing how to use each of the drawing tools, and demonstrates how to combine and clean up paths and organize them into groups and layers. The course also covers text editing, working with color, effects, and much more.

Topics include:
  • Understanding vector graphics
  • Creating and setting up files for print or web destinations
  • Selecting and transforming objects on the page
  • Creating spot colors
  • Applying fills, strokes, and gradients to artwork
  • Adjusting appearances and effects
  • Working with anchor points and paths
  • Drawing with the Pen tool
  • Creating text
  • Managing layers
  • Creating and using symbols
  • Printing, saving, and exporting artwork
Justin Seeley

Setting preferences

One of the first things I do when I open up a new application, is I always completely review the preferences to see if there's anything in there that A, I should be aware of, or B, that I need to change in order to make that application work the way I want it to, and Illustrator is no different. Now I know this probably isn't the most exciting thing in the world, but this is definitely valuable information and something I think more people should explore and get to know. Because if you don't set your preferences up before you get going, how do you know that Illustrator is even doing the stuff that you want it to do? Exploring this panel is going to be a great way to get your workflow started off on the right foot.

So let's go ahead and open up the Preferences panel. Now on the PC, I'm going to go to the Edit menu and go down to Preferences. On a Mac I would go to the Illustrator menu and find Preferences. You can even also hit the keyboard shortcut Command+K or Ctrl+K on your keyboard and that will instantly launch the General section of Preferences. The General Preferences are just that, they're very general. You can see that you have things like Keyboard Increment, Constrain Angle, and Corner Radius as well. Basically this means your Keyboard Increment, when you're nudging things, moving objects with your keyboard, you want them to move, 1 pt, 2 pt, how far? Chances are if you are just getting started with Illustrator, you're not going to know exactly what number should go here, so I would suggest playing with it and see what suits your needs.

The Constrain Angle; the Constrain Angle control allows you to restrict the amount of angle that you're able to rotate an image when you're holding down the Shift key inside of Illustrator. Corner Radius; this is the Corner Radius of things like rounded rectangles and things like that, the default number that it uses. So in this case, it's 12 pt. You may find that you like it to be 20 pts, 30 pts, 5 pts, doesn't matter. You take the time, explore this and you can always come back in and change it later. Now here's some other General options that I always pay attention to.

Stuff like using Precise Cursors. When you're working inside of Illustrator and you have a specific tool selected for making a selection let's say, you might want a really precise looking cursor versus the one that has the Tool icon on it. Let me show you the difference between these once I turn it on. So I'll hit Cancel for just a moment and I'll go ahead and grab, let's say, the Lasso tool. When I have the Lasso tool selected, you'll notice that the Lasso tool has a little arrow and a lasso icon on it. But for me, to make a selection with this, what's the leading edge of my selection? Is it the arrow? Is it the Lasso? I'm not real sure.

So let's go back into the Preferences and go to General. I'll change this to Use Precise Cursors and I'll hit OK. When I come back out, I get a crosshair versus those two icons. The center point of that crosshair is the origin of my selection, making it a lot easier for me to click and draw with my mouse. Let's switch back to my Selection tool now and go back in my Preferences. If you like that preference, you can leave it there. I am going to turn it off just because it's the default to have it turned off.

But if you do want to leave it on, go ahead and check that box and you'd be really happy you did when you start to make selections. Here is another couple of things that I like to turn off. Show Tool Tips, after a while you're going to get familiar with Illustrator and you are not going to need for Tool Tips to be appearing every single time you hover over something. But for the foreseeable future, I'm going to leave this turned on just so you can get a better idea of how the Tool Tips work. If you're not sure what a Tool Tip is, that's when I go out and I hover over something and it automatically brings up a little box, indicating exactly what it is I'm hovering over.

If you want to leave those on, go ahead. If not, go ahead and uncheck that box. Here's another great option that's included inside of Illustrator CS6, Scale Strokes & Effects. When you go to resize artwork inside of Illustrator, in previous versions of Illustrator you were having to rescale the strokes and effects that were applied each and every time. Now you have the ability to turn on Scale Strokes & Effects. Basically that means any object that you have, if it has a stroke or an effect on it, when it's scaled up or down, those effects automatically scale with the artwork making sure it looks the same at 2 inches or at 200 feet.

This is one that I recommend turning on for sure. Now let's move over here and go to the Type Preferences. This is another must see inside of the Preferences dialog box. You get to control the basic setup of your type, and since Illustrator is a vector program and really good at setting type, I always go in and check these out. First of all you are going to notice options for things like Leading, Tracking and Baseline Shift. These are all of the baseline controls that are implemented inside of the Type panel here inside of Illustrator. You can change these to your own defaults or you can leave them the same, totally up to you.

Again, this is going to come down to a personal preference though. So if you think the Leading needs to be 3 pts, Tracking needs to be 25 and Baseline Shift should be 5, you can make that change on your own. But again, it's going to take some time for you to realize that. You can also find things like the Number of Recent Fonts. Inside of Illustrator there is now the ability to track the most recently used fonts inside of the font list. So if you use Arial a lot and Times New Roman a lot, those will automatically be at the top of your font list and you won't have to go dragging through the entire list to find them.

So if you use a lot of fonts, you may want to consider upping this number a little bit. If you don't use that many fonts, you might try reducing a little bit, totally up to you. Font Preview; Font Preview refers to when you actually dropdown the list of fonts, you see a preview of what the font looks like. If you turn this off, it's actually going to load a little bit faster, but having it on also gives you a better idea of what font you're choosing, if you don't know it by name. You can also change the Size; I know this is something a lot of people do. The Size can be changed from Small to Medium to Large.

If you have trouble seeing those small fonts, which I do, it might be a good idea to stick with Medium, or even bump it up to the Large preview. Now let's move on to the Units section, this is another area that I always go to. This is going to set the general unit of measurement for you inside of Illustrator. You have things like the General control, which controls the overall units for your particular setup in Illustrator. So your rulers, grids, guides, et cetera, will all snap to Points or Picas, Inches, Millimeter, Centimeters, or Pixels, totally up to you.

It really depends on the type of workflow that you're doing. If you are more of a web person, you'd probably switch these to Pixels. If you are more of a print person, you might be good with Points; you might be good with Picas or even Inches. Strokes; what unit of measurement do Strokes use by default? By default they use Points, but if you want to change that to be Picas, Inches or Pixels, or even Millimeters and Centimeters, you can do that here. You can also change Type. Now I'd be a little bit careful with Type, because you mostly know type in terms of points or pixels.

You don't generally refer to it in inches or millimeters. But if you prefer it that way, you can certainly make that change here. The next thing on my list to always check out is the User Interface Preference. Inside of the User Interface Preference you are allowed to change the way Illustrator looks and feels. For instance, you can come up here and change the Brightness of Illustrator. By default, Illustrator is set to this Medium Dark. And this is actually new in CS6. But you can change it back to an older version like Medium Light just by clicking a button like so.

If you don't like that, you can easily switch back by changing it like so. You can also change it to a really dark interface or go extremely light with the Light interface. If you're not happy with any of those presets you can actually take this little slider here and drag it to any level of darkness that you want. But for now I'll change that back to Medium Dark. You can also switch the Canvas Color. The canvas is the area surrounding your actual artboard, this area right here, and you can change this to either Match the User Interface Brightness, which is what it's doing right now, you can see it's that dark gray color, or you can set it to White.

When I do that you'll notice the area on the outside of the document automatically changes to white. Now this is going to be a personal choice, so if you like this, matching the user interface brightness, click there. If you like the white, click there. Auto-Collapse Iconic panels; basically this means do you want to automatically collapse the panels on the right-hand side into icon form? If you want that, they'll automatically collapse them like that for you. If you don't, you can leave that unchecked and Illustrator will remember whether or not you had the panels opened or closed. Open Documents As Tabs; I would recommend not turning this off.

Basically this means that each time you open a new document in Illustrator, it's going to open as a tab up here on the top. Much the same way you see tabbed browsing inside of Internet browsers, making it easy to switch between documents. If you don't like that and you want everything to open up in its own window, you can certainly turn that off by unchecking the box and then we'll simply hit OK. Once I hit OK, all of my preferences have now been committed to and are now in effect here inside of Illustrator. There's no need to restart the program, because I didn't make that change that warned me of the restart.

Right now, you might not know exactly what your preferences necessarily are, and that's okay. As you continue to use Illustrator, you'll develop your own style and taste and you can always come back in and make any changes that you want at a later time. That's the beauty of the Preferences dialog box.

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