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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.
So we know that we control the presentation of our artwork by changing our artwork's appearance, and the way that we are going to be doing that is by using the Appearance panel. Now, you can see that right now I have a document opened. It's called appearance.ai. And if you look in the upper right-hand corner, you can see that I am currently set to the Essentials workspace. Now in this workspace, the Appearance panel--yes, the all-important Appearance panel--is kind of buried over here at the bottom. I am actually going to drag this by its tab and bring it out right on to the screen here, because in the next couple of videos--in fact, probably for the remainder of this course--we are going to be focusing a lot on this Appearance panel.
Towards the end of this course, I am actually going to take you through creating your own customized workspace, where we can add more prominence to the Appearance panel. But for now, let's take a quick look at the Appearance panel itself. You can see over here that it tells me that I have no selection. You can see that it's giving me stroke and fill information-- these are the default settings inside of Illustrator--and you can see that I have default opacity applied as well. Because I have nothing selected, any new objects that I now create are going to pick up these settings. If you look along the left side of the panel, you'll see that there are some eyeballs here that allow me to control the visibility of the individual attributes for my selection.
Now admittedly, this information about what my attributes are is not really very exciting when I first look at the Appearance panel. In fact, that's why I think that a lot of people don't use the Appearance panel, because they don't fully appreciate what it is that the Appearance panel is actually telling them. Let me explain to you what I mean by that. I am actually going to move my mouse cursor over the document, and because I have Smart Guide currently active inside of my document, when I mouse over this, you'll see that there actually is a path that exists inside of this document. I don't see it though, because I have not applied an appearance to this path. But I am going to go ahead now and select this path-- I am using my regular Selection tool-- and I'll bring my mouse over here to the Fill and Stroke indicators right here in the control panel. And let's apply maybe a yellow fill, and let's do kind of like a light blue stroke over here.
And I'll change this stroke weight to around 20 point in thickness. Now, let's go back to the Appearance panel and see what it says. It's telling me that my object has default opacity. It tells me that I have a blue 20-point stroke and a yellow fill. But again, that does not seem very exciting to me because I already know that. I am already trained, having been using Illustrator for a quite some time, that if look in my Fill and Stroke indicators for any selected object, over here I can see exactly what my fill and stroke are. Additionally, I usually have my Color panel or my Swatches panel open, so I can see that right here that my fill is in focus--or I can see that my fill is 100% yellow--and I could also put my stroke in focus to see that it currently is set to a color of 100% cyan.
So at first blush, the Appearance panel is like wasted space on my screen. We all know how valuable screen real estate is. So why do I need another panel open that just tells me information that I already know? Well, let's turn back to the Appearance panel, and we'll start to get a better understanding of exactly what the value is here. As we've discussed before, Illustrator has something called the stacking order. We already know that objects sit above or beneath other objects inside of my document. But what people don't realize is that each object inside of your document has its own attribute stacking order.
In other words, fills and strokes appear either beneath or above each other as well. We don't think about it in this way, because we just usually apply a fill or a stroke to an object. But fills and strokes are applied in a very specific way, and for good reason. Let's take a closer look at this document. The Appearance panel is not just telling me that I have a blue stroke that's 20 point and a yellow fill. Remember that when we think about stacking order, we always draw from the bottom upwards. So let's take a closer look at the Appearance panel now and see really what it's telling us.
It's not just telling us that there is a fill and a stroke of arbitrary colors; it's telling us the order in which those attributes are actually applied to the object. Illustrator has a regular path, and now the Appearance panel is telling me that first, Illustrator applied default opacity, then Illustrator painted a yellow fill, and then Illustrator painted a 20-point blue stroke on top of that. In fact, by default Illustrator always paints the fill of an object first before it paints the stroke of an object. Why? Well, let's go back to one of those other concepts that we have learned before.
When we apply a weight to a stroke--a thickness to a stroke--we discussed that that thickness is distributed evenly on the center line of the path. Now I have a 20-point stroke right here, so that means that here is my path itself. I have 10 points on one side of the path and 10 points on the other side of the path. However, my fill actually goes all the way to the path itself. Now, if Illustrator were to actually paint the stroke first and then paint the fill on top of the stroke, my fill would cover over this inner part of the stroke, meaning I wouldn't be able to see half of the thickness of my stroke.
So even though we don't really think about it on a day-to-day basis, the stacking order of the individual attributes that I apply to my object are very important. Now, I mentioned that Illustrator always paints the fill first and the stroke second. I get that, that's fine. But why do I need to know that? Well, if we look at the Appearance panel, not only can we see that information, we can change information as well, meaning if I want Illustrator to actually paint the stroke before it paints the fill on an object, I can do that in the Appearance panel. All I have to do is have my object selected, grab the stroke itself and drag it beneath the fill in the attribute's stacking order.
Notice over here that the fill now appears above the stroke. As we discussed before, I cannot see now that inside part of the stroke. I'll press Undo, so that we can see that again. Notice over here in my stacking order Illustrator is drawing the fill first and then the stroke second. But if I click and drag the stroke to appear beneath the fill, now you can see that Illustrator first paints the stroke and now the fill on top of it. And because of that, I cannot see certain parts of the stroke that fall beneath the fill. Now it's important to realize that I can only make this adjustment through the Appearance panel.
There is nowhere else inside of Illustrator where I could reverse stacking order, or make adjustments to stacking order, of individual attributes for a single object. If I go to the Object menu here and I choose Arrange, and we have these commands of Send Backward or Send to Back, those only apply to paths. But I have no way to actually use that setting to work specifically for attributes like fills and strokes. So at this point, we start to see a little bit of value for the Appearance panel. Not only does it show us basic information about what kind of attributes are applied to my selection, it's also letting me make adjustments or changes to those attributes-- in this case, changing the attribute's stacking order.
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