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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 it's possible to add attributes or Live Effects directly to a group. But the question you might be asking yourself is, how does Illustrator know when you want to apply an effect to a group or to the actual objects themselves? The answer lies in understanding the difference between something called selecting inside of Illustrator and targeting. Let's understand exactly what those two different terms mean. We've already established that inside of Illustrator we have these two concepts of structure and presentation. Structure refers to an object's path, meaning the anchor points and the actual control handles.
And the presentation refers to do things like fill, strokes, and Live Effects. Now in Illustrator, if I use, for example, my regular Selection tool like I have right here, and I click on an object then I ask you, "Hey, what did I just do?" You will say, "Oh, you selected that object." This is true, but I have also done something else. I've also targeted that object, and let's understand the key difference here. Targeting something refers to an object's presentation. Selecting something refers to an object's structure, meaning that when I select something, I'm actually selecting the physical path.
I am selecting the structure of that artwork. That means, for example, if I want to copy and paste something, by selecting it, I am selecting the underlying paths and I'm copying and pasting the path somewhere else. If I want to resize something or rotate something, I select it, meaning I am actually selecting the path itself, and I am then rotating or scaling the path. However, I target something when I want to actually change the attributes of that object, meaning if I want to change a fill or a stroke or I want to apply some kind of a fill or stroke or an effect to a group, I have to actually target it.
Now it would be really silly inside of Illustrator if I have to have two completely separate set of tools: one set of tools to select things and then another set of tools to target things. I mean here inside of Illustrator, we already have two or even three different arrow tools. We certainly don't need more. So it's important to realize that instead of Illustrator, whenever you select something, Illustrator automatically targets something as well. How does it know what to target? Well, there is something inside of Illustrator called Smart Targeting. Smart Targeting kind of figures out what you're trying to do, and when you select something, Illustrator will automatically target the object as well.
Let's see how that works. When I go ahead now and I select these three different shapes here on the left-- remember, these shapes have not been grouped--and I look at my Appearance panel, the word that appears in bold here is what we have refer to as our target. Right now, Illustrator has targeted paths. Now it happens to be that each of those paths have mixed appearances that have different fill colors, so Illustrator is letting me know that here inside the Appearance panel. But my target, meaning when I change a fill or stroke color, that's going to change on the path itself.
Watch what happens now when I actually select the group on the right side of my document. Now, the target doesn't say paths anymore; the target now says group. The target is my container. Illustrator's Smart Targeting automatically assumed that hey, if I want to change the appearance of what I currently have selected right now, I probably want that appearance to change at the group level. So the Smart Targeting targets the group, the container, and not the path itself. The paths themselves are actually the contents that is inside of that group.
Just to show you, if I wanted to override that Smart Targeting, I can double-click on Contents and now notice that the bold word here becomes Path again, which means that now, if I were to apply a drop shadow, that drop shadow would get applied at the path level, not at the group level. Just to show you that, if I now go to the Effect menu and I choose Stylize and let's apply a drop shadow, you can now see that the drop showed got applied at the path level, not to the group level. So even though I have a group selected now, because I told Illustrator, "No, no, no.
I don't want to target the group. I want to target individual shapes within the group," now I have been able to apply individual drop shadows to each of those paths. Let me press Undo here for a minute to go back to the original setting that I had before. I am going to deselected it as well. So we are starting to understand now this difference between selecting something and targeting something. As we learn more about groups and we also understand how the Layers panel works inside of Illustrator, we will definitely be more conscious about targeting inside of Illustrator. In fact, especially when you start working with other people's files, having this understanding of a difference between both selecting and targeting can really help you reverse-engineer files and see how they were built.
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