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In Illustrator CS5 Essential Training, author Mordy Golding explains the core concepts and techniques that apply to any workflow in Illustrator, whether designing for print, the web, or assets for other applications. This course includes a detailed explanation of the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of the Illustrator drawing tools. Also demonstrated are techniques for combining and cleaning up paths, organizing paths into groups and layers, text editing, working with color, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.
Back in chapter 1, when we were discussing key Illustrator concepts, we learned about something called an appearance. In Illustrator, we create objects by defining paths, however, those paths don't have any appearance. They don't look like anything. They are invisible. They're used to define a shape. However, if you want a shape to look like something, you want it to have a color, or some kind of border around it, we need to apply attributes called Fills and Strokes. Well, these are called appearances.
By applying Fills and Strokes to an object, you are applying an appearance to that object. So far, we've created some basic shapes inside of Illustrator. And we've even applied some basic attributes like Fills and Strokes. However, the real way to control the appearance of artwork is through something in Illustrator called the Appearance panel. You can find that over here, the Appearance panel. But in reality, I find that panel so important that many times I grab the tab itself and rip it out so that I now have the Appearance panel standing on its own.
Let me close the Graphic Styles panel here because we don't need to see that. But I'll extend this just a little bit, so we can see the information here. And for the most of this chapter right now, we are going to focus on using the Appearance panel inside of Illustrator. I'll be honest with you. I believe that the Appearance panel is probably one of most important panels inside of Illustrator, not only because it helps you define the appearance of artwork, but more importantly, it allows you to see the settings of appearances that I've already been applied to artwork. What do I mean by that? Well, many times when working inside of Illustrator, you may get artwork that was created by someone else, not yourself, but maybe you got a file given to you from a client or from another designer.
If you want to be able to work with that file, and see and understand all of its settings, you'll need to start learning how to use the Appearance panel. To really get understanding of what the Appearance panel does, we need to review two basic concepts inside of Illustrator. One of them is something called stacking order. We know that in Illustrator, I work with objects. Each time that I draw a new object, by default, Illustrator adds that object to the top of the stacking order. Likewise, when I have layers, each time that I add a new layer, that layer appears above the previous layers.
In fact, if I take this object here, and by holding down the Option key, I create a copy of it, you can notice that this shape right now is sitting on top of this other shape. Sure, I can go to the Object menu, and I can choose Arrange, Send to Back. And this will now take the object that's currently sitting at the top of my stacking order, and it will send it to the back of the back of the stacking order. So now the new object that I've just created appears beneath the previous object. Well, I'm going to delete that object for now. But I just wanted to go over to that concept there that being something called the stacking order inside of Illustrator, objects or either above or beneath other objects.
Now we also now that there's another attribute that you can apply to Illustrator besides a Fill, something called the Stroke. And the Stroke is the appearance that you apply to the path itself. Some may think of it as a border, but really it's the attribute that gets painted directly on the path itself. In this case, for this object right here, by looking at the Appearance panel, I see that I have a two-point stroke applied to this object. Two-points refer to the thickness, or what we call the weight of that stroke. I will talk more about strokes in another chapter later on in this title.
But for now, just to make things a little bit easier to understand, I'm going to increase the weight of the Stroke. And I can do that directly through the Appearance panel by clicking on the value right here and changing with the something like 20 points, for example. Now you can see the path right here, but this thickness of the Stroke is actually distributed evenly on either side of that path. This is Illustrator's default behavior. Every time you define a stroke with some thickness to it, that thickness gets evenly distributed along the centerline of the path.
So in this case here, since I've applied a 20-point Stroke, I have basically 10 points of Stroke applied on one side of the path and 10 points of stroke weight applied to the inside of that path. Now in Illustrator, it is possible with closed shapes, to align that stroke completely to the inside or the outside. However, Illustrator's default setting is to apply that Stroke evenly along the centerline of the path. So now that we understand these two concepts in Illustrator, that of stacking order and that Stroke Weights are always distributed along the centerline of the path, we can take another closer look at what the Appearance panel is doing and how we can better use it to understand how appearances are applied to objects inside of Illustrator.
First, as you can see, what I've just done with the Stroke, the Appearance panel not only shows me the attributes that are applied to my object, the panel also allows me to apply or change attributes. For example, if I want to change the Fill color of this object, I don't need to go all the way over here with my mouse to this part of the interface. And I certainly don't need to also open up my Swatches panel right here. I can simply click on the square, and then click to bring up the Swatches panel directly. If I hold down the Shift key while I click on this, it brings up the Color panel.
I can do the exact same thing here for the Stroke color. So I'm able to actually apply attributes directly through the Appearance panel. But let me click here on the bottom, and let's take a closer look at what's happening here. Illustrator is letting me know that right now this object has default Opacity. And has this Fill color applied. And it has a 20-point Stroke applied as well using this color. But the order in which these appear inside of the Appearance panel is also significant. We had just finished discussing this concept of having something called the stacking order inside of Illustrator.
However, the stacking order applies to not only objects themselves but even the attributes within objects. For example, in my document right now, I only have one object. However, this object itself has a stacking order inside of it. We always read things from the bottom up inside of Illustrator. So what the Appearance panel is telling me is that Illustrator first applied default Opacity to this object. Illustrator then painted this colored Fill. And then it applied a 20-point black stroke on top of that in that specific order.
In other words, right now the Stroke is sitting on top of the Fill. This is the default behavior of Illustrator. Why does Illustrator always paint the Fill of an object first and then the Stroke afterward? Well, as we've discussed before, the weight of the stroke is always distributed on both sides of the path. However, the Fill itself goes all the way up to the path edge itself. So, for example, right now here's my path. My Fill really goes all the way up that part. However, since the Stroke itself was painted on top of the Fill, I'm not seeing the color the Fill that kind of bleeds all the way up to the path itself.
If I were to tell Illustrator to paint the Stroke first and then the Fill on top of it, I would see this green color go all the way to the line here, but I would not be able to see the inside part of the Stroke, meaning I wouldn't be able to see the full weight or the thickness of the stroke. So that's why Illustrator always paints the Fill first and the Stroke second. However, through the Appearance panel, if I want to, I can change that. To do so, I would simply click on the Stroke right here and drag it so that it appears beneath the Fill.
Notice that I see the Fill goes all the way up to the path, but I don't see that inner part of the stroke weight because it's being covered right now by the Fill, which appears on top of the Stroke. So at this point, we're really starting to understand a little bit more about the power that lies within the Appearance panel. I can use it to both view and also apply different attributes to my objects. But as we are starting to see, the Appearance panel treats the Fill and Stroke as if they were their own objects themselves.
Through the Appearance panel, we are going to have complete control over every single attribute of each object inside of Illustrator. It's a level of the control you can only get through the Appearance panel, and in the next movie, we'll see how it can really start to break apart both the Fills and Strokes of objects and treat them individually.
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