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Using and "reading" the Layers panel

From: Illustrator CS5 Essential Training

Video: Using and "reading" the Layers panel

One of the most helpful things about the Layers panel is not that you can actually define layers, but that you can really reverse-engineer, or better yet, read your document. See normally, you look at Illustrator and you try to identify objects by seeing what they are and maybe selecting them. However, you don't always get the full story. For example, maybe you're looking at this document right now, and someone else created this file, and they've given it to you to work on. And your job right now is to take a look at the sun, kind of looks interesting, but you see those like zigzag rays that are coming out of the sun.

Using and "reading" the Layers panel

One of the most helpful things about the Layers panel is not that you can actually define layers, but that you can really reverse-engineer, or better yet, read your document. See normally, you look at Illustrator and you try to identify objects by seeing what they are and maybe selecting them. However, you don't always get the full story. For example, maybe you're looking at this document right now, and someone else created this file, and they've given it to you to work on. And your job right now is to take a look at the sun, kind of looks interesting, but you see those like zigzag rays that are coming out of the sun.

Your job is to make the zigzags a little bit different. You kind of click on the object over here, but you really don't see any path here that exists for these zigzag areas. In fact, if you go to Outline mode, Command+Y, to view the actual path themselves, you don't see the zigzags at all. So how were those zigzags created? On top of that, we have some Drop Shadow effects applied to some elements here on the bottom. And if we need to make changes to that, maybe we need to make it just a little bit darker, we need to know how the artwork was built so we can make these changes.

So the first thing really here is to look at the Layers panel, but you don't really want just the layers. You want to see the objects as well. So I'm going to click on the triangle so we could start to see what's going on here. Now, the first thing you should notice is if you look to the far right of the Layers panel, we see that there are these little circles that appear here. We already know that anything shaded gray is a layer. Anything with a white background is an object. However, some of these circles are filled white or they're hollow. But some of them have like a little bit of a gradient in here.

What does that mean? Well remember way back we spoke about appearances inside of Illustrator. We know that there are basically two types of objects that have appearances applied to them. We have something called the basic appearance, and when an object has a basic appearance, we mean that it has only one fill and one stroke and no special effects applied to it. However, as soon as you start adding multiple fills and strokes, and as soon as you start adding effects, like Drop Shadows, for example, we refer to those objects as having a complex appearance.

Well, the little circles will let me know which objects have a basic appearance or which ones have a complex appearance. Objects with hollow circles have basic appearances. Anything with a little bit of a 3D appearance here lets me know that there is currently a complex appearance on that piece of artwork. So what many times I do to reverse engineer files and see how they were built is that I also keep my Appearance panel open. So I'm going to ahead here, and I'm going to choose the Appearance panel and bring it up right here to the top of the page.

In fact, one of my favorite layouts is to connect the Layers panel and the Appearance panel together, so they kind of act as one unit, and I bring them right here on my page. In this case here, if I were to go ahead now and click on the Sun, I could see that path right now, has a complex appearance applied to it. If I click on this little circle, it targets that object, and I can see right away, oh look at that! There is an orange 4-point stroke, but it has an offset path and the zigzag effect that's been applied to that object.

So now if I want to make a change to that zigzag, I can click on the word Zig Zag right here to bring up that Dialog box, and maybe change some of the settings here, and then click OK. So that's the easiest way to kind of read a document and find out the information that you need to make the changes. Now, as we learn more and more about using Illustrator, we'll find that the Layers panel also gives me other visual cues to help me read my Illustrator document. For example, we're going to learn about creating Masks.

Well, when I create a Mask inside of Illustrator, all items that are mask appear underlined inside of the Layers panel. Sometimes, I have artwork that appears inside of my document, but that artwork does not appear when I print my document. That might happen because there is the ability inside of Illustrator to define nonprinting layers. For example, let's say I don't want this sun to print. I'm going to double-click on the Sun layer right here, normally to change the name, but you'll see some other options here as well.

If I uncheck the Print check box here and click OK, now when I print my document, this layer, or anything on the Sun layer, will not print. But notice that right now inside the Layers panel, the word Sun appears in italics. Anytime I see something italicized inside of the Layers panel, that identifies that layer as being a nonprinting layer. So once again, a quick glance at the Layers panel will right away let me know oh, that layer is a nonprinting layer, and if I needed to, I can double-click on it and correct the problem.

Sometimes, I'll use a nonprinting layer to put instructions into a file. I don't want those instructions to print on a sheet of paper, but if another designer should open up that file or if my printer should open that file, I might want to alert them to some information. Now, you'll notice one other thing here also inside the Layers panel, the flowers here also has a complex appearance. If I twirl down, right now, I notice this is a Group, this lets me know that right now there are flowers inside of that group. In other words, the group itself as a Drop Shadow applied to it.

But all the paths and objects inside of that group don't have the Drop Shadow applied to it. This goes back to the concept we spoke about before that a group is a container, and we can apply appearances or attributes directly to that container. Here, we visibly see the container. This is the group itself. Instead of being called Group, I simply just double-clicked on it and gave it a name. In fact, if you're careful about naming your groups inside the Layers panel, when you use the Isolation mode, the breadcrumbs start to make some sense.

Let me show you what I mean. If I come in here now and I double- click on these flowers, Illustrator doesn't tell me layer 1 and Group. Illustrator tells me that right now I'm in the Flowers Group that's inside of the Flower Pot layer. Often, when working with very, very complex artwork, maybe when you're creating some kind of a map, if you take the time to name all of your layers and groups correctly, you'll find it that much easier to navigate inside of your document. More importantly, when you hand your files off to other designers to work on, they will easily be able to navigate their way around your document.

In addition, should you ever now take this document and place it into other applications, be it Photoshop, Flash Catalyst, InDesign or Flash Professional, these layer names all stay intact making it easy to navigate within your artwork as well. I'll tap the Escape key to exit Isolation mode here, and hopefully, I've given you just a few examples of why it's important to think about structuring your document using layers inside of Illustrator.

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This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS5 Essential Training
Illustrator CS5 Essential Training

126 video lessons · 81472 viewers

Mordy Golding
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 3m 35s
    1. Welcome
      1m 18s
    2. What is Illustrator CS5?
      1m 46s
    3. Using the exercise files
      31s
  2. 12m 37s
    1. What are vector graphics?
      6m 3s
    2. Path and appearance
      3m 42s
    3. Stacking
      2m 52s
  3. 32m 6s
    1. The Welcome screen
      2m 23s
    2. Creating files for print
      6m 7s
    3. Creating files for the screen
      2m 55s
    4. Using prebuilt templates
      2m 40s
    5. Adding XMP metadata
      4m 18s
    6. Exploring the panels
      6m 33s
    7. Using the Control panel
      3m 11s
    8. Using workspaces
      3m 59s
  4. 43m 44s
    1. Navigating within a document
      9m 15s
    2. Using rulers and guides
      7m 26s
    3. Using grids
      3m 6s
    4. Using the bounding box
      3m 37s
    5. Using Smart Guides
      5m 56s
    6. The Hide Edges command
      3m 22s
    7. Various preview modes
      3m 47s
    8. Creating custom views
      4m 3s
    9. Locking and hiding artwork
      3m 12s
  5. 28m 46s
    1. Using the basic selection tools
      8m 50s
    2. Using the Magic Wand tool
      5m 22s
    3. Using the Lasso tool
      2m 28s
    4. Selecting objects by attribute or type
      3m 37s
    5. Saving and reusing selections
      2m 15s
    6. Selecting artwork beneath other objects
      2m 13s
    7. Exploring selection preferences
      4m 1s
  6. 1h 16m
    1. The importance of modifier keys
      1m 52s
    2. Drawing closed path primitives
      11m 38s
    3. Drawing open path primitives
      5m 47s
    4. Understanding anchor points
      3m 43s
    5. Drawing straight paths with the Pen tool
      7m 37s
    6. Drawing curved paths with the Pen tool
      9m 47s
    7. Drawing freeform paths with the Pencil tool
      5m 33s
    8. Smoothing and erasing paths
      3m 8s
    9. Editing anchor points
      7m 21s
    10. Joining and averaging paths
      10m 9s
    11. Simplifying paths
      4m 55s
    12. Using Offset Path
      2m 17s
    13. Cleaning up errant paths
      2m 32s
  7. 48m 26s
    1. The Draw Inside and Draw Behind modes
      7m 34s
    2. Creating compound paths
      5m 56s
    3. Creating compound shapes
      8m 0s
    4. Using the Shape Builder tool
      10m 28s
    5. Using Pathfinder functions
      8m 6s
    6. Splitting an object into a grid
      1m 16s
    7. Using the Blob Brush and Eraser tools
      7m 6s
  8. 49m 5s
    1. Creating point text
      4m 2s
    2. Creating area text
      8m 13s
    3. Applying basic character settings
      7m 44s
    4. Applying basic paragraph settings
      4m 28s
    5. Creating text threads
      8m 25s
    6. Setting text along an open path
      6m 29s
    7. Setting text along a closed path
      6m 24s
    8. Converting text into paths
      3m 20s
  9. 18m 55s
    1. Create a logo mark
      11m 26s
    2. Add type to your logo
      7m 29s
  10. 42m 42s
    1. Using the Appearance panel
      8m 21s
    2. Targeting object attributes
      4m 42s
    3. Adding multiple attributes
      4m 25s
    4. Applying Live Effects
      5m 18s
    5. Expanding appearances
      4m 42s
    6. Appearance panel settings
      4m 33s
    7. Copying appearances
      4m 51s
    8. Saving appearances as graphic styles
      5m 50s
  11. 34m 0s
    1. Applying color to artwork
      5m 57s
    2. Creating process and global process swatches
      8m 54s
    3. Creating spot color swatches
      3m 19s
    4. Loading PANTONE and other custom color libraries
      4m 49s
    5. Organizing colors with Swatch Groups
      3m 31s
    6. Finding color suggestions with the Color Guide panel
      4m 24s
    7. Loading the Color Guide with user-defined colors
      3m 6s
  12. 50m 23s
    1. Creating gradients with the Gradient panel
      8m 12s
    2. Modifying gradients with the Gradient Annotator
      4m 37s
    3. Applying and manipulating pattern fills
      5m 33s
    4. Defining your own custom pattern fills
      9m 13s
    5. Applying basic stroke settings
      5m 22s
    6. Creating strokes with dashed lines
      3m 41s
    7. Adding arrowheads to strokes
      2m 45s
    8. Creating variable-width strokes
      4m 35s
    9. Working with width profiles
      2m 36s
    10. Turning strokes into filled paths
      3m 49s
  13. 32m 46s
    1. Creating and editing groups
      8m 18s
    2. Adding attributes to groups
      12m 17s
    3. The importance of using layers
      5m 9s
    4. Using and "reading" the Layers panel
      7m 2s
  14. 12m 13s
    1. Creating and using multiple artboards
      7m 52s
    2. Modifying artboards with the Artboards panel
      2m 2s
    3. Copy and paste options with Artboards
      2m 19s
  15. 31m 10s
    1. Moving and copying artwork
      3m 55s
    2. Scaling or resizing artwork
      6m 47s
    3. Rotating artwork
      2m 44s
    4. Reflecting and skewing artwork
      2m 34s
    5. Using the Free Transform tool
      2m 15s
    6. Repeating transformations
      3m 39s
    7. Performing individual transforms across multiple objects
      2m 10s
    8. Aligning objects and groups precisely
      4m 27s
    9. Distributing objects and spaces between objects
      2m 39s
  16. 35m 40s
    1. Placing pixel-based content into Illustrator
      5m 14s
    2. Managing images with the Links panel
      4m 49s
    3. Converting pixels to paths with Live Trace
      8m 44s
    4. Making Live Trace adjustments
      6m 9s
    5. Controlling colors in Live Trace
      6m 4s
    6. Using Photoshop and Live Trace together
      4m 40s
  17. 14m 42s
    1. Managing repeating artwork with symbols
      4m 38s
    2. Modifying and replacing symbol instances
      3m 8s
    3. Using the Symbol Sprayer tool
      6m 56s
  18. 16m 57s
    1. Cropping photographs
      1m 59s
    2. Clipping artwork with masks
      3m 22s
    3. Clipping the contents of a layer
      3m 31s
    4. Defining masks with soft edges
      8m 5s
  19. 26m 2s
    1. Defining a perspective grid
      7m 48s
    2. Drawing artwork in perspective
      8m 46s
    3. Moving flat art onto the perspective grid
      9m 28s
  20. 25m 8s
    1. Printing your Illustrator document
      3m 26s
    2. Saving your Illustrator document
      6m 39s
    3. Creating PDF files for clients and printers
      7m 30s
    4. Exporting Illustrator files for use in Microsoft Office
      1m 4s
    5. Exporting Illustrator files for use in Photoshop
      2m 31s
    6. Exporting artwork for use on the web
      3m 3s
    7. Exporting high-resolution raster files
      55s
  21. 2m 18s
    1. Additional Illustrator learning resources
      1m 36s
    2. Goodbye
      42s

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