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When you are using transparent effects inside of Illustrator we know that at the end of the day, we are going to have to go to that transparency flattening process and in doing so we also know that under certain circumstances Illustrator will be forced to convert certain artwork into rasterized regions if necessary. Now obviously if Illustrator is forced to rasterize a certain area there is a nothing that we can do to prevent that. But if we know when those particular times happen, we may be able to build our file in a certain way so that the rasterization process is never necessary at all. So keeping that in mind, let's take a look at how stacking order can affect the results of what happens during the flattening process. I have here a file that's called stacking_order and I have an image that exists within a mask. In this case it's an oval shape. And I have some text here called SURF'S UP! Now let's take a look at my Layers panel here. I'll see that I have my text over here called SURF'S UP! And then beneath it I have the group, which is basically the image inside of the mask. Now what I'm going to do is I'm actually going to change the stacking order a little bit. I'm going to take the actual image itself, I'm going to choose Object > Arrange, I'm going to choose Bring to Front. So now you can see that my Group with the image is sitting on top of the text in the stacking order.
Next, I'm going to go ahead and with this particular artwork selected, I'm now going to go to the Effect menu, I'm going to choose Stylize and we are going to add a Drop Shadow. Just take the regular settings right here. Then I see now that I have added a Drop Shadow to this mask right over here. I am also going to take my text. I'm going to position it just about over here. Let's move this over to the side of the screen just somewhat, where the text is not actually touching the drop shadow in anyway. But we also know basically how Illustrator is going to have to rasterize that drop shadow.
We know that the Drop Shadow is going to be an effect that's going to get rasterize during the flattening process. We also know that raster images are always rectangular in shape and because this drop shadow has a soft edge, there is no clipping mask that can be made to contain that area. So that means that I'm basically going to end up with like a rectangle that's going to be about this big that's going to contain that particular Drop Shadow. But notice that the rectangle went out and covered over certain letters in my text. I'm actually going to go ahead and delete this for now. We will also note that the background here in my file is white. Remember when Illustrator goes ahead and flattens the transparency there can be no transparent areas. So in that rectangular raster image that's going to be created that will contain the Drop Shadow, the Drop Shadow will fade beautifully into a white background.
So here is the problem. My text currently sits in the back of the stacking order. If my image when it gets flattened gets that big white rectangle behind it, the white rectangle will actually cover over some of the letters in the words over here. Now that results in a change in appearance. Now Illustrator is not allowed to change the appearance of my file, so in doing so because my text is just somewhere in the vicinity of this Drop Shadow, this text gets caught in the drop shadow. That's going to be turned into a raster image. As such part of this text will get rasterize.
Now if you remember some of the examples that we have used to actually demonstrate how the transparency flattening process happens, when Illustrator does need to rasterize certain areas it doesn't rasterize the entire file. It only rasterize those specific regions that need to get rasterize. So the result that's going to happen in this case here is that part of my letters will become rasterize because they get caught or fall within the bounding area of that drop shadow. But a couple of letters here that exist outside of that bounding area don't need to get rasterize at all. So those remain vector. My result of my file is going to be some of those letters will be rasterized in form, some will be vector and the output will actually show that difference and that's because we know that vector and raster images also get rasterized at different levels, especially in the rift.
For example, images may get rasterized at 300 dpi whereas text may get rasterized at the native resolution, which could be 2400 or even 3600 dpi. In fact, if you ever seen a particular file like a magazine where you have some text that looks like it's bold and some text is not bold. There is a good chance that that particular text that's bold is not really set to the bold version of the typeface. More likely it somewhere in the vicinity of another transparency effect and that text got caught in that transparency effect and during the flattening process it became rasterized and hence it had that bold appearance.
So let's demonstrate that exactly. I have this text over here. Remember my text is now sitting beneath my group with the image in the object stacking order. I'm going to press Command+A on the Mac or Ctrl+A on Windows to select all of my artwork and now I'm going to go to the Object menu and I'm going to Flatten Transparency. I'm just going to use the regular settings here and you will see that the result simply is over here that I had some text and part of that text got actually turned into image. See over here where I have Image Pixels and this part over here SURF'S and half of the U got converted to an image. I'm going to press Undo here to move my text beneath it, so you can see that that certainly becomes a problem. And again, that happened because the bounding box, the region for this particular drop shadow was so big that it actually taken up part of that particular text.
So I'm going to press Undo. I'm going to go back to now where the transparency is still live in my document. I have a live drop shadow and my live text. I'm simply going to change the stacking order of my artwork. I'm going to take my text and choose Object > Arrange > Bring to Front. So now in the stacking order my text is above the image. Now if my drop shadow needs to have a white box, that's fine because the white box will sit behind the text. Hence there will be no change in appearance in my document and as such that second rule of flattening that basically would tell Illustrator that it has to rasterize those areas never comes into play at all.
So by simply moving the text up to the top of the stacking order, I can avoid any of the side effects and in this way the text itself will not have to get rasterize. Just to show you I'll press Command+A or Ctrl+A once again. I'll now choose Object > Flatten Transparency and click OK and we can now see that the text itself is completely vector. There is no raster part at all. I have this part of the image to the white image that sits behind the text. So at the end of the day my text basically appears without any issues whatsoever. So the take away is this. When you are working with transparency, it's really important to always make sure that your text objects are always at the top of the stacking order.
One of the ways that I always ensure that this is the case is that I go ahead and I create a new layer in my document and I put that layer at top of my stacking order and I call it my text layer. Where possible I always put my text objects in that text layer. Since that layer will always sit above everything else in my file, I'm always assured that my text will not get rasterized.
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