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As is the case with most Adobe applications, Illustrator comes equipped with what I call a constant command center. By this I mean a centralized location that displays useful information and tools that are easily accessible by you, the user, at any given time. We call this command center the Control panel, and in this movie, I'll be exploring it in its entirety. So first of all, you have to know where the Control panel is. The Control panel is this strip that starts on the left and goes all the way over to the right.
In order to get a better understanding of the Control panel, I'm actually going bring it out so that you can see it. If you want to undock the Control panel, you take this little dashed line right here, click and drag out. As you can see, the Control panel becomes floating right out there in the middle. The Control panel is context-sensitive, meaning depending on what tool or object you have selected at any given time inside of Illustrator, the options that you see here will constantly change. Let's redock it here. At the top you can see I'll just drag it up, find the blue line, and drop it in and it goes right back to normal.
Let's take a look at exactly how the Control panel changes as I start to select different things inside of my document. If I click on a flower, you'll notice here that I get some basic controls like Fill, Stroke, et cetera. I also have the ability to change certain Brush Definitions, Opacity, Style, et cetera. Towards the end of the Control panel, you're going to notice the differences when you have things selected. Because I've got an object selected here, I get things like Recolor, Align to Selection, Transform; Isolate the Selected Object, Select Similar Objects, et cetera.
Now if I had something else selected like Type for instance, these options would actually change. Let's see how that works now. I'll grab the Type tool and notice when I grab the Type tool, all of the options update to show me type-related controls, things like the Character and Paragraph panels, Text Alignment, et cetera. The left-hand side of the Control panel remains sticky however and this is something that's new in Illustrator CS6. They actually reorganize the Control panel so that the most used options always stay over here on the left and the new contextual options pop up over here on the right.
You'll also notice depending on your screen size that the Control panel actually will Show and Hide different objects. So for instance, notice the character and paragraph links that are right here. If I were to resize my window, those disappear entirely. If I maximize it back up, they come right back. That's because the Control panel relies on your screen to determine what it displays. If you don't see something in the Control panel that's normally there, chances are there wasn't enough screen real estate to accommodate it.
If you want to find that in the Control panel, you can click right here and everything that should be in the Control panel is listed. If there are objects that you don't want to see in the Control panel, you can actually turn them off from here. So for instance, if I wanted to turn off things like Paragraph, I can uncheck it and Paragraph is removed. If I want to go back and add it back in, it pops right back up. In the Control panel, anytime you see one of these orange links, you'll know that it accesses a panel.
You click on it and the panel appears. Click on it again, the panel disappears. Same holds true with Opacity and Stroke or any other link that you see. They look almost like a web link on the Internet and that's what they're made to do. They're made to make you think that by clicking on this, something else appears. So you'll notice as I change tools, like let's say from the Type tool to the Brush tool, that my options do indeed change in the Control panel. And you'll also notice that as I switch from tools like the Type tool to the Artboard tool, my options can completely shift.
It all depends on what tool or object you have selected at any given time. The best part about the Control panel though is that it's always there. So even if you forget where the Fill and Stroke controls are, or if you misplace your Type panel, you always know that you can count the Control panel to show you the way home. Take some time and practice with it and ingrain it into your muscle memory and you'll be amazed at how it becomes an integral part of your daily routine inside of Illustrator. Whether you've got it docked to the top, the bottom, or anywhere else inside of Illustrator, you have to make sure that the Control panel is a central piece of your workflow.
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