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Illustrator can be used to accomplish many different design tasks. For this reason, Illustrator CS4 Essential Training teaches core concepts and techniques that can be applied to any workflow for print, the web, or assets that will find their way into other applications. Mordy Golding explains the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of Illustrator's drawing tools. He demonstrates how to combine and clean up paths, and organize them into groups and layers. Mordy also covers text editing, working with color, expressive brush drawing, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.
Groups and layers are somewhat related to each other, because from a conceptual point of view they help us organize our documents. As we have seen so far with groups there is the added benefit of helping us control how our artwork looks in our file, and in reality there is more to layers as well. For this movie I'm going to use this file called working_layers; you can find it in Chapter 09 of the exercise files. I'm also going to go ahead and open up my Layers panel. In fact, I'll bring it up over here to the top of the screen, again, so you could just focus on what we are seeing inside of it. Before we get into actually using layers it's important to realize that, in my honest opinion, you don't have to use layers inside of any document. I think it's very difficult to get by without using groups, mainly because of how you use groups to affect your appearances, for example, when applying overall effects like Drop Shadows to entire logo elements.
However the reality is, if you are creating artwork that, A, is going to either be used by other people, that maybe used outside of Illustrator, for example, when going into applications like Flash, or when you are trying to build more complex things, like maps and charts, working with layers becomes extremely important. The great thing about Illustrator is you don't need to start thinking about layers when you first create your artwork, if you are really that well-organized you can first create a document with all of your layers inside of it and then add artwork later. But what I often find myself doing is taking some artwork at some point and realizing, boy, I should really start to create some layers here. Which is the case here in this particular file. Maybe I got to a point here when I realized I should start working with some layers. In fact, what we will do in this case here is we will actually create three layers in our document, one for the background, one for this element on the left side, and one for this element on the right side.
So let's begin first by creating a background layer for this nice little blue sky. I'll go to the Layers panel here and I'll click on this icon here to create a new layer. I'll double click on the name Layer 2 here to give it a name. Let's go ahead and call this one Background. We will discuss the options in the Layer Options dialog box momentarily, but for now I'm just going to click OK. Here's what I'm going to do, I'm going to click on the background itself; and you see that on the far right over here this little color dot; let's ignore the circles here for a moment, we will get to that shortly, but for right over here this little dot here, this dot indicates that I currently have artwork selected on that layer.
What's interesting about Illustrator is that it gives me this little notification that says, help me understand what is going on in my file. Right now I have one element of many that are selected on that layer, so I get a small dot, but if I were to select all the elements in my layer; for example, right now I'll just press Command+A to select everything. You see how that dot now becomes a big square. That tells me that I currently have everything selected on the layer. If I only have a small box there that means that I only have some elements in that layer selected. Again, it's just a little old thing that's there. But that little box has more importance than just a visual representation of what I have selected. It also allows me to make certain changes. For example, with this particular background now selected I can go ahead and take this particular square and drag it into another layer. For example, right now I'm dragging it to the Background layer.
Now, the way that my hierarchy is inside of Illustrator, remember everything is always built from the bottom up, so in this case I currently have Layer 1, which has all the artwork on it, but I just moved that background up into this layer, which is the Background layer, which means that its now covering over all the other elements beneath it. So while I have successfully moved the background into its correct layer the layer itself is in the wrong position. So what I'll do here is I'll actually take the Background layer and I'll drag that entire layer to be beneath Layer 1, so that allows me to change the Stacking Order. Again, this is important to realize when you have objects that are either above or below other objects, those only exist within a single layer. So just to give you an example, I'm going to undo this for a second here. I have the Background layer and currently the background is in that layer, and I realize, oh, you know something, this is covering that artwork, so maybe I'll think, oh, I'll just go to the Object menu, I'll choose Arrange, and I'll choose Send to Back.
Well, doing that simply sends it to the back of this Background layer, it doesn't send it beneath this layer here. So it's important to realize that the Stacking Order that we see here in the Object menu over here where it says Arrange, is all within one layer, but as soon as I start to work with multiple layers, then I have to realize that each layer on its own has its own Stacking Order. We will see more of this shortly, but for now I'm going to take this entire Background layer and in the Layers panel drag it beneath the Layer 1 layer, and now I see that I have the correct Stacking Order for my particular file.
Let's go ahead now and create two more layers. So I go ahead here and I'll say 1, 2; now I have Layer 3 and Layer 4. I'm going to call this one over here, Grouped Element, because this object in the right here is actually a group, and this one is not grouped, so we will call this one here -- double click on this Layer 3 here, I'm going to call this one Separate Objects. I'm just naming the layers right now, but now if I want to move the elements into there I can use the exact same method as before. I want to marquee select this area to select all these objects here, but if I were to click and drag right now I'm going to select that background. Instead of me having to lock the background object itself I can now simply go to the layer itself and click right over here. In doing so I now have locked that particular layer, so now I can no longer select that, so it makes it easy for me now to go ahead and marquee select that shape.
Working with layers, as you will find, also makes it far more easy to work within your file. By organizing things in this way you could very quickly lock down certain parts of the file that are not necessary to either be able to select or I could use this little eyeball to hide that layer completely. But I'm going to go ahead now and select all these elements right here. I now have this little dot right here. I can click and drag that into the Separate Objects layer. I'll now take these elements right here and I'll move those into the Grouped Element layer. Now, I can simply take Layer 1 and drag it right to the trashcan, because there is nothing in that particular layer right now.
So now I have the layers set up as I need to. If I were to use the eyeballs to toggle this right now I could see that I have a Background layer, I have that layer that contains all the Separated Objects, and I have the Grouped Element in that one as well. Now, if you notice I can click on this right now and you see how all the elements are highlighted in this blue color. But if I click on this one the elements are highlighted in this other color, this green color. That's because I have the ability to choose what color my layer's selection show in, and that helps me identify the layers as I select objects on the page itself. You can easily change these colors by simply double clicking on any layer. For example, let's go ahead and double click on the Separate Objects layer, and I see that I have a color specified here. No, this doesn't mean that the objects in my file are colored green or the objects in this layer are colored green, rather it's the selection color; whenever I have something selected the little lines that show up to highlight that particular object is being selected are green.
I can go ahead and I can choose any color that's here. I can even choose Other and choose from the Color Picker exactly what color I want that particular layer to be. I would suggest staying away from the color black or white. Obviously it makes it very difficult for you to see those selections when that happens. While we are here let's take a quick look at some of the options here in this particular dialog box. We will discuss the Template layer shortly. Lock obviously is the same thing as me choosing the Lock icon right here. Show is the same thing as me clicking on the eyeball that's in the left side here as well. Print allows me to actually tell Illustrator to not print an entire layer. For example, right now this by default is turned on so this layer will print, but if for example, I want to put some instructions in a file that I want someone else to see but I don't want to show up on a printout, I could simply uncheck this option.
Just to show you what it looks like. If I click OK, you will see that the word Separate Objects right now, the name in the layers appears in italics. Whenever you see a layer that appears in italics that means that that is a non-printing layer and that layer will not show up on a printout. Let me go ahead and turn that back on again. I also have the Preview option here. It is possible inside of Illustrator to have one layer be seen in Outline mode while the rest of your document is shown in Preview mode. So we showed you before in the past, where if you go to the View menu you could toggle between Outline and Preview, but that was the entire document in a whole. However, when you look over here and now you can see that there are certain layers that are inside of Preview mode and certain are in Outline mode.
I'll go ahead and double click on that layer again to turn the Preview back on. I also have the ability to dim any images on this layer to 50%. When we talk about Template layers in a few movies from now we will get a better understanding of what that particular feature is. So for now though, we have a better understanding of what our layers are here inside of Illustrator, and we can easily see how they can help us organize our artwork in our file. In the next movie we will see what the real power of layers are inside of Illustrator.
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