Working with symbols more easily
Video: Working with symbols more easilyOne of the ways to work more efficiently inside of Illustrator is by using symbols. Symbols are actually used in many other areas inside of Illustrator as well, for example, when mapping two-dimensional artwork onto a 3D surface using the 3D effect. However, when your artwork contains repeating elements, working with symbols can make your life a whole lot easier. Personally, I use symbols a lot, which is why I'm really excited to see some of the new features inside of Illustrator CS5, that make working with symbols that much better. Say, for example, my design calls for a whole bunch of these little tags, those little plastic things that you stick into plants to identify what they are.
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In Illustrator CS5 New Features, author Mordy Golding discusses noteworthy features and improvements in the latest upgrade of Adobe's vector graphics editor and drawing program. This course includes overviews of perspective drawing, expressive bristle brushes, and variable-width strokes, as well as anti-aliasing features for web design, a new Artboards panel, improvements to symbols and drawing modes, and integration with Adobe Flash Catalyst. Exercise files are included with the course.
- Creating complex art from basic shapes with the Shape Builder tool
- Transforming flat artwork using perspective grids and vanishing points
- Creating variable-width strokes
- Controlling dashed line length, corners, and gaps
- Creating original brushes using the Brushes panel
- Adding arrowheads to strokes
- Creating web-ready graphics, text, and slices
- Integrating with Flash Catalyst
Working with symbols more easily
One of the ways to work more efficiently inside of Illustrator is by using symbols. Symbols are actually used in many other areas inside of Illustrator as well, for example, when mapping two-dimensional artwork onto a 3D surface using the 3D effect. However, when your artwork contains repeating elements, working with symbols can make your life a whole lot easier. Personally, I use symbols a lot, which is why I'm really excited to see some of the new features inside of Illustrator CS5, that make working with symbols that much better. Say, for example, my design calls for a whole bunch of these little tags, those little plastic things that you stick into plants to identify what they are.
Since on my day-to-day basis I might use these all the time, it makes sense for me to save them as symbols. So, I'll start with this one here called Parsley. I am going to select both these elements here. I am going to turn that into a symbol. There are many ways to do that. I can either go to the Symbols panel and click on this button here to create a New Symbol. But I'll like to use the keyboard shortcut, the F8 key on my keyboard. By the way, if you use Flash Professional, it's the same keyboard shortcut to create symbols there as well. I am going to give my symbol a name. It's always important to go ahead and name your symbols. Otherwise, it can be very difficult to work inside of Illustrator.
I just want to kind of go over some of the settings here that are important to know about. In previous versions of Illustrator, the settings that you saw here in the Symbol options dialog box only applied to when that symbol has brought into Flash Professional. However, now inside of Illustrator, we are soon going to learn that many of these now do also apply to working with Illustrator as well. For example, let's talk about Registration. You can see here a nine-point proxy, pretty standard as you might see in other areas inside of Illustrator. By clicking on this button here, you can define a separate origin point for that symbol instance inside of Illustrator.
In just a few moments, you'll see why that's significant, but for now, I am going to set this Registration here to the leftmost point. Now I'll go ahead, and I'll click OK. If I deselect this artwork now, which has been turned to a symbol, you can see that as I mouse over it, on the left side I have a plus sign that identifies a Registration point that I just defined. To see why that's important, I am going to drag a few symbols here out on to the artboard and position them here near the plants. I want to match the position somewhat similar to like I have over here. So, I am going to move this down somewhere about right over here.
Now, I want to rotate it on a 45-degree angle. So, I am going to use my Rotate tool. Notice that an origin point right now is automatically set on this far left point. Just by clicking and dragging, hold the Shift key I can snap that right into position. I'll switch back to my Selection tool and while holding down the Option or the Alt key on Windows, I'll simply create a few copies of this as well so that all the other plants also have these tags. Just to make it look that much more pretty, I am going to send all these to back. So, I'll select them here. Choose Object > Arrange > Send to Back, so now that they appear little bit behind the amount of dirt here on each of flowerpots.
Now let's take closer look at the symbol that we have created. In order to edit a symbol or modify it, I can either double-click on it here in the artboard itself or I can double- click on this symbol in the Symbols panel. I'll do that right over here to modify the symbol. Notice that over here right now is where that Registration point is. If I were to simply select this artwork now and shift it over here so that the Registration point is on the other side of the object, I could simply type Escape to exit Symbol editing mode, and you could see what happened here. The symbol got updated, but because I reposition the artwork in reference to that Registration point, the artwork shifted.
Basically, the position of my symbol is locked down by that Registration point. I am going to press Undo twice to return back to where I was here, because I want to show you some practical applications for using this Registration point. I'll create the next tag here, which is the Sage tag. I'll select both of these elements, tap F8 on my keyboard. I am going to call this one the Sage Tag. I am going to set the Registration point now to the actual center, which is the default setting, not like I did before. Now when I click OK, I am going to come down here and select the Rosemary tag.
I'll turn that into a symbol again, hitting the F8 key on my keyboard. We will go ahead and we'll name this one here. In this case here, I will set the Registration point to the leftmost part of the object and click OK. So, let's take a look at what's happens here. We know that in Illustrator, I have the ability to use symbols not only to place artwork on my page, but I am also able to swap symbols to replace art with another piece of art. For example, maybe I want to replace all the instances of the Parsley tags with Sage or Rosemary tags. Let's see how that will look. I'll select this Parsley tag right here and say this one is supposed to be the Sage tag.
Well, I can go right here to the control panel where it says Replace. I can replace this symbol with a different one. For example, I am going to replace it now with the Sage tag. Notice now that when it replaces the art, my Registration point did not move. But because the Sage Tag was actually centered on the Registration point, my entire Artwork is aligned differently. If I select this tag over here and now replace it with the Rosemary tag, where I did specify different origin point, you'll see that I get the result that I am looking for. There are a few other interesting things to note about the enhancements that have been now to Symbols in Illustrator CS5.
For example, as I click and drag symbols around, you will notice that Smart Guides are now activated, and they work with Symbols. This makes it much easier to work with and align artwork when you are using Symbols. Illustrator CS5 now also remembers all the transformation that you have made to any symbol that you have placed on your artboard. This means if I place more instances on my artboard and I rotate them or use my Scale tool to actually go ahead and make this little bit larger, I can select these on the artboard itself and then simple click on the Reset button to have them automatically go back to their original setting.
Finally, take a close look at my Layers panel here inside of Illustrator. Right now, you can see I have one layer in my document, and I can click on the triangle to reveal all the contents of that layer. You'll notice now that I have several instances of the Rosemary Tag on my artboard. Say I actually want to modify that symbol. Once again, I can come back to the Symbols panel, double-click on the symbol itself to modify it. Now, if we take a look at my Layers panel, it lists Isolation mode, and the only thing here is the Rosemary Tag itself. That's because now, in Illustrator CS5, symbols can have their own layer structure.
I'll click on the triangle here to reveal the contents of this symbol.
You can see that I have a group here, which is the outline text, and I have the Path.
I'll click over here to highlight the layer, and I'll create a new sublayer, and
I can call this one Tag.
Now I'll take the Path and move it into that Tag.
Since I want the text to be visible, I can move that sublayer beneath the
This also returned my Layers panel back to its normal view so I can see all the contents. So, just to quickly review, there is a whole lot more you can do with symbols now in Illustrator CS5. You can specify and control a symbol's Registration point, you can work with Smart Guides, you can easily reset a instance back to its original symbol state by resetting the transformations, and you can work with layer structure directly inside of your symbols.
Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Illustrator CS5 New Features .
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- Q: In the “Mapping flat artwork to perspective grids” video, directions for moving a box in a perpendicular direction say to use the Tilde key. However, upon attempting to move the box using this method, the box continues to move in the same plane, not in a perpendicular fashion. Is the technique in the video incorrect?
- A: Adobe changed this keyboard shortcut just before the final release. The shortcut is the "5" key. The video tutorial has been updated to reflect this.
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