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In Illustrator CS5 Essential Training, author Mordy Golding explains the core concepts and techniques that apply to any workflow in Illustrator, whether designing for print, the web, or assets for other applications. This course includes a detailed explanation of the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of the Illustrator drawing tools. Also demonstrated are techniques for combining and cleaning up paths, organizing paths into groups and layers, text editing, working with color, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.
I have always felt that there are two types of people in the world. There are layers people, and there are not layers people. It's similar to the clean desk or messy desk thing. There is no right or wrong. People are just obviously comfortable with one way or the other. Some are just naturally more organized, while others thrive in a chaotic environment. However, when it comes to Illustrator, even if you don't really think about working with layers, it can be very beneficial for you to start using layers inside of your document. It's a way to help others understand how you build your documents and how you use your documents.
And if your artwork ever makes it out of Illustrator, say going to Photoshop, Flash Catalyst, Flash Professional or other areas, even InDesign or Acrobat, you can take advantage of that structure as well. In this document, specifically, I've created three layers. I'm going to go ahead and open up my Layers panel here. In fact, I'm going to bring the Layers panel up right over here so we could take a better look at it. Let me expand it somewhat, and I'm going to go ahead and close the Artboards panel. We'll deal with that in another chapter. But for now, I want to focus on the Layers panel itself, because even if you don't organize your artwork into layers, the Layers panel could be very beneficial.
What do I mean by that? Well, to be honest, I don't think the Layers panel is really the best name for this panel. I think Adobe should've called it the Layers and Objects panel. That's because the Layers panel not only shows you layers, in fact it's like an x-ray that lets you see every single thing that's going on inside of your file. Notice that for each of my layers here, I have one for the Flower pot, one for the Water and one for the Watering Can. I also have these triangles. By clicking on these triangles, I can reveal the contents that appear inside of each layer.
Many people are confused, and they think that these are layers themselves, but they're not. In Illustrator, layers are always colored with a gray background. Objects have white backgrounds. In this case here, I have an object that seems to have a triangle. That's because this object here is a Group. If I click on this, I can see all the contents inside of that group. So you start to see the nested hierarchal structure that appears inside of your document. Using the panel is also a really quick way to hide either entire layers or individual objects or even lock objects as well so you don't accidentally select them.
But especially in an age where anytime we create graphics, that art is used in so many different areas. For example, you may create some artwork right now that is used for a print project, but you might need to repurpose that artwork and also use it for a Flash animation, or to send it off to be used in After Effects for some kind of video affect. You might want to bring them into Flash Catalyst and create your own little online widget. Of course, you might want to bring this artwork into InDesign and in certain situations, only view portions of that artwork.
The beautiful thing about working with layers is that inside of Illustrator, when you build structure using layers, those layers will always be available inside of all these other applications. I'll be the first person to tell you that I myself don't really think about artwork in that organized manner. I can't really sit down and start building out a layer structure and then putting the right elements onto each layer. I usually just get started with a blank canvas and start throwing artwork right onto it. At some point however, I'll start to realize that certain elements belong with each other, and at that point, I'll start to create layers.
The beautiful thing about working with Illustrator is that you don't need to create all of your layers right at the beginning. For example, maybe I want to create a sun in this file. So I'm going to come here to my Shape tools, I'll choose the Ellipse tool here, and I'll quickly create a circle right here. And let's go ahead and fill that with a nice bright yellow, and we'll get rid of the stroke on it. So now I have this sun here inside of my file. But I really want that sun to be on its own layer. Currently, if I look at my Layers panel, I can see that the sun is in the same layer as my Watering Can.
So what I'll do now is I will create a new layer by clicking on this button here to create a New layer, and when I click on this sun right now, the object, you can see that on the far right I have a little square. That square indicates right now that that object is selected. If I click on that square and I drag it into layer 4, I am now moving that piece of artwork out of the Watering Can layer and into layer 4. To make things easier to understand, I'm going to double-click on layer 4 and change a name of that to the Sun.
Now, I've created another layer, and I've moved the artwork into that layer, as I can see right here. So you don't need to really create your layers first, and then make sure your artwork goes into the right layers. At anytime you could create artwork, and then later on create layers and move artwork into the layers as needed. The truth is there's a whole lot of more going on inside of the Layers panel. We'll explore that in the next movie.
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