Join Mordy Golding for an in-depth discussion in this video Selections and stacking order, part of Illustrator CS4 Essential Training.
A key concept in working with vector graphics is something called selections and stacking order. So let's take a look at both of these. I have a file open right now. It's called selections stacking; you'll find it in Chapter 1 of your exercise files if you have access to those. And I have basically three surfboard designs right here. Now let's say I wanted to change one of those particular colors in the let's say the orange surfboard. But I can't just choose a different color than orange because how does Illustrator know which surfboard I'm referring to? So the act of actually making a selection becomes very important inside of Illustrator, because it's really the only way that you can interface and give instructions to Illustrator with regards to which graphics you want to work with or which shape in your file you want to work with. Now let's, for example, contrast this with maybe a program like Photoshop for example. Photoshop, as we discussed before, relies on the use of pixels and each individual pixel has a color. If you wanted changed the color of a blue sky in a photograph, you couldn't select the sky as a whole because each pixel in that sky is its own entity and in reality in a real continuous tone photographic nature or environment, every pixel may have a little bit of a different shade of blue so you can't even tell Photoshop to necessarily select just all the blue pixels. Remember with Illustrator we're dealing with objects.
So making selections in Illustrator can be a lot easier. For example, I'll use my tool over here, this regular black arrow tool called the Selection tool, and I can simply click on this surfboard. In doing so, I now have selected that and when I do so, I'll see now that the attributes of that particular object are now highlighted so now I could change that for example to yellow. So that's one thing I can do as far as selections. I do want to point out though that these particular surfboards are a little different. For example this one is this one is just one particular shape on its own. This one over here is actually a group of several shapes and this is a group of even more shapes. Now we group things together so we can move them very easily. For example, again I'm using the Selection tool here, the regular black arrow tool inside of Illustrator and I can actually move this entire surfboard with all the elements together. Let's say though, I just wanted to move just this blue shape somewhere off, maybe I want to offset it just a drop. How can I do that? Well Illustrator has another selection tool called the Direct Selection tool. So this tool is what we call the Selection tool. The tool right beneath it or sometimes beside it, depending on what your layout is inside of Illustrator, is going to be the Direct Selection tool or the white arrow. When I click on that, I now have the ability to select individual parts of a group and I can now move that independently of the entire surfboard artwork in general. So again, the regular Selection tool, when I click on say a group, will select the entire group whereas the Direct Selection tool will let me drill down and select parts of that particular group and modify those shapes individually. Now in the next video we're going to talk about something called Isolation mode, which makes this process a little bit easier, but it's important to realize that people who've been using Illustrator for very long time, they are basically in the habit of using keyboard shortcuts to help move between these two different tools because it can get tiring by going back to these particular tools, back and forth. It can be very annoying to work with that. So there is some intelligence built into Illustrator and how that works. Let me show you basically the difference between these two arrows, not on groups, but actually working with a single object. So as I showed your before, if I take my regular black arrow tool I call it the black arrow tool but it's been called a solid arrow and the hollow arrow. You can really call it anything you want to for that matter. But if I click on this particular shape right here, again, I can click on the edge over here and I can drag this out.
Even if I click on say, just the tip of the surfboard right here, with the anchor point there, I can go ahead and I can scale it because I have what we call the bounding box here and I can stretch that if I want to. But if I wanted to let's say click on one point over here, I can't really click on one point. The entire surfboard moves as a whole. But if I switch now to the Direct Selection tool and I click let's the say this point right here-- notice how that highlights when I mouse over that ? Soon as I click and I drag I can move just that one anchor point. You'll see the control handles right here. So the Direct Selection tool not only allows me to edit individual parts of the group, it will also allow me to edit individual anchor points on a path, which is something that the Direct Selection tool can do, but the regular Selection tool cannot do. The regular Selection tool only selects all the anchor points at one time on a particular path that's there. So let's circle this around now one whole concept of how the selections work. Let's say I'm working with the regular Selection tool. I'm working with this shape right here and I realize, you know what I really want to edit that particular point. Well, you don't need to go ahead and switch manually to the other tool because if you're using a keyboard shortcut, hold down the Command key on my keyboard. I'm on a Mac but if you're on a PC, hold down the Ctrl key. And you see how my arrow, which is a black arrow now, turns to the white arrow. So this is a keyboard shortcut that power users know. They work with this all the time inside of Illustrator. The Command key or the Ctrl key is actually one most powerful keyboard shortcuts to know inside Illustrator. It allows you to toggle between the two arrows because those are the things that you use most often. So if I'm working on this particular surfboard and moving it around, mow I realize I want to go ahead and I want to just adjust the corner. I'm going to press and hold the Command key-- again, the Ctrl key if you're on Windows. And I'll click once now to select it.
Now just an anchor point is selected. If we take a closer look see how these are filled like they're hollow, they're white. But this has a color on it. That means that that one is selected. I can now click and drag just to move that one that's there. So I don't have to physically go ahead to the toolbox, keep going back and switching the two tools I can use the keyboard basically to make that happen. Now when it comes to selecting objects there could be times when I want to select more than just one object. So here's how you select multiple objects. If I click on one object right now, I'm using the black arrow, I select an entire object. If I hold down the Shift key and I click on the second shape right over here, this surfboard, that adds to my selection and now both surfboards have been selected. If I move them now you see they both move together. The Shift key is actually a toggle. It allows me to add items to a selection by a Shift-clicking on other objects but at the same time, if I Shift-click on an object that is already selected then that Shift key deselects that object. So for example if I realize, oh! I just want to move this yellow surfboard on its own, I can once again Shift-click on the surfboard and now that is removed from my selection. So let's just kind of review on this one more time. If I click once on this to select this one, I can Shift-click on this surfboard and this surfboard. Now all three are selected. But if I Shift-click now on the yellow surfboard, it is dropped from my selection and now these are the only two that are selected. Now let's finalize this by talking about stacking order. So we understand what selections are. When you think about stacking order inside of Illustrator, stacking order itself is basically a way to determine which objects sit on top of other objects. So here's how it works. Imagine you have a desk in front of you and you have a couple of pieces of paper and each of those pieces of paper are stacked on top each other. Well, some papers cover up parts of some other pieces of paper, right? You have basically papers on top each other or below each other. Well, the way that it works inside of Illustrator is that you can never have two objects that kind of sit on the exact same level. Objects are always bound by a hierarchy or a stacking order and objects are either above or beneath other objects. For example in this case, if I were to take this surfboard right here and drag it on top of this surfboard, I will see now that this covers over that one and in the stacking order, this one is in the front; this one is in the back. And if I click on this one over here I'll see that this one is even behind that one. So this is my stacking order that I have inside of Illustrator. Now at anytime I can adjust the stacking order. For example I can click on this yellow surfboard here, go to the Object menu, choose Arrange and then choose Bring to Front. Bring to Front will actually now bring this in front of all the objects and now if I move it over here, I'll see it covers even this front one that was here before. I'm going to press Undo and I'll do that by pressing Command+Z or Ctrl+Z on Windows. I can now go to the Object menu, choose Arrange and rather than say Bring to Front, I could choose Bring Forward and that brings it forward just one step in the hierarchy. So now it's still behind this one, but it's in front of that one of there. I'll undo that to go back to the original one. I'll be honest with you. When I'm working inside of Illustrators it's very rare that I'll use the Bring Forward command.
Because when you have lots of different objects it's almost impossible to figure out where a single object may fit in that stacking order. So what I'll usually do is always use Bring to Front. There's also a setting here, if I go to the Object menu and choose Arrange, called Sent to Back. Sent to Back will take any object of course and send it to the back of the stacking order. Again likewise you also have the Send Backward, which brings it back one step in the objects hierarchy. So again, when you're working inside of Illustrator, you have the ability to select objects. More importantly, there's always the stacking order, which means objects are either in front of or behind other objects and how you actually manipulate and work with that stacking order will ultimately control how your design looks.
- Making efficient use of the Illustrator interface
- Creating text on a path
- Using the Magic Wand and Lasso selection tools
- Working with a pressure-sensitive tablet
- Applying 3D extrusions and resolves
- Converting images to vectors with Live Trace
- Exporting files for use in Photoshop, Flash, and other applications