Join Sharon Steuer for an in-depth discussion in this video Using layers for brushes, part of Artistic Painting with Illustrator: Natural Media Brushes.
There are lots of places on lynda.com where you can expand your familiarity with layers, but what I wanted to do is highlight the things about layers that will make your working with brushes a lot easier. So here we have a version of a drawing that I started of Mina the cat, without layers, just the Standard template on the bottom--and you can look up how to open an image as a template--and then this layer 1, which is the default layer name, which you can open up and you can see all the paths within it, but it's a disorganized file. And it makes it a little more difficult.
Now in the early days of Illustrator we didn't have layers. So there are ways to move things in back of things. I can actually take this and move it in back or cut it or something like that, but it's much easier to be able to organize things in layers. So let's just show you a couple of really quick things to do. The first thing I would do is I would call this Cat Outline. There is never one good way to do anything, there is always a million different ways. So there aren't very many color objects on it, so I would probably at this point just make a new layer and call it Colors.
I am going to just select those few objects using the Selection tool. Now when I select them, you get a selection indicator in the Layers panel. All I have to do is drag that indicator to the Colors panel. To know whether I have got them all or not, I just hide that Colors layer. I say--oh no, I missed something, so I can just grab it--and when it's hidden, I can still drag to it. I am going to Undo that. If it was locked, either locked and visible or locked and hidden, I can't drag to it.
So I am going to just hide it again and unlock it, drag it to it and it looks like yeah I got all my color, so the color is there. There is still a problem of course. I want the colors to be below the cat outline in this case. So to move a layer from one position to another, because if it's above it in the Layers panel, it's on top of it on the artboard. So I want to move that below. I am just going to grab it and move it below and there you go. So here we go, this is the organized version without the template, again take the details and move from below.
Now if by accident you have one of these outline lines that was moved to the wrong layer for instance, which you can see here-- I actually did have one-- just select them and move them to the proper layer, whether it's visible or not and there you go. So that's the first thing, you can make layers, you can reorder layers, you can move objects from layer to layer. And the more you keep objects in their proper layers, the easy it will be.
Once you have started, it becomes an easy task to add to them. Now if I am using brushes, the great thing about Illustrator--and we have gone through part of this in another movie-- is when you have an object selected, you are resetting the default stroke and fill and style. So I am using this brush, the Colors layer--this particular brush, the 15 pt. Round--and this particular color, this mustardy color.
So if I was to draw here that's what I would get. If I select a calligraphic black mark, it puts me on the Outline layer, selects black and changes my pen to this. Now if I wanted to draw to a different layer or a different color, there is something else you have to do. So if you select when you are switching, so right here, I have got the color details. Pretend now that I want to make this light blue. I want to add to this Colors layer in the background--this is the background colors. And if I want to draw over here, if I select it, it's on the wrong layer.
I could either move it now or I am going to undo it. While it's still selected, if I just click on the layer that I want to be on, it does not change where this object is. If you notice the selection indicator is still saying, nope; by clicking on the Colors layer, I am not moving that object but what it does is it targets that layer for the next object. I am going to do it one more time. I will select some of that green from the Colors details layer and I am going to click on the Colors layer to say no I want to do it there.
And I am going to put the green here. And selecting it, you can see yeah, that's where the green is. So there are couples more tricks about doing this that I want to show you. Chances are you have an option set, so if you have an object selected and you draw near it, you are not going to draw an additional object, you are going to add to or redraw the current one. So if I want to just fill in this area with this mustard color--and that's why I selected it--and I just start to draw, that's not what I wanted.
So you just undo and in this case, you could either go in and turn off the option to redraw, but that's kind of overkill. All you need to do is deselect that object. I am already on the correct layer. I have the correct brush, colors, settings. If I just deselect it--which means either hold down your Cmd key on Mac or Ctrl key on Windows, and click outside of the object to deselect; or if you have a really complex document you can deselect using the command, which is Cmd+Shift+A or Ctrl+Shift+A-- and then you can continue to draw.
The same thing holds if I select this object. Because this has a lot of the characteristics that I like, it's on the right layer, it has the right brush, but I want the next brush to be a different color. If I go up to change the color and I realize oh no that's not what I intended-- I wanted to change the color of the next object, not this one-- just undo, deselect. Select your next color and then you can paint.
And the last thing I want to show you, another good reason to organize your file into layers is it makes it really easy for you to copy--or drag and drop--not only your brushes, but your entire image into another document if you want to. I am going to Select All and Copy. I am going to just start a new document--just a standard new document--and I am going to paste.
In order to paste in alignment, I am going to Cmd+F, which is paste in front, which is paste aligned, and look what happened. Not only did it paste my image, but it created the layers that I needed. It left the layer 1 alone. I hadn't selected my template, so it didn't bring in the template. But it constructed all the layers for me, which is pretty miraculous. And the reason is, it had a tricky setting already set on it. I almost always have this enabled. One of the first things I do when I start up a new version of Illustrator is I enable my Paste Remembers layers.
If it's off, which is off by default, this is what you get. I am going to Select All, I am going to undo to get back to where you were. It does not Undo Paste Remembers layers. That's a toggle that's application-wide and it is not undo with a document undo. This time I am going to Cmd+F to paste in front. What it does is it sandwiches all together as if you flattened out the image on to one layer,- whatever layer was targeted. In this case, it was only layer in this document.
So sometimes you do want a flattened version of your image, in which case you want to toggle off Paste Remembers layers. Or if you want to paste into a particular layer, for instance, I will show you that one thing. I am going to create a second layer. With this layer, targeted layer 2, if I Cmd+F, that's where it will go. So in those specific instances, you are going to want to toggle Paste Remembers layers off. Most of the time though, you are going to want it on, so that when you do you paste, your image doesn't lose its layer structure.
So there is a lot more you can learn about layers, but this should be enough to get you going.
- Drawing and tracing with Wacom and Cintiq tablets
- Maximizing control without a tablet
- Demystifying Paintbrush tool preferences
- Integrating brushes with other tools such as Smooth and Pencil
- Adding brushes to objects and text
- Creating naturalistic strokes with the Art brush tools
- Picking up, storing, and applying brushes
- Duplicating and customizing brushes
- Creating transparent washes and watercolor with Calligraphic brushes
- Drawing and erasing with the Blob Brush tool
- Adding stroke profiles to lines and brushes
- Organizing complex images with layers
- Ideas for how to combine Illustrator brushes with Photoshop, and even with traditional media
Skill Level Intermediate
Q: How do I import one of Sharon's workspaces into Illustrator?
A: Place Sharon's workspace file within the folder structure below, understanding that where it says YourHomeFolder you instead choose the folder that contains your name (your Home folder):
/Users/YourHomeFolder/Library/Preferences/Adobe Illustrator CS6 Settings/en_US/Workspaces/