Join Justin Seeley for an in-depth discussion in this video What are symbols and how do I use them?, part of Illustrator: Symbols.
If you're new to symbols, you might not know exactly what they are and how they work. So in this movie, we're going to be talking about what exactly are symbols. So, what are they? Well, plain and simple, symbols are a timesaver. They save you time in a ton of different ways, and they really help speed up and streamline your workflow. How do they do that? Well, symbols save us time by creating reusable copies of our artwork that we can then use throughout our artwork multiple times. As many times as we want in fact, and then we can also update that artwork, all instances, all at once, any time we want to.
We can also create something called a Symbol Library, which is a collection of symbols that allows us to group symbols together for easier access. You can then save and share those symbol libraries with colleagues. And you can also easily load libraries from the web that you find online. Symbols can be icons, logos, UI elements, pieces of artwork that you need repeated over and over again, or even label elements for product mock-ups. And they can also greatly reduce the size of our files that we create inside of Illustrator.
Now, all of this really doesn't mean much unless I show you exactly how these things can save us time. So let's jump over into Adobe Illustrator now, and take a look at a very basic example of how symbols can speed up your work. So, here I am inside of Adobe Illustrator. And I have two artboards. I'll zoom out so you can see both of them. We've got one that is not using symbols, and one that is using symbols, over here on the right-hand side. I'm going to ignore this one over here on the right hand side for now. So I'm just going to come over here into my Artboards panel, and double-click on artboard one, and that will center this artboard in the frame.
Now, in this example right here, I have this little flower icon that I want repeated around the outside of the document that I'm working on. You can see that this one actually contains individual icons. Everything is its own piece. Everything is its own shape. Everything is just independent of one another. So, for instance, if I wanted to change all of these flowers to something like blue, I would have to come in here and select them. Go to my Swatches, turn it blue and then you can see there it just affects that one. So, I would actually have to come through.
Select all of these, turn them blue, and then do the same thing for each one of these flowers around the outside of this document. That is really, really a bad way to work. It's really slow, and it's also going to be quite tedious. Let's jump over here to artboard two. I'll just double-click, and move over here to artboard two. This is using a group of symbols. And right now they're group together because I was lining them up on the artboard. I'm just going to press Shift+Cmd+G on the Mac, Shift+Ctrl+G on the PC to ungroup them.
And then you can see now that I can click on each one of these individually. These are actually what are called instances of a symbol, and we'll get into all of the technicalities a little bit later on. But if you look inside the Symbols panel, I actually have a symbol called green flower saved there. And so these are instances of that symbol making it easy for me to update these anytime I want. Check this out. If I come over here to the Symbols panel and just double-click. I can come in here and I can make changes to the flower. So I'll just select all of these little green pedals around the outside.
Go to the Swatches panel, change them to be blue. And let's also change the center point. Let's change that to be something like orange. And then what I'm going to do now is just simply come up here, and exit Symbol Editing mode. When I do that, it comes back out, and there all of the symbols have been updated instantly with those changes I made. They're blue with the orange center. So, that took about what, 5, 10 seconds? If you go back over to artboard one, I'd still be changing this guy when 5 or 10 seconds was up.
So you can see just how much time symbols can truly save you in your work flow. Now, this is just one specific use for symbols. As you'll see throughout this course, there are many reasons for when and why you would choose to use a symbol in Illustrator. I just wanted to give you an idea of what symbols are and what they're capable of doing. Now that I've hopefully peaked your interest a bit, let's get started creating and using our own symbols, by getting to know the Symbols panel inside of Adobe Illustrator.
- What are symbols?
- Creating your own symbols
- Saving and loading symbol libraries
- Modifying registration points
- Working with nested symbols
- Using 9-slice scaling
- Resizing symbols in a set
- Adjusting symbol transparency
- Mapping symbols to artwork