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#23. Working with Symbols and Instances

When you convert an object to a symbol, as you did in #22, the original object seems to remain on the stage. Although that object may look exactly as it did originally, it has become something quite different: It’s now an instance of the symbol in the library.

An instance is a marker that points back to a symbol in the library and tells Flash, “display that symbol here.” That’s why multiple instances of a symbol don’t significantly affect file size: The symbol in the library contains all the information that defines it, and therefore takes up space in the file, but each instance contains barely any information other than a pointer to the symbol.

To create additional instances of a symbol, drag the symbol out of the library and onto the stage. The symbol itself stays in the library; what gets dragged is actually an instance of the symbol (Figure 23a). Another way to create additional instances is to duplicate an instance that’s already on the stage—by copying and pasting, for example.

Figure 23a

Figure 23a Every time you drag a copy of a symbol out of the library, you’ve created a new instance of that symbol.

At first, all instances of a symbol look exactly the same as that symbol. It’s possible, however, to change the appearance of an instance in two ways (Figure 23b):

  • Transformation. By using the Free Transform tool, you can transform an instance in most of the same ways that you would a path: You can rotate it, scale it, or skew it (see #15). If an instance contains only vector paths, you can distort it as well.
  • Color effects. When you select an instance on the stage, a menu labeled Style appears in the Color Effect section of Properties. You can change the instance’s brightness, tint, or opacity by choosing the appropriate item from the menu (see #25).

    Figure 23b

    Figure 23b All of these objects are instances of the same symbol. The one at the upper left is unaltered; the others have all been transformed or have had color effects applied.

When you alter an instance, you affect only that instance. The other instances and the symbol in the library remain unchanged. In contrast, when you edit a symbol, the changes you make are reflected in all instances of that symbol (see #24).

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