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Using Appearances

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In this article, Elaine Weinmann and Peter Lourekas, co-authors of Illustrator 9 for Windows & Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide, show you how to use Appearances in Illustrator to add flexibility and complexity to object editing.
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Appearances, which make their debut in Illustrator 9, provide a whole new approach to object editing. Before appearances, you could apply only one stroke and fill to an object. With appearances, you can now apply multiple fills and strokes to the same object, and to each stroke or fill you can apply a different opacity level, blending mode, and Effect menu command. Furthermore, appear-ance attributes change how an object looks, but they don't actually alter the path's under-lying shape. Appearances add flexibility- and complexity-to object editing.

Since appearance attributes only change an object's appearance, not its actual underlying path, you can save, close, and reopen an illustration and you'll still be able to re-edit or remove the appearance attri-butes in the saved file. When an object is selected, its appearance attributes are listed on the Appearance palette. This palette is also used to re-edit, restack, and remove appearance attributes.

  • Copy an object, then experiment with different appearance attributes for each copy. No commitment, no obligation. Create a handful of variations on a basic shape, and then gradually hone in until you achieve a combination or combina-tions of appearance attributes that you're satisfied with.

Appearances and layers

If attributes other than just the basic stroke and fill have been applied to a layer, sub-layer, or object, those additional attributes are called appearance attributes, and a gray target circle will appear for that layer, sub-layer, or object on the Layers palette 2.

Instead of applying appearance attributes to individual objects one by one, you can target a whole top-level layer or group for appearances. In this case, the appearance attributes that you choose will apply to all the objects nested within the targeted layer or group. For example, if you target a layer and then modify its opacity or blending mode, all objects nested within that layer will have the same opacity or blending mode, and those attributes can be re-edited quickly by re-targeting the layer.

These are the basic techniques:

  • To select an object, group, or layer, click the selection area on the Layers palette.

  • To target an object, group, or layer for appearance attributes, click the target circle on the Layers palette.

  • To view and modify the existing appearance attributes for an object, group, or layer, click the gray target circle; Shift-click the gray circle to deselect the object, group, or layer.

Selecting isn't targeting!

Even though selecting and targeting both cause objects to become selected in your illustration, they are not interchangeable operations, especially when you're working with whole layers or groups. If you target a layer or group by clicking its target circle and then apply appearance attributes (e.g., fill color, Effect menu command, Transparency palette values), those attributes will be applied to, and will be listed on the Appearance palette for, the layer as a whole.

If you click the selection area for a layer or a group instead of the target circle and then apply appearances, those attributes will be applied separately to each object in that layer instead of to the layer as a whole. In this case, you won't see an itemized list of appearance attributes on the Appearance palette-you'll just see the generic words "mixed attributes" at the top of the palette, nor will they be listed if you subsequently target the layer.

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