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Working with Panels in Illustrator CC

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Learn about the specific functions of the different panels in Illustrator—from switching among artboards (Artboards panel) to editing layers (Layers panel).
From the book

This chapter will help you become more intimately acquainted with the Illustrator interface features that you will be using continually as you work: the panels. In the preceding chapter, you learned how to arrange them onscreen. Here you will see what the individual panels look like and be briefly introduced to their specific functions—from choosing color swatches (Swatches panel) to switching among artboards (Artboards panel) to editing layers (Layers panel). Note: In-depth instructions for using specific panels are amply provided throughout this book.

The Illustrator panels that are used in this book*

You can read through this chapter with or without glancing at or fiddling with the panels onscreen, and also use it as a reference guide as you work. Panel icons are shown on the next page. Following that, you’ll find instructions for using the Tools panel, a brief description of each tool, an introduction to the Control panel, then a description and illustration of all the other Illustrator panels that are used in this book (in alphabetical order). Note: To open a panel that isn’t already in a dock, choose the panel name from the Window menu.

Shortcuts for Entering Values in Illustrator Panels

Apply a value and highlight the next field


Apply a value and highlight the previous field


Apply a value and exit the panel


Identifying the panel icons

Each panel in Illustrator has a unique icon.A If you keep the panels collapsed to conserve screen space, you can identify them by their icons. If you don’t recognize a panel icon, use the tool tip to identify it.


A When collapsed, each panel has a unique icon.

Using the Tools panel

In addition to the tools on the Tools panel, which are used for creating and editing objects, you will also find color controls, a menu or icons for choosing a drawing mode, and a menu for choosing a screen mode. If the panel is hidden, choose Window > Tools to display it. To convert the panel layout from single column to double column or vice versa, either click the double arrowhead at the top or double-click the top bar.

Click once on a visible tool to select it, or click and hold on a tool that has a tiny arrowhead to choose a related tool from a fly-out menu. You can cycle through tools on the same menu by Option/Alt clicking the visible tool.

To create a tearoff toolbar for a group of related tools, press and hold on the arrowhead for a tool, then click the vertical tearoff bar on the right edge of the menu.A–B To dock tearoff toolbars together, drag one tearoff toolbar to the side of an existing one and release when the vertical drop zone line displays.C–D To make a tearoff toolbar vertical instead of horizontal, click the double-arrow E–F or double-click the top bar. To close a docked tearoff toolbar, drag it by its gripper bar out of its dock, then click its close button (x).


A We’re creating a tearoff toolbar.


B Tearoff toolbars can be moved anywhere onscreen.


C We’re docking a second tearoff toolbar to the first one.


Click to view larger image

D The two tearoff toolbars are docked together.


Click to view larger image

E We’re clicking the double arrow on a tearoff toolbar to switch its orientation from horizontal ...


F ... to vertical.

To access a tool quickly, use the letter shortcut that is assigned to it. The shortcuts are listed in parentheses on the next two pages, and also in the tool tips onscreen.G (Note: If the tool tips aren’t displaying, go to Illustrator/Edit > Preferences > General and check Show Tool Tips.)


G Via the tool tip, you can identify a tool and learn its shortcut.

Some tools can also be accessed temporarily via a toggle key. For example, pressing Cmd/Ctrl turns the current tool into a temporary selection tool. You’ll learn many tool toggles as you proceed through this book.

To turn the tool pointer into a crosshairs icon for more precise positioning, go to Illustrator/Edit > Preferences > General and check Use Precise Cursors. Or if you prefer to keep that preference off, you can turn the pointer to a crosshairs icon temporarily by pressing the Caps Lock key.

You can choose options for the current tool from the Control panel (see page 42). Some tools, such as the Paintbrush and Pencil tools, have a related options dialog, which opens when you double-click the tool or when you click the tool and then press Return/Enter.

The Tools panel illustrated

The tearoff toolbars*


Liquify Tools (apply distortion)


Symbolism Tools (edit symbol instances)


The Control panel

The Control panel houses many frequently used controls conveniently under one roof, and changes contextually depending on what tool and kind of object are selected. Two of the many variations are shown below. For example, you can use this panel to apply fill and stroke colors; change an object’s variable width profile, brush stroke definition, or opacity; apply basic type attributes, such as the font family and point size; align and distribute multiple objects; access controls for editing symbols, Image Trace, and Live Paint objects; and embed or edit linked images.

When no objects are selected, you can use this panel to choose default fill, stroke, brush, style, and opacity settings for the current document and quickly access the Document Setup or Preferences dialog by clicking the button with that name.

To move the Control panel to the top or bottom, respectively, of the Application frame, choose Dock to Top or Dock to Bottom from the menu at the right end of the panel. Or if you prefer to make the panel free-floating, drag the gripper bar on the far left side. To control which options display on the panel, uncheck or check any of the items on the panel menu.

Align panel alaign-panel.jpg

The buttons on the top two rows of the Align panel align and/or distribute two or more objects along their centers or along their top, left, right, or bottom edges. Objects can be aligned to a selection, an artboard, or a key object (one of the selected objects). Buttons in the lower part of the panel redistribute (equalize) the spacing among three or more objects. See pages 105–106. This panel can also be used to align anchor points (see page 172). Align buttons also appear on the Control panel when two or more objects are selected.

Appearance panel appear_panel_icon.jpg

The appearance attributes of an object consist of its fill and stroke color, Stroke panel settings, effects, and Transparency panel settings. The Appearance panel lists the specific appearance attributes and settings for whichever layer, group, or object is currently targeted on the Layers panel. You can use the panel to add extra fill or stroke attributes, edit or remove attributes, apply and edit effects, and edit individual attributes within an applied graphic style.

Using convenient in-panel features, you can edit attributes quickly. For example, you can click a link (blue underlined word) to open a dialog or a temporary panel: Click Stroke to open the Stroke panel, Opacity to open the Transparency panel, or the name of an effect to open its dialog. To open a temporary Swatches panel, click the Stroke or Fill color square, then click the thumbnail or arrowhead (or Shift-click the latter to open a temporary Color panel). See Chapter 14.


Artboards panel artboards_panel_icon.jpg

In addition to listing all the artboards in the current document, the Artboards panel lets you display, create, rename, and duplicate artboards; change their order; rearrange them in the document; choose options for them; change their orientation; and delete them. The Artboard Options dialog opens when you double-click the artboard orientation icon, which is located to the right of the artboard name. See pages 7–12 and 28.


Attributes panel attributes_panel_icon.jpg

The Attributes panel lets you choose overprint options for an object (see page 427), show or hide an object’s center point (see page 103), switch the fill between color and transparency in a compound path (see page 360), or change an object’s fill rule.

You can also use this panel to create a hotspot for Web output. Assign an image map shape and a URL to a selected object, then to verify the URL in the Web browser that is currently installed on your system, click the Browser button.


Brushes panel brushpanelicon.jpg

There are five varieties of decorative brushes that you can apply to paths: Calligraphic, Scatter, Art, Bristle, and Pattern. You can apply a brush either by choosing the Paintbrush tool and a brush and then drawing a shape, or by applying a brush to an existing path.

To personalize your brush strokes, you can create and edit custom brushes. If you modify a brush that’s being used in a document, you’ll be given the option via an alert dialog to update the paths with the revised brush. Brushes on the Brushes panel save with the current document. See Chapter 23.

To open a temporary Brushes panel, click the Brush Definition thumbnail on the Control panel, or for a selected Stroke listing on the Appearance panel, click the Brush Definition thumbnail.


Character panel char_panel_icon.jpg

You will use the Character panel to apply type attributes: font family, font style, font size, leading, kerning, tracking, horizontal scale, vertical scale, baseline shift, character rotation, and special glyphs. You can also use this panel to access the Touch Type tool, choose a language for hyphenation, and set the anti-aliasing method. See pages 267–272, 283, and 286.

When a type tool or a type object is selected, the Control panel also provides some basic type controls. To open a temporary Character panel, click Character on the Control panel.

Character Styles panel charstylespanelicon.jpg

A character style is a collection of settings for type characters, including a font family, font style, font size, leading, tracking, and kerning. Unlike paragraph styles, which apply to whole paragraphs, character styles are used to quickly format small amounts of type (such as bullets, boldfaced words, italicized words, or large initial caps) to distinguish them from the main text. When you edit a character style, any text in which it is being used updates accordingly.

Using the Character Styles panel, you can create, apply, edit, duplicate, and delete styles. See pages 280–283. (Compare this panel with the Paragraph Styles panel, which is shown on page 51.)


Color panel colour-panel.jpg

In Illustrator, colors are applied to an object’s fill (interior) or stroke (edge). Use the Color panel to mix a global process color, enter a hexadecimal code, or set a tint percentage for a spot color. Choose a color model for the panel, such as RGB or CMYK, from the panel menu. Quick-select a color by clicking in the spectrum bar at the bottom of the panel, or click the black, white, or None button. You can expand the bar by dragging the bottom edge downward. See page 117.

To open a temporary Color panel, Shift-click the Fill or Stroke square or arrowhead on the Control panel or the Appearance panel.


Color Guide panel guide-panel.jpg

Use the Color Guide panel to generate color schemes from a base color by choosing a harmony rule and/or a variation type (Tints/Shades, Warm/Cool, or Vivid/Muted). You can click any variation swatch to apply it as a fill or stroke color to one or more selected objects. You can also save variations from the Color Guide panel as a group to the Swatches panel, or edit the current color group via the Edit Colors dialog. See pages 115 and 128–130.


CSS Properties panel css_proper_pan_icon.jpg star.jpg

The CSS Properties panel lists all the character and graphic styles that are being used in the current Illustrator document, as well as the CSS code for the currently selected object(s). If you’re designing a Web page and you want to ensure that it is styled correctly, you or a Web developer can copy the CSS code from this panel, and then paste the code into the HTML file. See pages 446–447.


For the Document Info panel, see page 441.

Flattener Preview panel flat_pre_p_icon.jpg

Artwork that contains semitransparent objects must be flattened before it is printed. Using the Highlight menu options in the Flattener Preview panel, you can preview which objects in your document will be affected by flattening, adjust the flattening settings, then click Refresh to preview the effect of the new settings in your artwork. See page 430.

Glyphs panel glyphs_panel_icon.jpg

Using the Glyphs panel, you can find out which character variations (alternate glyphs) are available for any given character in a specific OpenType font, and insert specific glyphs from that font into your document (including glyphs that can’t be entered via the keyboard). See page 275.

Gradient panel gradientpanelicon.jpg

The Gradient panel lets you create, apply, and edit gradients, which are soft, gradual blends between two or more colors. You can use the panel to apply a gradient to an object’s fill or stroke, adjust the amount of a color by dragging its stop, choose a different color or opacity value for a selected stop, click below the gradient slider to add new colors, move a midpoint diamond to change the location where two adjacent colors are mixed equally, reverse the gradient colors, change the overall gradient type or angle, or change the alignment of a gradient in an object’s stroke. See Chapter 24.

Graphic Styles panel grstylespanelicon.jpg

The Graphic Styles panel enables you to store and apply collections of appearance attributes, such as multiple solid-color fills or strokes, transparency and overprint settings, blending modes, brush strokes, and effects. Using graphic styles, you can apply attributes quickly and create a cohesive look among multiple objects or documents (similar to how paragraph styles are used with type). See Chapter 16. To open a temporary Graphic Styles panel, click the Style thumbnail or arrowhead on the Control panel.


Image Trace panel image_trace_pnl_icon.jpg

The Image Trace feature detects and traces areas of color and shade in a raster image that is opened or placed into Illustrator, such as a Photoshop, TIFF, or JPEG image or scanned artwork, and converts those areas to Illustrator paths.

You can choose from a wide array of tracing options on the Image Trace panel prior to the tracing—and because a tracing is “live,” you can also use the panel to fine-tune the results. You can use a built-in tracing preset (predefined settings) as a starting point, or create and apply custom presets. Among the numerous settings that you can specify are a mode (black and white, grayscale, or color), a color palette, the number of resulting colors, whether fill and/or stroke colors are produced, and the precision with which the image is traced. See Chapter 17.

Info panel infopanelicon.jpg

If no objects are selected in the current document, depending on the current tool, the Info panel lists the x/y (horizontal and vertical) location of the pointer. If an object is selected, the panel lists the location of the object, its width and height, and data about its fill and stroke colors (the color components; or the name of a pattern or gradient; or a color name or number, such as a PANTONE PLUS number). While an object is being transformed via a transform tool, the panel lists pertinent information, such as a percentage value for a scale transformation or an angle of rotation. When a type tool and type object are selected, the panel displays type specifications. When the Measure tool is used, the Info panel opens automatically and lists the distance and angle the tool has just calculated.


Kuler panel kulerpanelicon.jpg star.jpg

Kuler (pronounced “cooler”) is a free, Web-hosted Adobe application that lets users create, upload, and comment on color groups, called color themes. The Kuler panel in Illustrator displays the themes that you have created or designated as favorites on or that you have created using the Adobe Kuler app on an iPhone. Via the panel, you can apply colors directly to objects, or you can add colors to the Swatches panel for later use. To show the panel, choose Window > Kuler. See pages 131–133.


Layers panel layerspanelicon.jpg

The indispensable Layers panel lets you add and delete layers and sublayers in a document, and create layer groups. You can also use this panel to select, target, restack, duplicate, delete, hide, show, lock, unlock, merge, change the view for, or create a clipping set for a layer, sublayer, group, or individual object. When your artwork is finished, you can use a command on the panel menu to flatten the document into one layer or release all the objects to separate layers for export as a Flash animation. See Chapter 13.


Links panel links_p_icon.jpg

When you place an image from another application, such as Photoshop, into an Illustrator document, you can opt to have Illustrator embed a copy of the image into the file (and thereby increase the file size but allow the program to color-manage it) or merely link the image to your document (and minimize the file size but require the original file to be available for print output). Using the Links panel, you can monitor the status of linked images, convert a linked image to an embedded one (or vice versa), open a linked image in its original application for editing, update an edited image, restore the link to an image that is missing or modified, and view image data. See pages 308–311.


Magic Wand panel magicwandpanelicon.jpg

The Magic Wand tool selects objects that have the same or a similar fill color, stroke color, stroke weight, opacity, or blending mode as the currently selected object. Using the Magic Wand panel, you specify which attributes the tool may select and set a tolerance value for each attribute. For example, if you were to check Opacity, choose an opacity Tolerance of 10%, then click an object that has an opacity of 50%, the tool would find and select objects in the document that have an opacity between 40% and 60%. See page 97.


Navigator panel navigatorp_icon.jpg

The Navigator panel has two main functions. To use it to move the current document in its window, drag or click in the proxy preview area (red outlined box). To change the document zoom level, use the zoom controls at the bottom of the panel. To both zoom to, and bring a specific area of, a document into view, Cmd-drag/Ctrl-drag in the proxy preview area.


OpenType panel opentype_panel_icon.jpg

Among the Roman OpenType font families that ship with Illustrator, the fonts that contain an expanded character set and a large assortment of alternate glyphs are labeled with the word “Pro.” By clicking a button on the OpenType panel, you can specify which alternate characters (glyphs) will appear in your text when you type the requisite key or keys. The special characters for a given font may include ligatures, swashes, titling characters, stylistic alternates, ordinals, and fractions. You can also use the panel to specify options for numerals, such as a style (e.g., tabular lining or oldstyle) and a position (e.g., numerator, denominator, superscript, or subscript). See page 276.

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