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The Appearance Panel

It surprises me how many people don’t actually use the Appearance panel in Illustrator. I used to be in that camp, too, but then one day I was reading a tutorial and it struck me how useful it was (and potentially time-saving).

When you first open the panel, it’s pretty unassuming. But the more you work with it, the more it reveals to you. To learn the ropes on the panel, I applied default graphic styles to artwork to see how they achieved the effects.

Try this:

  1. Create a new document with the “Print” profile chosen in the New Document dialog box.
  2. Create and select some simple artwork like a rectangle.
  3. Open the Graphic Styles panel and click to apply one of the fancier graphic styles in the panel; I chose Pompadour_GS (see Figure 2).

    Figure 2

    Figure 2 Apply a graphic style to artwork

Open the Appearance panel and notice the formatting applied. The Appearance panel lists what is selected at the top of the panel. It also indicates if any graphic styles are applied to the selected artwork (mine says “Path: Pompadour_GS”). Each of the appearance attributes applied to the artwork are listed, in a specific order, in the panel. Appearance attributes at the top of the list (like the Stroke you see in Figure 3) are stacked on top of the appearance attributes that are listed beneath it in the panel. So a shape with two fills, for instance, can have a blending mode and/or transparency that blends into the fill beneath it.

Figure 3

Figure 3 The appearance attributes in the Appearance panel

I love the fact that artwork can contain multiple strokes and fills, and the Appearance panel is where we get that done. This is how we achieve a lot of the appearance effects in Illustrator like you see in the following text (see Figure 4).

Figure 4

Figure 4 Text with multiple strokes and fills applied

The Appearance panel can also be used to apply effects like a drop shadow and later edit those effects (see Figure 5).

Figure 5

Figure 5 Apply an effect like a drop shadow to artwork

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