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Using Layers for Transparency and Clipping in Illustrator CS4

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Do you think of layers strictly as a selection tool? You're missing out. David Karlins, author of Adobe Illustrator CS4 HOW-TOs: 100 Essential Techniques, points out a number of ways in which layers can be used to edit artwork in Illustrator.
First Steps: Organizing Objects into Layers

First Steps: Organizing Objects into Layers

In Adobe Illustrator CS4 How-Tos: 100 Essential Techniques, I go into detail on how to create and manage layers, but I'll quickly review a few basics here. To view the Layers panel, choose Window > Layers or press the F7 key on your keyboard. The icon bar at the bottom of the Layers panel displays the number of layers, and includes these tools (see Figure 1):

  • Make/Release Clipping Mask: Used when one layer acts as a clipping mask to reveal only part of an underlying layer. We'll explore this in detail shortly.
  • Create New Sublayer: Generates a sublayer within the selected layer.
  • Create New Layer: Creates a new layer at the same level as the selected layer.
  • Delete Selection: Dragging a layer onto this icon deletes the entire layer, including sublayers.

Figure 1 The Layers panel in Illustrator CS4.

Here are some of the basic layer commands:

  • Rename a layer: Double-click on the layer name in the Layers panel, and enter a new layer name in the Layer Options dialog.
  • Toggle visibility for a layer on/off: Click on the eye icon next to the layer's name in the Layers panel.
  • Lock/unlock a layer: Click in the second column next to the layer in the Layers panel (see Figure 2). Locked panels cannot be edited.

Figure 2 Layer 1 is visible and locked.

  • Move layers above/below other layers: Click and drag up to move above or down to move below other layers in the Layers panel.
  • Move an object from one layer to another: Expand the layer in the Layers panel (using the triangle) to see all objects within the layer. Drag the object from one layer onto another in the Layers panel.
  • Isolate a selected layer: Choose Enter Isolation mode from the Layers panel menu. Isolating a layer makes other layers uneditable. To exit Isolation mode, press the Esc key on your keyboard.
3. Using a Clipping Mask in a Layer | Next Section Previous Section