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Introduction to Layers

Lesson 7 from: Adobe Illustrator Creative Cloud: Essentials for Creating Projects

Brian Wood

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Lesson Info

7. Introduction to Layers

Next Lesson: Rulers and Guides


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


What is Adobe Illustrator?


Explore the Interface


Create and Save New Documents


Zoom and Navigate


Working with Artboards


Introduction to Layers


Rulers and Guides


Shapes and Drawing


Aligning and Combining Shapes


Pen Tool


Manipulating Stroke and Fill


Creating and Editing with Color


Painting with Gradients


Getting Started with Patterns


Adding Text To Your Document


Formatting Text


Strokes and Variable Strokes in Adobe Illustrator


Rotating Objects in Adobe Illustrator


Effects and the Appearance Panel in Adobe Illustrator


Adding Photo Images in Adobe Illustrator


Working with Linked Content in Adobe Illustrator


Packaging your Project for Handoff in Adobe Illustrator


Best Formats to Save Your Files


Select Like a Pro: Layers, Groups, & Other Unique Tools


Edit Paths Like a Pro in Adobe Illustrator


Editing Paths: Pen Tool in Adobe Illustrator


Creating & Applying Brushes to Artwork in Adobe Illustrator


Editing Paths: Knife & Scissor Tool in Adobe Illustrator


Editing Paths: Join Tool in Adobe Illustrator


Editing Paths: Isolation Mode in Adobe® Illustrator®


Pen Tool Shortcuts in Adobe Illustrator


Other Drawing Tools & Methods in Adobe Illustrator


Transforming Techniques in Adobe Illustrator


Shortcut to Reflecting Artwork in Adobe Illustrator


Get to Know Your Appearance Panel in Adobe Illustrator


Exploring Effects in Adobe Illustrator


Work Smarter with Graphic Styles in Adobe Illustrator


Color Inspiration in Adobe Illustrator


Type Effects in Adobe Illustrator


Masking Your Artwork in Adobe Illustrator


Using Creative® Cloud® Libraries in Adobe® Illustrator®


Capture Artwork with Creative Cloud Apps & Adobe Illustrator


Tracing Raster Images in Adobe Illustrator


Blending Artwork in Adobe Illustrator


Using Symbols in Adobe Illustrator


Using a Perspective Grid in Adobe Illustrator


Crash Recovery in Adobe Illustrator


GPU Performance in Adobe Illustrator


Curvature Tool in Adobe Illustrator


App Integration in Adobe Illustrator


Creative Cloud Libraries in Adobe Illustrator App


Shaper Tool in Adobe Illustrator


Smart Guides in Adobe Illustrator


Text Enhancements in Adobe Illustrator


SVG Export in Adobe Illustrator


Lesson Info

Introduction to Layers

All right so, what we are going to do here is I want to be able to see the entire art board, okay? So we need to be able to fit it in the window or zoom out, do something like that. So I'm going to go under view, use what you know. Fit art board in window. You can see the whole thing here. Now what I want you to do is, we should, hopefully you all have the black arrow, the selection tool selected. I want you to take the pointer and just kind of move it around the art work. We did this when we first opened Illustrator and kind of looked a little bit, but do it again. Just kind of run around here a little bit. You're going to see that all of this is what is called vector artwork, right? So it's all made of points that we create and it's made of little paths that we join, we draw basically or create. Now I'm going to tell you right now that I didn't actually draw this in illustrator. You can tell because it's got a little bit of the, I don't know, it would be a little harder to do in here...

. What I actually did was I, I drew it in my sketchbook and I used one of the Adobe apps to capture it. It's called Adobe Capture. So it actually let's you take a picture of it. It turns it into vector artwork. Makes all the points and the paths. And lets' you open it directly in here, okay. So that's how we got it in here. I just wanted to mention that. Now you're going to see in here that I've got color, I've got like all these different shapes. Why don't you click on one of the shapes, like click in the eyes right there, in that dark area, okay? If you look there you are going to see that there's a little box around that stuff and there's a lot of little points. This is what we can edit. Come over to the right over here. And you're going to notice we have a panel called layers. Go ahead and click on the layers panel. It looks like a little stack of paper over there. How many of you worked with layers in Photoshop or InDesign or any other program? Okay. For those of us who are just starting in Illustrator, I know, the audience here I might bore you for a second here but I'm just going to explain what layers are. If you have a better explanation by the way, yell it, okay? Because I am always looking for a good explanation, alL right? When we create artwork in Illustrator You're going to find that the more complicated you get, the more you've got in your artwork, the more shapes and the more objects you're going to have. So you're going to need to be able to kind of select them, control them, organize them, keep them together. Layers allow you to do that in here. With layers what you can do is we can actually create, they're kind of like transparent pieces of paper that sit on top of each other like this, okay? If you look at the art board itself, you'll see right through the layers, you can't even see them, but objects on each layer are literally sitting on the layer itself. The reason why we are actually going to take objects and put them on independent or individual layers is so that we can change the stacking order it's called. So I can take, for instance, if you look out here, you're going to see in the layers panel, let me zoom out a bit, we have now three layers. I created all these here. You're going to see we have a layer called outlines, a layer called color, and a layer called original. We can go in and we can do things like turn on and off certain art work so we don't have to stare at it. Maybe it's on top of something you need to work on. So you can turn art work off so you don't look at it. Why don't you come to outlines here, you're going to see this little eye icon to the right. Go ahead and click on that. This is a way to basically hide the content on that layer. Now how can I tell what's on that layer, okay? If you actually look, you're going to see the little thumbnail right now that obviously kind of trying to show you what's going on there. If you toggle that blank area back, you're going to see the visibility is back again, right? All right, now, I use layers all the time, and if you guys, I know a lot of people that work in Illustrator and they have the best intentions. They go in and they're like "I'm going to set these up and work with layers," and then they forget all about them, okay? It's important to keep using layers in my head because they help you organize the work. Here's what I mean. Come to the color layer here and you're going to see that there's a little lock icon right there. Why don't you go ahead and click on the lock, to the left of color there. The great thing about layers is if you have certain art work, maybe a logo in a brochure you're creating and you want to lock it in place and not touch it and not mess with it, you can lock the contents of that specific layer, that one layer, okay? Now if you come out here right now, you can actually now, if you click on the color objects out here, go ahead and try to click on those color objects. Because they're unlocked, you can click on them now. Otherwise, you can't even touch them. They are stuck in place basically, okay? So these are some great things that we can do as far as working with layers. They allow you to group content, allow you to make it so you can turn the content on and off, lock content, not touch it. Now layers are kind of interesting in Illustrator. When we start that document, we start with a single layer. For us to have multiple layers, we have to create them. And that's what we're going to do. But I want you to do this for me, turn the outline's layer back on here, the visibility, by click on that little column right there. And you're going to notice that there's a little arrow to the left here. Now if you work in Photoshop, this a may be a little weird, okay? Seeing something like this, it may not, I don't know. But it depends on how you work. But why don't you go ahead and click on that arrow to the left right there. Every object that you create out there, every line, every circle, every shape you draw, everything that you have out here is represented in layers panel, okay? That means that if you go out there and you draw somebody's hair and you draw like five million pieces of hair you're going to have five million pieces of hair sitting in there, okay? These are actually called sublayers. They're layers in a layer, okay? I don't know if that makes sense or not but so there are sublayers essentially. Sublayers, the great thing about these, is that you can actually turn them on an off right now. Now this is really going to make sense because there is too many paths and things in here right now. Too much stuff. Why don't you click the arrow to the left of outlines there, and lets click the arrow to the left of color. There's only a few shapes in here. You're going to see that we have like an orange shape, and a blueish shape, right? Why don't you click the eye icon to the left of those, and you can see that we can pinpoint those shapes and we can turn them on and off. We can actually lock that little space right there to the right of the eye. You can toggle that one on and off. You can also lock just that object. There's a lot of things that we can do in here. This is one of the reasons why I love being able to see all of the independent objects in the layers panel, because you can do different things to each one. Now this is getting a little further and I don't want to go too crazy, okay? But layers are super important. The other thing I think that layers are really great for is being able to arrange content, change the order of content. I want to show you something, just for a second. Just go ahead and sit back for one second here. And I'm going to go out and just create a quick art board. Don't, I know, just look away, turn away for a second. When you create artwork in here, what's going to happen is the layer that is selected on there, you can tell it's selected because it's highlighted, right? The layer that is selected, as you create stuff, texts, pictures, what ever you do it's going to go on that layer. If you forget to select another layer, it's all going to be on one layer, okay? Which, whatever, if you are creating a logo with three things on it, maybe layers aren't that important. If you are creating a project with tons of artwork and tons of things, it could be super important. Now, as we create content, just watch for one second. I want to discuss something called stacking order because this is super important. As we create content, let's say I create a box, just a simple box, right? If I keep creating content, I create another box, for instance, you're gonna notice, let me change color, just don't worry about what I'm doing for one second. I'm going to change color there. You're going to notice that the new object is on top of the old object. Illustrator has something called a stacking order. As you create things, the next thing is on top of the previous. It just, literally, if you look, here's the art board, if you're looking at it from the side, object, object, object, object like that. Like a stack of pancakes okay? That's great. So each layer actually has what is called a stacking order. All the content on that layer, you can switch around and reorganize and do different things to, and we're going to do that later on okay? But we can also take the individual layers out here. Like let's say the outlines and the color layer, and I can actually, why don't you do this with me, click on the outline's layer just to select it, you can take these and drag them in order. So, if I take the outlines and drag it, now let me zoom in so you can see what it's doing. It's kind of hard to see here. Drag it down, for instance, go below the color layer. Now, this is super important, you've got to see a line show up. If you see a highlight, you're going to stick it on that layer. Don't do that, everybody does it by mistake. See a line, let go. You just switched the order of the layers and if you worked in Photoshop, you've done that before I'm sure, okay? Look out at your art work out there. This is a great way for us to be able to change. We took everything on the one layer and put it behind the other layer, okay? So, we're kind of changing the stacking order that way too, there's a lot of ways to work in here, all right? So like I said layers are something that we are going to be using quite a bit. Now what we're going to do for our document is we are going to be able to create some layers. I want to show you some layer properties and then we're going to start to get in and start to create some artwork. What I'd like you to do is go back over to your document, don't forget you can click on the tab up here. (coughs) Excuse me. All right, now, we're going to go in and we're going to start to create a layer but one of the things that I want to do first is I want to do something called rename the layer because you've got to name these things, okay? Otherwise they're not going to make any sense to you. So come to the layers panel and I'm sure a lot of you can probably figure this one out but come to the name and double click on the name directly, okay? Then we can change it. So let's call this, what are we making, we're making a robot. Let's call this robot head. And when you're done, you can press enter or return to accept the name. All right, all the art work is going to go on there. That's super great, awesome. Now what we're going to do is we're going to create another layer. When I create art work in Illustrator, I try to set up my layers ahead of time and kind of figure out how I'm going to divide things out. Like how I'm going to work. You don't have to do this. I know a lot of people, I go to a lot of companies, and they're like, help us work with layers because we're in desperate need. They'll have a single layer with six million objects on it and it makes it really hard to find stuff. So we go in and we add layers later on which can make it harder. So you've got to try and work with layers first. Come down here to the bottom. You're actually going to see that there is a create new layer button at the very bottom down here. Why don't you go ahead and click on that. And it's going to make a new layer above the previous layer, okay? Let's go ahead and rename this one. Now I'm going to show you a different thing here. I know some of you are going to double click the name. What I want you to do is double click to the right of the name. Not directly on the name but to the right in that blank area. There's a couple of ways to work with layers in here. And one of the things that we can do is work with what are called layer options. Now, layer options, we can change the name in here, and let's actually do that. We call this robot body. You're also going to see what is called color. Now the color, to me it's super important. When you're first starting here, whatever, it's a color, okay? When you put objects out there, when you start drawing things, creating things, when you select them, when you click on them, they're going to have that box around them, okay? The color of that box is telling you what layer it's on. Just watch me for one second here. I'm going to go back over to the layers document and I'm going to click on let's say that that object right there. You notice how the box is kind of green right there, if I look over in the layers panel and take a look, the color of that layer is that same green. So it gives you kind of a visual cue as to what layer that thing is on, all right? So the color can ebe super important if you care about what the color is. I don't really care, I mean that's fine, but why don't you go ahead and choose a color if you want to, be daring, pick something different, that's fine. You can go to light red. You can see there's just a whole bunch, okay? All right. I'm not going to choose it. Whatever. Just going to leave it the light red. That's fine. Now you're also going to see in layer options down here, we do have a lot of things that we can do, we're not going to touch any of this right now. Actually, a lot of this stuff is the same as what we see out there. You're going to see right here, show and hide, this is that eyeball icon out there in the layers panel. This lock is the lock icon, that little lock we kept clicking on to lock and unlock objects, okay? So it's pretty much the same type of thing. There's just a few other things we will not talk about right now. So go ahead and click okay and we've got ourselves a layer selected right there. Now, what's interesting to me about layers is that layers are across the entire document. If you have 50 art boards out here, you have one set of layers. Does that make sense? And that can make it interesting, all right? I know a lot of people that if I create, for instance, I create a web design. And I have different sizes for different web sizes, I'll actually create the layer dependent on the name of the size. So I'll create like desktop, tablet horizontal, tablet vertical, and those will be the different layers. It really depends on how you work, okay? In this case, I just want to be able to split up the content and make it a little bit easier. All right, now, there's a couple of things with layers that we can work with that's kind of interesting that we're going to start to do here, we can work with what are called sublayers. We can find layers, find objects, and find content and just do different things like that. But what I want to do is this, let's go back over to that file. So we have some content to work with. Come back to over here. And I'm going to do this. I'm going to get rid of this so it looks like what you have. Don't worry about what I'm doing here. So this is kind of what you see right. You can still see kind of the color on top of the thing, okay? All right, now, the layers panel is also very interesting because we can also select content too. And this is really helpful. This is actually really cool. Come to the layers panel and you're going to see these little circles to the right of the layer name right there, go ahead and hover over it, put your cursor over it and you're going to see, it's going to do this click to target, drag to move appearance. Tons of stuff you can do with this little circle. It's kind of crazy but just click on it. I'm going to go to the right of the color layer here. That's one way you guys can select everything on the layer. It's actually kind of cool. So suppose I need to take all the color and I need to like, make it smaller, or put a drop shadow on it or do something like that, click on the circle, select all the content, and you've got it, which is great, all right? You can also, if you want, why don't you come to the outlines layer, the far right, you're gonna see this blank area. This is kind of sneaky and it's kind of whatever. Click in the blank area to the far right of the circle. It's the same thing. I just selects all the stuff on the layer basically. I use the circle just because it's there. It's a circle, you know what I mean? All right now, come to the color layer and what I want you to do, we want to look at all the objects on the color layer again. So click on the arrow to the left of color right there. And you're going to see that we have what's called a path and a path. Those are the two objects that were drawn, created, whatever it is, okay? You're going to see that there's a circle to the right of those as well. Why don't you click on one of those circles. This is a way for us to select just that object, just that thing that's in the layers panel. I use this all the time. I'll be in the layers panel and I'll just have done something and I'll look and I'll say, ah, I've got to select the eye, or I've got to select the thing. So it's right there, I'm like, eh, click on it, select it, you've got it, okay? Of course, we can also go out there and select it, it doesn't really matter. This is the same thing, okay? Selecting this way is actually useful because then we can kind of do different things here. What I love about the layers here is the fact that you can actually change things and kind of fix mistakes you've made, for instance. Later on what we're going to be doing, and you guys actually need to remind me of this, we're going to work with layers as we create our content. We have to remember them, which means if we're about to create the robot body, what layer does it need to be in? The robot body layer, right? At least that's, in my thinking, that's the way it needs to work, okay? So if I don't do that, throw something, do something, okay? Once you commit to layers, go all the way, all right? So we're going to use this quite a bit. Here's something else that's kind of interesting, too. I want you to do this. Why don't you come out here and we're going to switch the ordering again. I'm going to take the color layer and we're going to put it underneath the outline layer. I want to us to put the outlines back on top, okay? So come to that color layer right there, sorry, come to the color layer and drag it down below outlines, make sure you see a line, and let go. All right, got the outlines back on top of the color stuff, okay? Now this is also something that's kind of interesting. This may not play right now for what you're doing, what we're going to be doing, but why don't you come out to the artwork here and why don't you click on let's say the eye, one of the eyes here, just click inside of it so you can select it, okay? Now if you look at it you can see the color and the color is a reddish color, right? Looking immediately at the layers panel, which layer is this object on? I know, it's not a trick question, I know, if you look at it, you're like well, uh, (laughs) What two things are telling you that it's on this layer? There's two things. The color, right? Also, look at the little box to the right here. That little indicator is your selection indicator, okay? If you click on anything out there, it's going to say, that's the layer it's on right there. That's really important because sometimes we need to get in here and do some things, like delete it or move it. Why don't you click the arrow to the left of outlines there and you'll toggle this content open. Now if you look in there you're going to see, like I said before, there's a billion little things that I drew or created, right? I want to find this object in the layers panel. Because sometimes you just need to see where it is and what it's around and what it's like sitting with. Come down to the bottom and you're going to see there's this little eyeglass right down here. I tell people that have been using Illustrator since like day one about this, and they're like, no way. This is called locate object. Go ahead and click on it. What it does, is it just says, here it is. It scrolls in the panel, opens up the layer and says, look right here, see the little boxes. There's the object right there. We might need to do this, like I said, because maybe it's sitting in a logo, and is it on top of the text, is it below, you need to just kind of figure out what stuff is around it and what's going on. That's a great way to do that, that locate object, okay? I use that all the time. All right, the other thing we can do, if you look over here you're going to this, does anyone else look like a cupcake over here? In the corner, yeah. That's a, as you can figure, it's a trashcan, right? To delete something, click on it, delete it, it's easy to do, right, just go, okay? We are going to talk a little bit more about sublayers as we work, as we create content. Right now I'm going to kind of leave it alone because we don't have too much.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Project Files Part 1
Project Files Part 2

Ratings and Reviews


I am a pretty computer literate person but an Ai beginner i.e. I am completely new to the Creative Cloud/Adobe Illustrator. (This is also the first time I've used CreativeLive.) I think this course it is fantastic. The pace is good as is the content which progressed logically and covers all the basics you'd hope it would. The course is 2 full days' worth of material but it is broken down into segments so you can revisit or skip through as you need to. The presenter is really personable and easy to watch (even for me, a Londoner!). I would also say I think it is pretty good value for money -- I am currently enrolled on a part time course, basically doing the same sort of stuff, and I have to say this is better and a bit cheaper! I definitely recommend it to you!


A brilliantly designed course. it's almost magic. It's everything you hope for in a follow-along software class. Brian Wood has engineered it so that you start on a project that just needs basics, and then you move on to more & more complicated projects, and almost without realizing it you've learned Illustrator. This doesn't just happen -- Wood has clearly put a LOT of effort into creating this course. Here's one trivial example: he doesn't overload you with a lot of keyboard shortcuts right at the beginning -- you start with the actions themselves, using the (admittedly tedious but easy) pulldown menus, and then after you're comfortable with what you're doing, he'll throw in the shortcut. It may seem obvious, but so many instructors feel they have to give you an extensive foundation of definitions, shortcuts, interfaces, etc., before you ever do anything. Good stuff to know, but you'll never remember it. Wood has you up and working almost immediately. And he's a joy to listen to, at a perfect pace. Highly recommended.

Philippe LIENARD

Top course. Very well explained, clear, good examples, pleasant teacher. I like it and recommend it. One suggestion, it would be nice to have a detailed table of content of the course in the material. For instance, it took me quite a while to find back the part of the course where how to make a gear was explained.

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