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Using Symbols in Adobe Illustrator

Lesson 46 from: Adobe Illustrator Creative Cloud: Essentials for Creating Projects

Brian Wood

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Lesson Info

46. Using Symbols in Adobe Illustrator


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

Using Symbols in Adobe Illustrator

We're gonna take a little look at symbols. Symbols are they're a life saver and they're a time saver and a space saver when you work with illustrator. If we're working on our projects and suppose that I'm working on an ad here and what I wanna do is I wanna take that backpack and I wanna show it in three different colors or five different colors or something like that. Instead of me taking this backpack object and just copying it three, five, 10 times down there, we can actually take that backpack and save it as what's called a symbol. A symbol is saved in the document and it's basically a master backpack in this case, we can drag out copies of the symbol and if we edit the original symbol all of those copies will update it automatically. That's one of the best parts about symbols, okay. Select the backpack, I wanna select also the little blend thing we've got in the middle, so go ahead and drag across select, if you don't mind. Actually we need the zipper too, so you might want to shi...

ft click on the zipper or drag across that one too. Now, look on the right over here and you're gonna see the symbols panel. It looks like a little three leaf clover or whatever right there. The symbols panel is where we can go to save these. Now I've already got one saved just in case, you can actually see it over there. Symbols, by the way, are awesome. If you decide never to use these in your art work you can use symbols to learn how illustrator, how people build things. If you look down to the lower left down here and click on this little library button, it looks like a stack of books way down there, there are a ton of symbols or pre-done artwork built in here that you can just drag out and see how it's built. This is, I learned a lot by doing this. So if I go in here, if you take a look like one of my favorites is um, there's like retro, there's all kinds of stuff in here, like primitive, all these kinds of things. You can actually take these little pieces of artwork, drag them out and you can use them in your designs. But they are what are called symbols. So there's a ton of different libraries built in here that you can use. Now you can use your own or create your own which is what we're about to do, okay. So, I know, once again, probably exploring the libraries, but make sure that your backpack is selected and to make or save this as a symbol so we can reuse it we can just come over to the symbols panel, there's a bunch of ways to do this. Down at the bottom, you're gonna see new symbol. That button down there, if you click on that any selected artwork will be saved within the symbols panel, become a symbol. So go ahead and click on that. And it's gonna ask you, it's gonna say, alright, well, what do you wanna call this? Let's just call it uh, call it pack. That's fine. It's gonna have a lot of things in here you don't need to touch, okay. There is something called an export type, don't worry about it, it's useless for most of us, okay? The big thing is right here. We have two kinds of symbols we create. We have a dynamic symbol and we have a static symbol. Dynamic symbols are brand new. These just came in I think this version, 2015. Dynamic symbols we're gonna see how they work, I'm not even gonna try to describe em, okay. Static symbols are old school and something we will use, I will show you this as we get in, okay. The rest of the stuff we don't need to touch right now. Come down here and click okay, you're gonna see it says it's gotta be expanded, don't worry about that, just click okay, no worries. And there we go. You will notice they bring it in front of the apple, mine went in front of the apple now out there. That's fine, just send it behind the apple, get it behind there. Object arrange, send to back. There we go. Okay, look at the symbol thumbnail in the symbols panel and you're gonna see a little plus in the corner. That indicates a dynamic symbol. The rest of the symbols in there except for the other backpack I made are not dynamic. Now here's what I mean by dynamic. Let me just, I'll just show you this, just sit back for a second. When we used to make symbols, if you wanted to use them in your document, matter of fact, we can used them in just about any document, the symbols we save right now are only saved in this document, okay. This is one of the reasons why you guys, I like the whole library thing. This kind of can, nah, not totally, the library can actually kind of replace it a little bit, symbols, because it's linked, right. It's not the same thing, it's similar. I'm gonna take that flower, and I'm gonna drag it out. Cool, I got a flower, k, I can go out here and scale it and do some different things, I'm using the shift key. And I can just set it right there. Now, what if I want a bunch of these, I'm gonna drag these out. I'm gonna say, hey I want a bouquet of flowers, we're just gonna put a bunch. Alright, that's good enough. Now, I look at those flowers and I'm like, ah, that's cool, I want one of them to be blue. I can't do that, okay. All these flowers are basically locked, they are linked to the original symbol. For me to update them, I have to go back to the original symbol, and if I double click, I can go in there and start to make my edits. I'm gonna zoom in here so we can see this. I can start to do like, I'm gonna get rid of center thing here, like this, that, this, that, there, that looks great, k. Now I'm gonna get out of it. Really, I'm gonna get out of it, and if you take a look, you just updated all of the symbols and all those ones out there. Now that, that's what we've had forever, okay, we could not edit them out there. If we really wanted to edit one of these flowers out here I would have to come up here and you're gonna see a button called break link. That means, it will never update if the original symbol updates, okay. We now have dynamic symbols. Dynamic symbols are awesome. You can edit them independently, okay, and we're gonna do that. So I wanna have you guys do this with me. I wanna use this backpack, we're gonna put two of them out here, k, we can scale them to do things but why don't you take the backpack or the pack right here, the one you made, drag it out and just drop it out there. It's gonna be big, don't worry. Let's go ahead and scale it, make it a little bit smaller. So use your shift key, hold down the shift key, drag the corner, make it a little smaller, let go of the mouse, let go of the shift key. And just drag it right over here. There we go. Now that right there, you guys, in your art board, it's called a symbol instance. It's an instance of the symbol, it's still linked, it's there, it's linked, if we go to this symbol right now, and we double click and edit it, it's gonna update that symbol, k. What I want you to do is this, take that symbol, and we're gonna make a copy of it. This little symbol instance down here. So we're gonna option drag it across or just copy paste it, okay. Some I'm gonna option drag of to the right here and make a little copy of it. Let go of your mouse, then your option key. You can also just copy paste and move it, that's fine. Alright, come back to your symbol over here and go ahead and double click on it in the symbols panel. Double click on the symbol. It kind of goes into like an isolation thing so it says alright, there's your symbol, let's edit this thing. Now if we decide, we're like, ah, let's do this, let's change the color of one of these pieces, okay for instance, so, or we can move the zipper or do something like that. You know what, keep it simple. Take the zipper and just drag it up maybe. Put it up here. It's a really simple change, okay. You'll see that we are in an isolation mode, you can see it right along the top there, k. If you just simply press escape right now, or click on the arrow, right up here. You're saying you're done editing the symbol. K, so I'll click on the arrow up there, that's fine. Now take a look at all the instances out there. They've all updated. This is the power symbols, these things are awesome, they really are, it's a great way to be able to make it so that you can go out and have one single instance, one single symbol rather, and update that. Now this is also the power of a dynamic symbol. With a dynamic symbol, what if I'm telling you that I want these two backpacks down here, one to be red and one to be green, for instance. In the past, we'd have to go to these symbol instances and we'd have to break em, and say ah, they're not gonna update anymore, that's fine. But because this is a dynamic symbol, I can't even say that right, dynamic symbol, we can now edit these right here. Zoom in to those little backpacks if you don't mind, I'll go to my zoom tool, and I'll zoom in. In order for us to edit these now, and there's only so many edits we can do. The edits we can really do are gonna be changing things like color, gradient, and that's pretty much it. Go to your direct selection tool, this is how you have to edit a dynamic symbol. You have to go to the direct selection tool, so select that, come out here, and click on one of the panels, like the blue panel right here for instance. It's gonna select that one shape, can you guys see that? Go pick another color, I just clicked right in the blue, it's selected, it's kinda hard to tell, but it's selected. Now we probably gotta go over to the swatches panel here and pick another color. I'll pick like a red because I want this to be a red backpack for instance. We can edit it, which is cool. So I can keep going all the different panels here, clicking on them, picking it. Like I said, it's gotta be this tool and we can make a different color backpack. You can do this for every one of the instances. Here's the mind melt though, okay. These are still linked to the original symbol. If we go to the original symbol and delete the zipper, or make it something, get rid of the bungee stuff we did, these will update still, just not the color. So that's why these are dynamic, okay. I can't even tell you how much these are saving me as far as, 'cause I do a lot of web and we have a lot of buttons, a lot of different things that we do and I create one single button as a symbol, I drag a bunch out and I can change each one a different color. So we have dynamic. Is that making sense to everybody? Is that kinda, it's kind of a lot to pull in, I know, a little Greek, but um, those are symbols. If you can just simply remember honestly, that with symbols we have the original and we have instances, and they're linked together. That's the main feature, that's the big idea behind symbols that I love.

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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