Using layers in Adobe Illustrator

Richard Kennedy
by Richard Kennedy

Managing shapes effectively when creating a vector image helps you avoid mistakes and increase productivity. The best way to manage shapes in Illustrator is to create layers for different shape categories.

Illustrator provides a single layer by default. This suits simple designs, but most logos have multiple shapes, gradient effects, and other aspects that can a nightmare to manage on one layer.

Think of each layer like a sheet of tracing paper. By creating a layer for each shape category you can apply changes that only affect a single category. For example, you could hide a layer to reveal smaller objects that were previously obscured or lock a layer to restrict editing.

First let’s learn how to add new layers.

Adding a new layer

To add new layers:

  1. Select Window > Layers.
    The Layers panel is displayed.
    Adobe Illustrator Layers panel
  2. Click Adobe Illustrator add layer icon.
    The new layer is displayed.
  3. Double-click the layer.
    The Layer Options window is displayed.
    Adobe Illustrator Layer Options window
  4. Rename the layer.
  5. Choose a colour for the layer by either:
    • selecting a colour from the Color drop-down list
    • double-clicking the coloured box and selecting a colour.
  6. Click OK.
    The new layer is created.

Features of the Layers panel

Now we have created a layer there are a few features of the Layers panel you need to know about. You can:

  • Click the Toggle Visibility icon (Adobe Illustrator Toggle Visibility icon) to determine whether a layer is displayed. This is useful focusing on layers without the distraction of objects from other layers.
  • Click the Toggle Lock box (Adobe Illustrator Toggle Lock box) to determine whether the layer is locked. You will not be able to make any changes when the layer is locked.
  • Click Adobe Illustrator arrow to list the component objects on the selected layer.
  • Double-click the layer title to access the Layer Options window.
  • Click the Target icon (Adobe Illustrator Target icon) to target all the objects on the layer. This is useful for applying effects.
  • The Selection icon (Adobe Illustrator Selection icon) indicates whether there are objects selected on a layer.

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