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Illustrator CS5 : Using Illustrator Modes

10/11/2011 4:54:07 PM
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Illustrator offers several options when it comes to how you view your illustrations. This section explains how to discover these views as well as create and customize your own views.

1. Working in Outline mode versus Preview mode

In the old days, everyone worked in Outline mode (originally called Artwork mode). In Outline mode, you see only the guts of the artwork — the paths without the fills and strokes applied, as shown in Figure 1. To see what the illustration looked like with the fills and strokes applied, you had to switch to Preview mode. Usually, the preview was not quite what you had in mind, but to make changes, you had to switch back to Outline, then to Preview again to check, and so forth. Many users of Illustrator from that time refer to it as the golden age — with not a little trace of sarcasm.

Today, Illustrator allows you to edit your work in both Outline and Preview modes. You can also print a document from either mode. Saving the document while you're in Outline mode doesn't affect anything in the document, but the next time you open it, it displays in Outline mode. The same thing applies to Preview mode: Whatever mode you're in is saved with the artwork.

You can't undo a Preview or Outline mode change (for example, going from Preview to Outline). If you make a Preview or Outline mode change and then close your document, Illustrator asks you if you want to save changes, which in this case refers only to the view change. The current view mode is always displayed in the title bar next to the document name.

Figure 1. Artwork shown in Outline mode

1.1. Understanding Outline mode

You may find working with a drawing in Outline mode significantly faster than working with it in Preview mode. In more complex drawings, the difference between Outline mode and Preview mode is significant, especially if you're working on a very slow computer. This is even more noticeable when the artwork contains gradients, patterns, placed artwork, and blends. Outline mode is much closer to what the printer sees — as paths. Paths define the edges of the objects with which you're working.

Getting used to Outline mode can take some time. Eventually, your brain can learn to know what the drawing looks like from seeing just the outlines, which show all the paths. The one big advantage of Outline mode is that you can see every path (a single entity in your drawing made up of one or more straight or curved lines) that isn't directly overlapping another path. In Preview mode, many paths can be hidden. In Outline mode, invisible masks are normally visible as paths, and you can select paths that were hidden by the fills of other objects. To select paths in Outline mode, you must click the paths directly or draw a marquee across or around them.

To change the current document to Outline mode, choose View => Outline. In Outline mode, the illustration disappears and is replaced on-screen by outlines of all the paths. Text that has yet to be converted into outlines looks fine (not outlines, because it isn't paths — it's text), although it's always black.


You can change how a placed image displays in Outline mode by selecting or deselecting the Show Images in Outline Mode option in the Document Setup dialog box. To display the Document Setup dialog box, choose File => Document Setup. A placed image displays as a box if you click the Show Images in Outline Mode check box. If you leave this check box deselected, the image displays only in black and white and is surrounded by a box.

1.2. Understanding Preview mode

In Preview mode, you can see which objects overlap, which objects are in front and in back, where gradations begin and end, and how patterns are set up. In other words, the document looks just the way it will look when you print it.


In Preview mode, the color you see on-screen only marginally represents the actual output because of the differences between the way computer monitors work (red, green, and blue colors — the more of each color, the brighter each pixel appears) and the way printing works (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black colors — the more of each color, the darker each area appears). Monitor manufacturers make a number of calibration tools that decrease the difference between what you see on a monitor and the actual output. You can also use software solutions. One software solution, CIE calibration, is built in to Adobe Illustrator (choose Edit => Color Settings). Mac users can use ColorSync.

Choosing View => Preview changes the view to Preview mode.

The biggest disadvantage of Preview mode is that Illustrator begins to draw and fill in the various parts of your image, which can take some time, especially if your computer is slow. When you change the image, the screen redraws. You can stop screen redraw by pressing Ctrl+Y (+Y) at any time.

Another disadvantage of Preview mode is being unable to select the path you want to change in the image. Sometimes, so much stuff appears on your screen that you don't know what to click! This problem can become more complicated when you include fills in the mix because the strokes on those paths are also visible. Instead of selecting a path by clicking it, you can select entire paths by clicking the insides of those paths in a filled area.

2. Understanding Overprint Preview mode

Drawing in Illustrator often results in one or more objects overlapping each other, meaning that the colors of these objects also overlap. When you print these objects, the top color blocks, or knocks out, anything below it. The advantage of using this feature is that your illustration becomes cheaper and easier for a printer to generate. To see how your overprint will look after you've set the Overprint feature, you can view it in Overprint Preview mode by choosing View => Overprint Preview.

3. Understanding Pixel Preview mode

Because most Web page graphics are pixel-based, Pixel Preview mode is specifically intended for graphics that designers want to place on Web pages. This mode lets you view images before converting them to a Web graphics format. Choose View => Pixel Preview, and Illustrator places a check mark next to the Pixel Preview option and then shows a raster form of your image. Figure 2 shows what you would see in Pixel Preview mode. In the figure, the artwork is zoomed to 400% to more clearly show the effect of Pixel Preview mode.

Figure 2. With Illustrator's Pixel Preview option, you can view how the illustrator lines up to the pixel grid.

4. Using and creating custom views

Illustrator has a special feature called custom views that allows you to save special views of an illustration. Custom views contain view information, including magnification, location, and whether the illustration is in Outline mode or Preview mode. If you have various layers or layer sets in Preview mode and others in Outline mode (layers in Preview mode are indicated by regular eyeballs to the left of their names in the Layers panel, while layers in Outline mode show an outlined eyeball), custom views can also save that information. Custom views, however, don't record whether templates, rulers, page tiling, edges, or guides are shown or hidden.

If you find yourself continually going to a certain part of a document, zooming in or out, and changing back and forth between the Preview and Outline modes, that document is a prime candidate for creating custom views. Custom views are helpful for showing clients artwork that you created in Illustrator. Instead of fumbling around in the client's presence, you can, for example, show the detail in a logo instantly if you've preset the zoom factor and position and have saved the image in a custom view.

To create a new view, set up the document in the way that you want to save the view. Then choose View => New View, and name the view in the New View dialog box. Each new view name appears at the bottom of the View menu. No default keyboard shortcuts exist for these views, but you can create your own shortcuts by using the Keyboard Shortcuts dialog box, available under the Edit menu. You can create up to 25 custom views. Custom views are saved with a document as long as you save it using the Illustrator format.

5. Using screen modes

So, you've been working on an illustration for an important client (actually, they all are important), and the client scheduled an appointment to see your progress, but the best part of the work is hidden behind the panels and the Tools panel. You can turn off the panels and the Tools panel or you can switch between the different screen modes.

Illustrator uses three screen modes represented by the three buttons at the bottom of the Tools panel. They are Standard Screen Mode, Full Screen Mode with Menu Bar, and Full Screen Mode. In addition to clicking the screen mode buttons in the Tools panel, you can also press F to switch between the three modes.

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