Create instances

After you create a symbol, you can create instances of that symbol throughout your document, including inside other symbols. When you modify the symbol, Animate CC (formerly Flash Professional CC) updates all instances of the symbol.

You can give names to instances from the Property inspector. Use the instance name to refer to an instance in ActionScript. To control instances with ActionScript®, give each instance within a single timeline a unique name. 

To specify color effects, assign actions, set the graphic display mode, or change the behavior of new instances, use the Property inspector. The behavior of the instance is the same as the symbol behavior, unless you specify otherwise. Any changes you make affect only the instance and not the symbol.

Create an instance of a symbol

  1. Select a layer in the Timeline. Animate can place instances only in keyframes, always on the current layer. If you don’t select a keyframe, Animate adds the instance to the first keyframe to the left of the current frame.


    A keyframe is a frame in which you define a change in the animation. For more information, see Insert frames in the Timeline.

  2. Select Window > Library.

  3. Drag the symbol from the library to the Stage.

  4. If you created an instance of a graphic symbol, to add the number of frames that will contain the graphic symbol, select Insert > Timeline > Frame.

Apply a custom name to an instance

  1. Select the instance on the Stage.

  2. Select Window > Properties, and enter a name in the Instance Name box.

Editing instance properties

Each symbol instance has its own properties that are separate from the symbol. You can change the tint, transparency, and brightness of an instance; redefine how the instance behaves (for example, change a graphic to a movie clip); and specify how an animation plays inside a graphic instance. You can also skew, rotate, or scale an instance without affecting the symbol.

In addition, you can name a movie clip or button instance so that you can use ActionScript to change its properties. For more information, see Objects and classes in Learning ActionScript 3.0. To edit instance properties, you use the Property inspector (Windows > Properties).

The properties of an instance are saved with it. If you edit a symbol or relink an instance to a different symbol, any instance properties you’ve changed still apply to the instance.

Set the visibilty of an instance

You can make a symbol instance on the Stage invisible by turning off the Visible property. Using the Visible property provides faster rendering performance than setting the symbol’s Alpha property to 0.

The Visible property requires a Player setting of Flash Player 10.2 or later and is only compatible with movie clip, button, and component instances.

  1. Select the instance on the Stage.

  2. In the Display section of the Properties panel, deselect the Visible property.

Change the color and transparency of an instance

Each instance of a symbol can have its own color effect. To set color and transparency options for instances, use the Property inspector. Settings in the Property inspector also affect bitmaps placed in symbols.

When you change the color and transparency for an instance in a specific frame, Animate makes the change as soon as it displays that frame. To make gradual color changes, apply a motion tween. When tweening color, you enter different effect settings in starting and ending keyframes of an instance, and then tween the settings to make the instance’s colors shift over time.

Tweening gradually changes an instance’s color or transparency.


If you apply a color effect to a movie clip symbol that has multiple frames, Animate applies the effect to every frame in the movie clip symbol.

  1. Select the instance on the Stage, and select Window > Properties.
  2. In the Property inspector, select one of the following options from the Style menu in the Color Effect section:


    Adjusts the relative lightness or darkness of the image, measured on a scale from black (–100%) to white (100%). To adjust brightness, click the triangle and drag the slider or enter a value in the box.


    Colors the instance with the same hue. To set the tint percentage from transparent (0%) to completely saturated (100%), use the Tint slider in the Property inspector. To adjust tint, click the triangle and drag the slider or enter a value in the box. To select a color, enter red, green, and blue values in the respective boxes, or click the Color control and select a color from the Color Picker.


    Adjusts the transparency of the instance, from transparent (0%) to completely saturated (100%). To adjust the alpha value, click the triangle and drag the slider or enter a value in the box.


    Separately adjusts the red, green, blue, and transparency values of an instance. This is most useful to create and animate subtle color effects on objects such as bitmaps. The controls on the left let you reduce the color or transparency values by a specified percentage. The controls on the right let you reduce or increase the color or transparency values by a constant value.

    The current red, green, blue, and alpha values are multiplied by the percentage values, and then added to the constant values in the right column, producing the new color values. For example, if the current red value is 100, setting the left slider to 50% and the right slider to 100% produces a new red value of 150 ([100 x .5] + 100 = 150).

    note: The Advanced settings in the Effect panel implement the function (a * y+ b)= x where a is the percentage specified in the left set of boxes, y is the color of the original bitmap, b is the value specified in the right set of boxes, and x is the resulting effect (between 0 and 255 for RGB, and 0 and 100 for alpha transparency).

    You can also change the color of an instance using the ActionScript ColorTransform object. For detailed information on the Color object, see ColorTransform in ActionScript 2.0 Language Reference or ActionScript 3.0 Language and Components Reference.

Swap one instance for another

To display a different instance on the Stage and preserve all the original instance properties, such as color effects or button actions, assign a different symbol to an instance.

For example, suppose you’re creating a cartoon with a rat symbol for your character, but decide to change the character to a cat. You could replace the rat symbol with the cat symbol and have the updated character appear in roughly the same location in all your frames.

Assign a different symbol to an instance

  1. Select the instance on the Stage, and select Window > Properties.

  2. Click the Swap button in the Property inspector.

  3. Select a symbol to replace the symbol currently assigned to the instance. To duplicate a selected symbol, click Duplicate Symbol and click OK.

    Duplicating lets you base a new symbol on an existing one in the library and minimizes copying if you’re making several symbols that differ slightly.

Replace all instances of a symbol

  • Drag a symbol with the same name as the symbol you are replacing from one Library panel into the Library panel of the FLA file you are editing and click Replace. If you have folders in the library, the new symbol must be dragged into the same folder as the symbol you are replacing.

Change an instance’s type

To redefine an instance’s behavior in a Animate application, change its type. For example, if a graphic instance contains animation that you want to play independently of the main Timeline, redefine the graphic instance as a movie clip instance.

  1. Select the instance on the Stage, and select Window > Properties.
  2. Select Graphic, Button, or Movie Clip from the menu in the Property inspector.

Set looping for a graphic instance

To determine how animation sequences inside a graphic instance play in your Animate application, set options in the Property inspector.

An animated graphic symbol is tied to the Timeline of the document in which the symbol is placed. In contrast, a movie clip symbol has its own independent Timeline. Animated graphic symbols, because they use the same Timeline as the main document, display their animation in document-editing mode. Movie clip symbols appear as static objects on the Stage and do not appear as animations in the Animate editing environment.

  1. Select a graphic instance on the Stage, and select Window > Properties.
  2. Select an animation option from the Options menu in the Looping section of the Property inspector:


    Loops all the animation sequences contained in the current instance for as many frames as the instance occupies.

    Play Once

    Plays the animation sequence beginning from the frame you specify to the end of the animation and then stops.

    Single Frame

    Displays one frame of the animation sequence. Specify which frame to display.

  3. To specify the first frame of the graphic symbol to display when looping, enter a frame number in the First text box. The Single Frame option also uses the frame number you specify here.

Frame Picker

Fame Picker helps you to visually preview and choose the first frame for a graphic symbol. In previous releases, you could not preview the frames without getting within the symbol in Edit mode. This feature enhances user experience for animation workflows such as Lip Sync.


Frame Picker panel works only with graphic symbols and is disabled for movie clip or button symbol types. Ensure that you have converted your assets to symbols before you work with this feature.

  1. Select a Graphic symbol >Properties Panel>Looping> Use Frame Picker button to display the Frame Picker panel or select Window>Frame Picker. 

    Frame Picker

  2. In the Frame Picker panel, select List or Thumbnail view to display all the frame previews of the selected graphic symbol. It also displays the frame numbers and their labels.

    • List: Displays the frames in a vertical list view.
    • Thumbnail: Displays the frames in a grid view and readjusts when the panel is resized.
  3. Use the Slider or the Zoom buttons to adjust the preview or thumbnail size. Adjust the Slider to the left corner of the panel to view more frames in the view. If you move the Slider to the right corner,  you can view bigger previews.

  4. Click on any frame to set it as the First Frame for the selected symbol.

List View

Thumbnail View

Break apart a symbol instance

To break the link between an instance and a symbol and make the instance into a collection of ungrouped shapes and lines, you break apart the instance. This feature is useful for changing the instance substantially without affecting any other instance. 

Changes to the source symbol for an instance do not affect an instance after it has been broken apart.

  1. Select the instance on the Stage.
  2. Select Modify > Break Apart. This action breaks the instance into its component graphic elements.
  3. To modify these elements, use the painting and drawing tools.

Get information about instances on the Stage

The Property inspector and Info panel display the following information about instances selected on the Stage:

  • In the Property inspector, view the instance’s behavior and settings—for all instance types, color effect settings, location, and size; for graphics, the loop mode and first frame that contains the graphic; for buttons, the instance name (if assigned) and tracking option; for movie clips, the instance name (if assigned). For location, the Property inspector displays the x and y coordinates of the symbol’s registration point.

  • In the Info panel, view the instance’s size and location; the location of its registration point; its red (R), green (G), blue (B), and alpha (A) values (if the instance has a solid fill); and the location of the pointer. The Position and Size section on the Properties Inspector displays the x and y coordinates of either the symbol’s registration point or transformation point. You can toggle to view coordinates of either the registration point or transformation point.

  • In the Movie Explorer, view the contents of the current document, including instances and symbols.

    View any actions assigned to a button or movie clip in the Actions panel.

Get information about an instance

  1. Select the instance on the Stage.

  2. Display the Property inspector (Window > Properties) or panel to use:

    • To display the Info panel, select Window > Info.

    • To display the Movie Explorer, select Window > Movie Explorer.

    • To display the Actions panel, select Window > Actions.

View the symbol definition for the selected symbol in the Movie Explorer

  1. Click the Show Buttons, Movie Clips, and Graphics button at the top of the Movie Explorer.

  2. Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Macintosh), and select Show Symbol Instances and Go To Symbol Definition; or select these options from the menu in the upper-right corner of the Movie Explorer.

Jump to the scene containing instances of a selected symbol

  1. Display the symbol definitions.

  2. Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Macintosh), and select Show Movie Elements and Go To Symbol Definition; or select these options from the menu in the upper-right corner of the Movie Explorer.

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