Symbolism tools and symbol sets

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About symbol sets

A symbol set is a group of symbol instances that you create with the Symbol Sprayer tool. You can create mixed sets of symbol instances by using the Symbol Sprayer tool with one symbol and then using it again with another symbol.

Artwork created with the symbolism tools
Artwork created with the symbolism tools

As you work with symbol sets, keep in mind that the symbolism tools affect only the symbol or symbols selected in the Symbols panel. For example, if you create a mixed symbol instance set that represents a meadow with grass and flowers, you can change the orientation of just the grass by selecting the grass symbol in the Symbols panel and then using the Symbol Spinner tool. To change the size of both the grass and the flowers, select both symbols in the Symbols panel and then use the Symbol Sizer tool.

Note:

When you select a mixed symbol set on the artboard, the symbol instance most recently added to the set is automatically selected in the Symbols panel.

Create symbol sets

The Symbol Sprayer acts like a particle sprayer—letting you add a large number of identical objects to the artboard at one time. For example, use the symbol sprayer to add hundreds of grass blades, wildflowers, bees, or snowflakes.

Spray sets of symbol instances onto artwork

  1. Select a symbol in the Symbols panel, and then select the Symbol Sprayer tool .

  2. Click or drag where you want the symbol instances to appear.

Add or delete symbol instances from an existing set

  1. Select the existing symbol set.

  2. Select the Symbol Sprayer tool  and a symbol in the Symbols panel.

  3. Do one of the following:

    • To add symbol instances, click or drag where you want the new instances to appear.

    • To delete symbol instances, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) as you click or drag where you want to remove instances.

Modify symbol instances in a symbol set

You use the symbolism tools to modify multiple symbol instances in a set. For example, you can disperse instances over a larger area using the Symbol Scruncher tool or gradually tinting the color of instances to make them look more realistic.

Although you can use symbolism tools on individual symbol instances, they are most effective when used on symbol sets. When working with individual symbol instances, most of these tasks are easily accomplished using the tools and commands you use on regular objects.

Change stacking order of symbol instances in a set

  1. Select the Symbol Shifter tool .

  2. Do one of the following:

    • To move symbol instances, drag in the direction you want the symbol instances to move.

    • To bring symbol instances forward, Shift-click the symbol instance.

    • To send symbol instances backward, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) and Shift-click the symbol instance.

Gather or scatter symbol instances

  1. Select the Symbol Scruncher tool .

  2. Do one of the following:

    • Click or drag in the area where you want to pull the symbol instances toward each other.

    • Hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS), and click or drag in the area where you want to push symbol instances away from each other.

Resize symbol instances

  1. Select the Symbol Sizer tool .

  2. Do one of the following:

    • Click or drag in the set where you want to increase the size of the symbol instances.

    • Hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS), and click or drag where you want to decrease the size of the symbol instances.

    • Hold down Shift as you click or drag to preserve the density of the symbol instances while resizing.

Rotate symbol instances

  1. Select the Symbol Spinner tool .

  2. Click or drag in the direction you want the symbol instances to orient.

Stain symbol instances

Staining a symbol instance changes the hue toward the tint color, while preserving the original luminosity. (It works in the same way as the Tints and Shades colorization method of tinting brushes.) This method uses the luminosity of the original color and the hue of the colorization color to generate the resulting color. Consequently, colors with very high or very low luminosity change very little; black or white objects don’t change at all.

Note:

To achieve a method of colorization that will also affect black and white objects, use the Symbol Styler tool with a graphic style that uses the desired fill color.

  1. In the Color panel, select the fill color that you want to use as the colorization color.

  2. Select the Symbol Stainer tool  and do one of the following:

    • Click or drag over the symbol instances you want to stain with the colorization color. The amount of colorization gradually increases, and the symbol instance’s color gradually changes to the colorization color.

    • Hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) as you click or drag to decrease the colorization amount and reveal more of the original symbol color.

    • Hold down Shift as you click or drag to keep the colorization amount constant, while gradually changing the color of the symbol instances to the colorization color.

      note: Using the Symbol Stainer tool results in increased file size and decreased performance. When memory or exported Flash/SVG file size is a concern, do not use this tool.

Adjust transparency of symbol instances

  1. Select the Symbol Screener tool .

  2. Do one of the following:

    • Click or drag where you want to increase the symbol’s transparency.

    • Hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS), and click or drag where you want to decrease the symbol’s transparency.

Apply a graphic style to symbol instances

The Symbol Styler tool lets you apply or remove a graphic style from a symbol instance. You can control the amount and location of the application. For example, you can apply a style gradually so that some symbol instances display the style at full strength and others display the style at partial strength.

Graphic style applied at full strength (top) compared to graphic style applied at varying strengths (bottom)
Graphic style applied at full strength (top) compared to graphic style applied at varying strengths (bottom)

Note:

You can switch to the Symbol Styler tool when using any other symbolism tool by clicking a style in the Graphic Styles panel.

  1. Select the Symbol Styler tool .

  2. Select a style in the Graphic Styles panel, and do one of the following:

    • Click or drag where you want to apply the style to the symbol set. The amount of style applied to the symbol instances increases, and the style gradually changes.

    • Hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) as you click or drag to decrease the style amount and reveal more of the original, unstyled symbol.

    • Hold down Shift as you click or drag to keep the amount of style constant, while gradually changing the symbol instance style to the selected style.

      note: It is very important to perform steps 1 and 2 in the specified order. If you select a style while a tool other than the symbolism tool is selected, the style will apply immediately to the entire selected symbol instance set.

Symbolism tool options

You access symbolism tool options by double-clicking a symbolism tool in the Tools panel.

General options, such as diameter, intensity, and density, appear at the top of the dialog box. Tool-specific options appear at the bottom of the dialog box. To switch to options for a different tool, click a tool icon in the dialog box.

General options

The General options appear at the top of the Symbolism Tools Options dialog box regardless of which symbolism tool is selected.

Symbol Sprayer options

The Symbol Sprayer options (Scrunch, Size, Spin, Screen, Stain, and Style) appear under the General options in the Symbolism Tools Options dialog box only when the Symbol Sprayer tool is selected, and control how new symbol instances are added to symbol sets. Each of these offers two choices:

Symbol Sizer options

The Symbol Sizer options appear under the General options in the Symbolism Tools Options dialog box only when the Symbol Sizer tool is selected.

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