You can change the appearance of any object, group, or layer in Adobe Illustrator by using effects and the Appearance and Graphic Styles panels. In addition, you can divide an object into its essential parts to modify elements of the object independently.

About appearance attributes

Appearance attributes are properties that affect the look of an object without altering its underlying structure. Appearance attributes include fills, strokes, transparency, and effects. If you apply an appearance attribute to an object and later edit or remove that attribute, it does not change the underlying object or any other attributes applied to the object.

You can set appearance attributes at any level of the layer hierarchy. For example, if you apply a drop shadow effect to a layer, all objects in the layer take on the drop shadow. However, if you move an object out of the layer, that object will no longer have a drop-shadow because the effect belongs to the layer, not to each object within the layer.

The Appearance panel is the gateway to working with appearance attributes. Because you can apply appearance attributes to layers, groups, and objects—and often to fills and strokes too—the hierarchy of attributes in your artwork can become very complex. For example, if you apply one effect to an entire layer and another effect to an object in the layer, it may be difficult to determine which effect is causing the artwork to change. The Appearance panel shows you the fills, strokes, graphic styles, and effects that have been applied to an object, group, or layer.

For a video on using the Appearance panel and the Graphics Styles panel, see www.adobe.com/go/lrvid4022_ai .

Appearance panel overview

You use the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance) to view and adjust the appearance attributes for an object, group, or layer. Fills and strokes are listed in stacking order; top to bottom in the panel correlates to front to back in the artwork. Effects are listed from top to bottom in the order in which they are applied to the artwork.

For a video on using the Appearance panel and the Graphics Styles panel, see www.adobe.com/go/lrvid4022_ai .

Appearance panel listing attributes of a grouped object
Appearance panel listing attributes of a grouped object

A. Path with stroke, fill, and drop shadow effect B. Path with effect C. Add New Stroke button D. Add New Fill button E. Add Effect button F. Clear Appearance button G. Duplicate Selected Item button 

Reveal additional items in the Appearance panel

When you select items that contain other items, such as a layer or group, the Appearance panel displays a Contents item.

  • Double-click the Contents item.

List character attributes for a text object in the Appearance panel

When you select a text object, the panel displays a Characters item.

  1. Double-click the Characters item in the Appearance panel.

    Note:

    To see individual character attributes for text with mixed appearance, select the individual character.

  2. Click Type at the top of the panel to return to the main view.

Turn an attribute on or off for selected object

  • To turn an individual attribute on or off, click the eyeball icon next to the attribute.

  • To turn all hidden attributes on, choose Show All Hidden Attributes from the Appearance panel menu.

Edit an attribute

  • Click in the attribute row to display and set values.

  • Click the underlined text and specify new values in the dialog box that appears.

Show or hide thumbnails in the Appearance panel

  • Choose Show Thumbnail or Hide Thumbnail from the Appearance panel menu.

Specify how appearance attributes are applied to new objects

You can specify whether you want new objects to inherit appearance attributes or have only basic attributes.

  • To apply only a single fill and stroke to new objects, choose New Art Has Basic Appearance from the panel menu.

  • To apply all of the current appearance attributes to new objects, deselect New Art Has Basic Appearance from the panel menu.

Targeting items for appearance attributes

Before you can set an appearance attribute or apply a style or an effect to a layer, group, or object, you must target the item in the Layers panel. Selecting an object or group using any selection method also targets the object or group in the Layers panel, but layers can be targeted only by using the panel.

Shaded target icons in the Layers panel indicate which items contain appearance attributes.
Shaded target icons in the Layers panel indicate which items contain appearance attributes.

A. Targeting and appearance column B. Selection column C. Group with appearance attributes D. Layer with appearance attributes E. Object with appearance attributes 

The target icon indicates whether an item in the layer hierarchy has any appearance attributes and whether it is targeted:

  • Indicates the item is not targeted and has no appearance attributes beyond a single fill and a single stroke.

  • Indicates the item is not targeted but has appearance attributes.

  • Indicates the item is targeted but has no appearance attributes beyond a single fill and a single stroke.

  • Indicates the item is targeted and has appearance attributes.

    To target an item in the Layers panel, click the item’s target icon. A double ring  or  indicates that the item is targeted. Shift‑click to target additional items.

    Note: When an object or group is selected by any method, the item is also targeted in the Layers panel. In contrast, a layer can be targeted only by clicking its target icon in the Layers panel.

Manage appearance attributes

Edit or add an appearance attribute

You can open an appearance attribute, such as an effect, and change the settings at any time.

  • In the Appearance panel, do any of the following:

    • To edit an attribute, click the blue underlined name of the attribute, and specify changes in the dialog box that appears.

    • To edit a fill color, click the fill row and choose a new color from the color box.

    • To add a new effect, click Add New Effect .

    • To delete an attribute, click the attribute row, and then click Delete .

Duplicate an appearance attribute

  • Select an attribute in the Appearance panel, and do one of the following:

    • Click the Duplicate Selected Item button  in the panel, or choose Duplicate Item from the panel menu.

    • Drag the appearance attribute onto the Duplicate Selected Item button in the panel.

Change the stacking order of appearance attributes

  • Drag an appearance attribute up or down in the Appearance panel. (If necessary, click the toggle triangle next to an item to display its contents.) When the outline of the appearance attribute you are dragging appears in the desired position, release the mouse button.

    Drop Shadow effect applied to stroke (top) compared to same effect moved to fill (bottom)
    Drop Shadow effect applied to stroke (top) compared to same effect moved to fill (bottom)

Remove or hide appearance attributes

  1. Select the object or group (or target a layer in the Layers panel).

  2. Do one of the following:

    • To temporarily hide an attribute applied to your artwork, click the Visibility icon  in the Appearance panel. Click it again to see the attribute applied again.

    • To remove a specific attribute, select the attribute in the Appearance panel, and click the Delete icon . Alternatively, select Remove Item from the panel menu, or drag the attribute to the Delete icon.

    • To remove all appearance attributes except a single fill and stroke, choose Reduce To Basic Appearance from the panel menu. Alternatively, drag the target icon for an item in the Layers panel onto the Delete icon in the Layers panel.

    • To remove all appearance attributes, including any fill or stroke, click the Clear Appearance button  in the Appearance panel or choose Clear Appearance from the panel menu.

Copy appearance attributes between objects

You can copy or move appearance attributes by dragging or by using the Eyedropper tool.

Copy appearance attributes by dragging

  1. Select the object or group (or target the layer in the Layers panel) whose appearance you want to copy.

  2. Do one of the following:

    • Drag the thumbnail at the top of the Appearance panel onto an object in the document window. If a thumbnail isn’t showing, choose Show Thumbnail from the panel menu.

    • Alt‑drag (Windows) or Option‑drag (Mac OS) the target icon in the Layers panel onto the item to which you want to copy appearance attributes.

    • To move appearance attributes instead of copying them, drag the target icon in the Layers panel from any item that has the desired attributes onto the item to which you want to apply it.

Copy appearance attributes using the Eyedropper tool

You can use the Eyedropper tool to copy appearance attributes from one object to another, including character, paragraph, fill, and stroke attributes between type objects. By default, the Eyedropper tool affects all attributes of a selection. To customize the attributes affected by this tool, use the Eyedropper dialog box.

  1. Select the object, type object, or characters whose attributes you want to change.

  2. Select the Eyedropper tool .

  3. Move the Eyedropper tool onto the object whose attributes you want to sample. (When you’re correctly positioned over type, the pointer displays a small T.)

  4. Do one of the following:

    • Click the Eyedropper tool to sample all appearance attributes and apply them to the selected object.

    • Shift‑click to sample only the color from a portion of a gradient, pattern, mesh object, or placed image and apply the color to the selected fill or stroke.

    • Hold down the Shift key and then the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) key while clicking to add the appearance attributes of an object to the selected object’s appearance attributes. Alternatively, click first, and then hold down Shift+Alt (Windows) or Shift+Option (Mac OS).

      note: You can also click an unselected object to sample its attributes and Alt‑click (Windows) or Option‑click (Mac OS) an unselected object to which you want to apply the attributes.

Copy attributes from the desktop using the Eyedropper tool

  1. Select the object whose attributes you want to change.

  2. Select the Eyedropper tool.

  3. Click anywhere on the document and continue to hold down the mouse button.

  4. Without releasing the mouse button, move the pointer over the object on your computer desktop whose attributes you want to copy. When directly over the object, release the mouse button.

    Note:

    The Eyedropper tool samples only the RGB color from the screen when sampling anywhere outside the current document. The Eyedropper tool indicates it is sampling RGB color from the screen by displaying a black-colored square to the right of the tool.

Specify which attributes you can copy with the Eyedropper tool

  1. Double-click the Eyedropper tool.

  2. Select the attributes you want to copy with the Eyedropper tool. You can sample appearance attributes including transparency, and various fill and stroke properties, as well as character and paragraph properties.

  3. Choose the sample size area from the Raster Sample Size menu.

  4. Click OK.

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