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Stack objects

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Learn how Illustrator stacks objects and hoe to change the stacking order.

Illustrator stacks successively drawn objects, beginning with the first object drawn.

The stacking order of objects determines the display order when they overlap. The stacking order of objects depends on the drawing mode you're using. When a new layer is created in the Draw Normal mode, it's placed right above the active layer, and any new objects are drawn at the top of the active layer. However, when a new layer is created in the Draw Behind mode, it's placed right below the active layer, and any new objects are drawn behind the selected object (or at the bottom of the active layer if no objects are selected).

You can change the stacking order (also called the painting order) of objects in your artwork at any time using either the Layers panel or by going to Object > Arrange.

You can add new objects to the stacking order with the Layers panel. Follow any of these options:

  • In the Draw Normal mode, to add the new object to the top of a layer, select the layer's name to make it active. In the Draw Behind mode, to add the new object to the bottom of a layer, select the layer's name to make it active.

Change the stacking order using the Layers panel

The artwork at the beginning of the Layers panel is at the front of the stacking order, while the artwork at the end of the Layers panel is at the back of the stacking order. Within a layer, objects are also stacked hierarchically. You can control how overlapping objects are displayed by creating multiple layers in your artwork.

Follow any of these options:

  • Drag the item’s name and release the mouse button when black insertion marks appear in the desired position. Black insertion marks appear either between two other items in the panel or on a layer or group's left and right edges. Items released over a layer or group are moved above all other objects in the item.

     

  • Click in the item’s selection column (between the target button and the scroll bar), drag the selection color box to a different item’s selection color box, and release the mouse button. If the item’s selection color box is dragged to an object, it is moved above the object; if it’s dragged to a layer or group, it is moved above all other objects in the layer or group.

  • To reverse the order of items in the Layers panel, hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Command (macOS) and select the names of the items whose order you want to reverse. The items must be at the same level in the layer hierarchy. For example, you can select two top-level layers, but you cannot select two paths in different layers. Then select Reverse Order from the Layers panel menu.

Note:

You cannot move a path, group, or collective element to the top position in the Layers panel—only layers can reside at the beginning of the layer hierarchy.

Change the stacking order using commands

Follow any of these options:

  • To move an object to the top or bottom position in its group or layer, select the object you want to move and select Object > Arrange > Bring To Front or Object > Arrange > Send To Back.

  • To move an object by one object to the front or one object to the back of a stack, select the object you want to move and select Object > Arrange > Bring Forward or Object > Arrange > Send Backward.


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