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  1. Illustrator User Guide
  2. Get to know Illustrator
    1. Introduction to Illustrator
      1. What's new in Illustrator
      2. Common questions
      3. Illustrator system requirements
      4. Illustrator for Apple silicon
    2. Workspace
      1. Workspace basics
      2. Learn faster with the Illustrator Discover panel
      3. Create documents
      4. Toolbar
      5. Default keyboard shortcuts
      6. Customize keyboard shortcuts
      7. Introduction to artboards
      8. Manage artboards
      9. Customize the workspace
      10. Properties panel
      11. Set preferences
      12. Touch Workspace
      13. Microsoft Surface Dial support in Illustrator
      14. Undo edits and manage design history
      15. Rotate view
      16. Rulers, grids, and guides
      17. Accessibility in Illustrator
      18. Safe Mode
      19. View artwork
      20. Use the Touch Bar with Illustrator
      21. Files and templates
    3. Tools in Illustrator
      1. Tools at a glance
      2. Select tools
        1. Selection
        2. Direct Selection
        3. Group Selection
        4. Magic Wand
        5. Lasso
        6. Artboard
      3. Navigate tools
        1. Hand
        2. Rotate View
        3. Zoom
      4. Paint tools
        1. Gradient
        2. Mesh
        3. Shape Builder
      5. Text tools
        1. Type
        2. Type on a Path
        3. Vertical Type
      6. Draw tools
        1. Pen
        2. Add Anchor Point
        3. Delete Anchor Point
        4. Anchor Point
        5. Curvature
        6. Line Segment
        7. Rectangle
        8. Rounded Rectangle
        9. Ellipse
        10. Polygon
        11. Star
        12. Paintbrush
        13. Blob Brush
        14. Pencil
        15. Shaper
        16. Slice
      7. Modify tools
        1. Rotate
        2. Reflect
        3. Scale
        4. Shear
        5. Width
        6. Free Transform
        7. Eyedropper
        8. Blend
        9. Eraser
        10. Scissors
        11. Dimension
    4. Generative AI (not available in mainland China)
      1. Generate a vector graphic using a text prompt
      2. Recolor your artwork using a text prompt
    5. Quick actions
      1. Retro text
      2. Neon glow text
      3. Old school text
      4. Recolor
      5. Convert sketch to vector
  3. Illustrator on the web (beta)
    1. Illustrator on the web (beta) overview
    2. Illustrator on the web (beta) FAQ
    3. Troubleshooting issues FAQ
    4. Keyboard shortcuts for Illustrator on the web (beta)
    5. Create and combine shapes on the web
    6. Add and edit text on the web
    7. Apply colors and gradients on the web
    8. Draw and edit paths on the web
    9. Work with cloud documents on the web
    10. Invite collaborators to edit on the web
  4. Illustrator on the iPad
    1. Introduction to Illustrator on the iPad
      1. Illustrator on the iPad overview
      2. Illustrator on the iPad FAQs
      3. System requirements | Illustrator on the iPad
      4. What you can or cannot do on Illustrator on the iPad
    2. Workspace
      1. Illustrator on the iPad workspace
      2. Touch shortcuts and gestures
      3. Keyboard shortcuts for Illustrator on the iPad
      4. Manage your app settings
    3. Documents
      1. Work with documents in Illustrator on the iPad
      2. Import Photoshop and Fresco documents
    4. Select and arrange objects
      1. Create repeat objects
      2. Blend objects
    5. Drawing
      1. Draw and edit paths
      2. Draw and edit shapes
    6. Type
      1. Work with type and fonts
      2. Create text designs along a path
      3. Add your own fonts
    7. Work with images
      1. Vectorize raster images
    8. Color
      1. Apply colors and gradients
  5. Cloud documents
    1. Basics
      1. Work with Illustrator cloud documents
      2. Share and collaborate on Illustrator cloud documents
      3. Share documents for review
      4. Upgrade cloud storage for Adobe Illustrator
      5. Illustrator cloud documents | Common questions
    2. Troubleshooting
      1. Troubleshoot create or save issues for Illustrator cloud documents
      2. Troubleshoot Illustrator cloud documents issues
  6. Add and edit content
    1. Drawing and dimensioning
      1. Drawing basics
      2. Edit paths
      3. Draw pixel-perfect art
      4. Draw with the Pen, Curvature, or Pencil tool
      5. Draw simple lines and shapes
      6. Draw rectangular and polar grids
      7. Draw and edit flares
      8. Image Trace
      9. Simplify a path
      10. Symbolism tools and symbol sets
      11. Adjust path segments
      12. Design a flower in 5 easy steps
      13. Create and edit a perspective grid
      14. Draw and modify objects on a perspective grid
      15. Use objects as symbols for repeat use
      16. Draw pixel-aligned paths for web workflows
      17. Measure and plot dimensions
    2. 3D objects and materials
      1. About 3D effects in Illustrator
      2. Create 3D graphics
      3. Map artwork over 3D objects
      4. Create 3D Text
      5. Create 3D objects
    3. Color
      1. About color
      2. Select colors
      3. Use and create swatches
      4. Adjust colors
      5. Use the Adobe Color Themes panel
      6. Color groups (harmonies)
      7. Color Themes panel
      8. Recolor your artwork
    4. Painting
      1. About painting
      2. Paint with fills and strokes
      3. Live Paint groups
      4. Gradients
      5. Brushes
      6. Transparency and blending modes
      7. Apply stroke on an object
      8. Create and edit patterns
      9. Meshes
      10. Patterns
    5. Select and arrange objects
      1. Select objects
      2. Layers
      3. Group and expand objects
      4. Move, align, and distribute objects
      5. Stack objects    
      6. Lock, hide, and delete objects
      7. Copy and duplicate objects
      8. Rotate and reflect objects
      9. Intertwine objects
      10. Create realistic art mockups
    6. Reshape objects
      1. Crop images
      2. Transform objects
      3. Combine objects
      4. Cut, divide, and trim objects
      5. Puppet Warp
      6. Scale, shear, and distort objects
      7. Blend objects
      8. Reshape using envelopes
      9. Reshape objects with effects
      10. Build new shapes with Shaper and Shape Builder tools
      11. Work with Live Corners
      12. Enhanced reshape workflows with touch support
      13. Edit clipping masks
      14. Live shapes
      15. Create shapes using the Shape Builder tool
      16. Global editing
    7. Type
      1. Add text and work with type objects
      2. Create bulleted and numbered lists
      3. Manage text area
      4. Fonts and typography
      5. Convert text within images into editable text
      6. Add basic formatting to text
      7. Add advanced formatting to text
      8. Import and export text
      9. Format paragraphs
      10. Special characters
      11. Create type on a path
      12. Character and paragraph styles
      13. Tabs
      14. Find missing fonts (Typekit workflow)
      15. Arabic and Hebrew type
      16. Fonts | FAQ and troubleshooting tips
      17. Create 3D text effect
      18. Creative typography designs
      19. Scale and rotate type
      20. Line and character spacing
      21. Hyphenation and line breaks
      22. Spelling and language dictionaries
      23. Format Asian characters
      24. Composers for Asian scripts
      25. Create text designs with blend objects
      26. Create a text poster using Image Trace
    8. Create special effects
      1. Work with effects
      2. Graphic styles
      3. Appearance attributes
      4. Create sketches and mosaics
      5. Drop shadows, glows, and feathering
      6. Summary of effects
    9. Web graphics
      1. Best practices for creating web graphics
      2. Graphs
      3. SVG
      4. Slices and image maps
  7. Import, export, and save
    1. Import
      1. Place multiple files
      2. Manage linked and embedded files
      3. Links information
      4. Unembed images
      5. Import artwork from Photoshop
      6. Import bitmap images
      7. Import Adobe PDF files
      8. Import EPS, DCS, and AutoCAD files
    2. Creative Cloud Libraries in Illustrator 
      1. Creative Cloud Libraries in Illustrator
    3. Save
      1. Save artwork
    4. Export
      1. Use Illustrator artwork in Photoshop
      2. Export artwork
      3. Collect assets and export in batches
      4. Package files
      5. Create Adobe PDF files
      6. Extract CSS | Illustrator CC
      7. Adobe PDF options
      8. Document info panel
  8. Printing
    1. Prepare for printing
      1. Set up documents for printing
      2. Change the page size and orientation
      3. Specify crop marks for trimming or aligning
      4. Get started with large canvas
    2. Printing
      1. Overprint
      2. Print with color management
      3. PostScript printing
      4. Print presets
      5. Printer's marks and bleeds
      6. Print and save transparent artwork
      7. Trapping
      8. Print color separations
      9. Print gradients, meshes, and color blends
      10. White Overprint
  9. Automate tasks
    1. Data merge using the Variables panel
    2. Automation with scripts
    3. Automation with actions
  10. Troubleshooting 
    1. Known issues
    2. Crash issues
    3. Recover files after crash
    4. File issues
    5. Supported file formats
    6. GPU device driver issues
    7. Wacom device issues
    8. DLL file issues
    9. Memory issues
    10. Preferences file issues
    11. Font issues
    12. Printer issues
    13. Share crash report with Adobe
    14. Improve Illustrator performance

Learn to work with layers to organize and edit artwork in Adobe Illustrator.

About layers

When creating complex artwork, it’s a challenge to keep track of all the items in your document window. Small items get hidden under larger items, and selecting artwork becomes difficult. Layers provide a way to manage all the items that make up your artwork. Think of layers as clear folders that contain artwork. If you reshuffle the folders, you change the stacking order of the items in your artwork. You can move items between folders and create subfolders within folders.

The structure of layers in your document can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. By default, all items are organized in a single, parent layer. However, you can create new layers and move items into them, or move elements from one layer to another at any time.

The Layers panel provides an easy way to select, hide, lock, and change the appearance attributes of artwork. You can even create template layers, which you can use to trace artwork, and exchange layers with Photoshop.

For a video about keeping your artwork flexible and organized by using layers in your document, see Organize artwork with layers.

Layers panel overview

  • Use the Layers panel (Window > Layers) to list, organize, and edit the objects in a document. By default, every new document contains one layer, and each object you create is listed under that layer. However, you can create new layers and rearrange items to best suit your needs.
  • By default, Illustrator assigns a unique color (up to nine colors) to each layer in the Layers panel. The color displays next to the layer name in the panel. The same color is displayed in the illustration window in the bounding box, path, anchor points, and center point of a selected object. You can use this color to quickly locate an object’s corresponding layer in the Layers panel, and you can change the layer color to suit your needs.
  • When an item in the Layers panel contains other items, an arrow  appears to the left of the item’s name. Click the arrow  to show or hide the contents. If no arrow appears, the item contains no additional items.
Layers panel
Layers panel

A. Visibility column B. Edit column C. Target column D. Selection column 

The Layers panel provides columns to the left and right of the listings. Click in a column to control the following characteristics:

Visibility column

Indicates whether items in the layers are visible   or hidden (blank space), or whether they are template  layers or outline  layers.

Edit column

Indicates whether items are locked or unlocked. The lock icon  indicates that the item is locked and cannot be edited; a blank space indicates that the item is unlocked and can be edited.

Target column

Indicates whether items are targeted for application of effects and edit attributes in the Appearance panel. When the target button appears as a double ring icon (either  or ), the item is targeted; a single ring icon indicates that the item is not targeted.

Selection column

Indicates whether items are selected. A color box appears when an item is selected. If an item, such as a layer or group, contains some objects that are selected and other objects that are unselected, a smaller selection color box appears next to the parent item. If all of the objects within the parent item are selected, the selection color boxes are the same size as the marks that appear next to selected objects.

You can use the Layers panel to display some items as outlines and other items as they will appear in the final artwork. You also can dim linked images and bitmap objects to make it easier to edit artwork on top of the image. This is especially useful when tracing a bitmap image.

Display options for layered artwork
Display options for layered artwork

A. Object displayed in Outline view B. Bitmap object dimmed to 50% C. Selected object displayed in Preview view 

Change the display of the Layers panel

  1. Choose panel Options from the Layers panel menu.

  2. Select Show Layers Only to hide paths, groups, and collective elements in the Layers panel.

  3. For Row Size, select an option to specify the height of rows. (To specify a custom size, enter a value between 12 and 100.)

  4. For Thumbnails, select a combination of layers, groups, and objects for which to display thumbnail previews.


    Displaying thumbnails in the Layers panel may result in slow performance when you are working with complex files. Turn off layer thumbnails to improve performance.

Set layer and sublayer options

  1. Do one of the following:

    • Double-click the item name in the Layers panel.

    • Click the item name and choose Options For <item name> from the Layers panel menu.

    • Choose New Layer or New Sublayer from the Layers panel menu.

  2. Specify any of the following:


    Specifies the name of the item as it appears in the Layers panel.


    Specifies the layer’s color setting. You can either choose a color from the menu or double-click the color swatch to select a color.


    Makes the layer a template layer.


    Prevents changes to the item.


    Displays all artwork contained in the layer on the artboard.


    Makes the artwork contained in the layer printable.


    Displays the artwork contained in the layer in color instead of as outlines.

    Dim Images

    Reduces the intensity of linked images and bitmap images contained in the layer to the specified percentage.

Create a layer

  1. In the Layers panel, click the name of the layer above which (or in which) you want to add the new layer.

  2. Do one of the following:

    • To add a new layer above the selected layer, click the Create New Layer button  in the Layers panel.

    • To create a new sublayer inside the selected layer, click the Create New Sublayer button  in the Layers panel.

      Tip: To set options when you create a new layer, choose New Layer or New Sublayer from the Layers panel menu.

    For different drawing modes, Illustrator provides several options, which include:

    • The Draw Behind mode automatically creates an active new layer behind the active layer.

    • In draw behind mode, artwork is drawn behind all artwork on a selected layer if no artwork is selected.

Move an object to a different layer

  1. Select the object.

  2. Do one of the following:

    • Click the name of the desired layer in the Layers panel. Then choose Object > Arrange > Send To Current Layer.

    • Drag the selected-art indicator , located at the right of the layer in the Layers panel, to the layer you want.

      Tip: You can move objects or layers into a new layer by selecting them and choosing Collect In New Layer from the Layers panel menu. Hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) to select nonadjacent items; hold down Shift to select adjacent items.

Release items to separate layers

The Release To Layers command redistributes all of the items in a layer into individual layers and can build new objects in each layer based on the object’s stacking order. You can use this feature to prepare files for web animation work.

  1. In the Layers panel, click the name of a layer or group.

  2. Do one of the following:

    • To release each item to a new layer, choose Release To Layers (Sequence) from the Layers panel menu.

    • To release items into layers and duplicate objects to create a cumulative sequence, choose Release To Layers (Build) from the Layers panel menu. The bottommost object appears in each of the new layers, and the topmost object only appears in the topmost layer. For example, assume Layer 1 contains a circle (bottommost object), a square, and a triangle (topmost object). This command creates three layers—one with a circle, square, and triangle; one with a circle and square; and one with just a circle. This is useful for creating cumulative animation sequences.

    Release To Layers (Build) command creates new layers
    Release To Layers (Build) command creates new layers

Consolidate layers and groups

Merging and flattening layers are similar in that they both let you consolidate objects, groups, and sublayers into a single layer or group. With merging, you can select which items you want to consolidate; with flattening, all visible items in the artwork are consolidated in a single layer. With either option, the stacking order of the artwork remains the same, but other layer-level attributes, such as clipping masks, aren’t preserved.

  • To merge items into a single layer or group, hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) and click the names of the layers or groups that you want to merge. Alternatively, hold down Shift to select all listings in between the layer or group names you click. Then, select Merge Selected from the Layers panel menu. Note that items will be merged into the layer or group that you selected last.

    Layers can only merge with other layers that are on the same hierarchical level in the Layers panel. Likewise, sublayers can only merge with other sublayers that are within the same layer and at the same hierarchical level. Objects can’t be merged with other objects.

  • To flatten layers, click the name of the layer into which you want to consolidate the artwork. Then select Flatten Artwork from the Layers panel menu.

Locate an item in the Layers panel

When you select an item in your document window, you can quickly locate the corresponding item in the Layers panel using the Locate Object command. This command is especially helpful for locating items in collapsed layers.

  1. Select an object in the document window. If you select more than one object, the frontmost object in the stacking order will be located.

  2. Choose Locate Object from the Layers panel menu. This command changes to Locate Layer if the Show Layers Only panel option is selected.

Search and filter layers and objects

Use the search bar, or the By Object and By Layer filters in the Layers panel to search for a specific object or layer.

search and apply filter in the layers panel
Search and filter layers and objects

A. Search B. Apply filter 

Talk to us

Ask the Community

If you've a question to ask or an idea to share, come and participate in Adobe Illustrator Community. We would love to hear from you.


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