Using Graphic Styles in Illustrator (Part 2)

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Customizing Graphic Styles

Customizing Graphic Styles screenshot


Continued from Graphic Styles Tutorial Part 1

Graphic Styles Library. Open the Appearance panel (Window > Appearance if it is not already open). You can see all of the effects, fills, and strokes that make up any Graphic Style in the Appearance panel. Note this style has no stroke, but it is comprised of 4 different fills. Click the arrow beside a fill to see the attributes of the fill. On the top fill, you can see in the screenshot that it has an opacity of 25%. Click the Opacity link in the Appearance panel to change the value. You can open each of the other fills to see their attributes and change their values if you want.

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Editing Opacity and Blend Mode

Editing Opacity and Blend Mode screenshot


Clicking the opacity link brings up a dialog that not only lets you change the value of the opacity, but the blend mode as well. Not only can you change the opacities (or any other attribute the Fills have), you can change the fills themselves, using other patterns, solid colors, or gradients to alter the appearance of the style.

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Saving Custom Graphic Styles

Saving Custom Graphic Styles screenshot


Saving your personal or edited styles can be a big time saver for you. If you are going to use the same set of effects over and over, saving it as a Graphic Style makes good sense. To save the style, drag the object to the Graphic Styles panel and drop it in. It will appear as a swatch in the Graphic Styles panel.

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Creating your Own Graphic Styles

Creating your Own Graphic Styles screenshot


You can also create your own Graphic Styles from scratch. Make an object. Open the Swatches panel (Window > Swatches). Click the Swatches panel menu at the bottom of the panel to open it and choose a swatches library to load.

Then using the Appearance panel, we added another fill using a gradient, and four strokes. You can see the values and colors we chose in our Appearance panel. You can drag and drop the layers in the Appearance panel to change the stacking order of the fills and strokes. Save the style as you did before by dragging the object to the Graphic Styles panel and dropping it.

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Using your Custom Graphic Style

Using your Custom Graphic Style screenshot


Apply the new style from the Graphic Styles panel the same as you applied the preset styles. The beauty of graphic styles is that they retain all of the appearance layers and attributes you set, so they can be edited again to suit the object you are using them on. For the star shape, We changed the width of the strokes, and we edited the gradient fill. To edit a gradient fill, select the gradient fill layer in the Appearance panel, then click the Gradient tool in the toolbox to make it active. You can now use the tool to adjust the way the gradient falls on the shape. (Note: These new gradient controls are new in Illustrator CS 4.) Drag and drop the edited style into the Graphic Styles panel.

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Creating a Library of Custom Styles

Creating a Library of Custom Styles screenshot


You can make other changes too. Click the pattern fill layer to open the options and try changing the fill. Each time you do so, if you like what you see, add the new style to the Graphic Styles panel as before. Remember, you can load more patterns in the Swatches panel and use those as new fills too. Just make sure the fill you are replacing is targeted in the Appearance panel, and click the new swatch in the Swatches panel to apply to the shape.

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Saving your Custom Graphic Styles Library

Saving your Custom Graphic Styles Library screenshot


When you have created all the styles you want in your new set, go to

We aren't really done yet, but you don't want to accidentally lose the styles you have created while we clean up the document.

Graphic Styles are a document level resource. What this means is that although you have created the styles and added them to the Graphic Styles panel, they are not truly a part of Illustrator. If you were to open a new document, you would see all of them would be gone, and you would have a bare-bones set of styles, brushes, and symbols. Document level resources are not saved with a document unless they are actually used in the document.

First, make sure that every style you have created is actually used in the document. Create enough shapes to use each style on one shape.

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Document Clean Up and the Final Save

Running several tasks to clean up the document will keep the file size smaller and insure you only have the new styles in this custom styles library.

First, go to Object > Path > Clean Up. Make sure Stray Points, Unpainted Objects, and Empty Text Boxes are all checked and click OK. If you had any of these items on the page, they will be deleted. If you did not, you will get a message stating no clean up was necessary.

We will be cleaning up the other panels as well, but the Graphic Styles panel should always be first because it uses items from the other panels, such as swatches and brushes. Open the Graphic Styles panel options menu and choose Select All Unused. This will select all styles in the panel that are not used on the document, and give you the opportunity to use any you missed if you went a little overboard like we did and have a large number of styles for the library.

Next, open the Graphic Styles panel menu and choose Delete Graphic Style, When asked if Illustrator should delete the selection, say yes.

Repeat the process for the Symbols and Brushes panels.

Lastly, clean up the Swatches panel in the same manner: Panel Options menu> Select all Unused, then Panel Options menu > Delete the selection. Make sure you do the Swatches panel last. The reason for this is that if you do it before the others, any colors used in Styles, Symbols, or Brushes in the palettes will not be cleaned up, because even if they aren’t used in the document, if they are still in the palettes, technically, they are still in use.

Save the document again (File > Save) to save the changes you have made. Close the file.

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Loading the Custom Graphic Styles

Loading the Custom Graphic Styles screenshot


Start a new document and create a shape or two on the page. To load the custom styles library you created, click the Graphic Styles menu at the bottom of the Graphic Styles panel and choose

. Navigate to where you saved your file and double-click on it to open the styles.

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Using your Custom Graphic Styles

Using your Custom Graphic Styles screenshot


Apply your new styles to your objects as you did before. One word of caution: Graphic Styles can be addicting! Enjoy!