Speed Up Your Design Process Using Symbols in Illustrator, Part 2


Sheila Pen

, Shutterstock Submitter

Part 1 of this Symbol Series showed you how to create symbols and manipulate them. Now we will examine the tools that change the appearance of symbol instances and how to map symbols onto 3D objects.

Symbol Stainer Tool

This tool allows you to change the color of symbol instances. To see how this action works, select the star symbol set from Part 1, and then select the symbol stainer tool. Next, select the red color swatch from the swatches panel and start clicking or dragging on some stars. You‘ll see the stars start changing color, beginning first with a faint tint of red until they get very saturated with red. Select different colors from the swatches panel and click on some other stars to quickly create multi-colored stars.

The Symbol Stainer Tool is used to colorize the stars.

If you don‘t like the color change that you‘ve applied, just hold down Alt (Windows) orOptions (Mac) as you click on the stars. Any colorization that has been applied will disappear bit by bit to reveal the original star color.

Symbol Screener Tool

To adjust the transparency of symbol instances, select the symbol screener tool. Using this tool while clicking or dragging over stars will make them more and more transparent. To reverse any transparency applied, just hold down Alt (Windows) or Options (Mac) as you click or drag on stars that you want to make less transparent.

The Symbol Screener Tool is used to make stars transparent.

Symbol Styler Tool

If you open the Graphic Styles Panel by clicking on the menu Window > Graphic Styles, you will see there are a lot of different graphic styles to choose from. With the symbol styler tool, you can apply these styles to symbol instances at varying strengths. To do this, select the symbol styler tool and then select a graphic style from the graphic styles panel. Click or drag on the stars and their appearance will start to change to that of the selected graphic style. Try this with a few other graphic styles. Below I‘ve used quite a few to demonstrate. If you want to decrease the strength of the graphic style already applied and return back to the original star, just hold down Alt (Windows) or Options (Mac) as you click or drag.

The Symbol Styler Tool used to apply different graphic styles to the stars.

Mapping Symbols onto Surfaces of 3D Objects

Any symbol that is in the symbols panel can be mapped onto surfaces of 3D objects. Since we‘ve already got a star symbol in the symbols panel from Part 1, let‘s see how to map it onto the surface of a red circus ball.

First we need to create our 3D ball. Draw half a circle and give it a nice red fill from theswatches panel. With it selected, click Effect > 3D > Revolve and click preview to see the semi-circle turn into a red shiny ball. Then click the Map Art button so the Map Art dialog box appears.

At the top left of the Map Art dialog box, select the star symbol from the symbol drop down menu and a star will appear on the surface grid in the middle of the dialog box. Move this star on the grid by clicking on it and dragging it to where you want it. You can also rotate or resize it by using the anchor points of the box that surround the star. Clicking preview will show on the 3D ball where it will be positioned. Once you‘re happy with the positioning, clickShade Artwork, so the star adopts the same lighting and shading as the ball and then clickOK. That‘s it; you‘ve finished the mapping process!

Hopefully this series has introduced you to the basics of what can be achieved with symbols and how to use the symbolism tools. But really we‘ve only touched the surface and there is a lot more to explore and experiment, so start practicing. To end this series and finalize our circus ball illustration, all that is needed is a balancing elephant! Have lots of fun with symbols!