Harnessing the Power of Libraries in Adobe Illustrator

By Morty Golding

Dateline: January 2, 2006
Version: Adobe Illustrator CS

You don’t have to keep quiet in this library—Illustrator allows you to easily create and access libraries of commonly used Swatches (solid fills, gradients, and patterns), Graphic Styles, Brushes and Symbols. Illustrator also ships with hundreds of royalty-free libraries that you can use to make your designs scream out loud.

Finding Libraries

By default, all libraries are stored in the root Illustrator folder, in Presets. You’ll find separate folders for Swatches, Brushes, Graphic Styles, and Symbols. When you choose any Save Library command, this is the location where that library is saved. You can manually copy any libraries to these folders to have them appear in the list when you choose the Open Swatches Library command in any palette. (Restart Illustrator to see them, as these folders are scanned only at launch time.) Remember that Gradients and Patterns are considered swatches as well, and they also have their own folders.
Making Custom Palettes Persistent
If there are libraries that you use often, you can set them to open automatically each time you launch Illustrator. Start by first opening a frequently-used library and then check the Persistent option which is found in that library’s palette menu
Modifying and Saving
Custom Libraries

Modify and save an existing palette library, such as Styles, Symbols, Brushes, and Swatches for your own needs. Save your variations to the library by choosing Save Library in the palette pull-down menu.

The secret to understanding styles is to open the Appearance palette, which methodically lists every Fill, Stroke, and effect that is stored in a Graphic Style. Simply select a style in the Graphic Styles palette and then open the Appearance palette. Double-click on the effects listed to see their settings. You can define a new style by dragging the thumbnail icon from the Appearance palette into the Graphic Styles palette. Option/ Alt-drag the thumbnail on top of an existing Style to redefine it.

To reduce Symbols instances to their actual paths, drag a symbol to your artboard, and click on the Break Link to Symbol icon at the bottom of the Symbols palette.
View the settings for Brushes by double-clicking on the brush in the Brushes palette, or simply drag the brush out to the artboard to reveal the art that was used to define the brush.
Create your own swatches, and choose Save Swatch Library from the same menu to create a custom library. Upon restarting Illustrator, your custom library will appear in the Open Swatch Library list.
Additional Libraries
Illustrator CS ships with tons of content (literally) including hundreds of brushes, symbols, graphic styles, gradients, patterns, and colors. Click the Cool Extras icon in the Illustrator Welcome Screen (accessible from the Help menu) to open a PDF catalog file that lists all of this content, including over 300 ready-to-use and royalty-free templates.

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Mordy Golding is an Adobe Certified Expert and author and co-author of “SAMS Teach Yourself Adobe Creative Suite All in One,” “The Web Designer’s Guide to Color,” and “SAMS Teach Yourself Adobe Illustrator in 24 Hours.” Visit him at designresponsibly.com and mordy.com.