Symbols in Adobe Illustrator CS5

Symbols are a great way to store art work that you need to use often, inside your files. In this tutorial, we will explore how to define (create) and redefine (modify) symbols in Adobe Illustrator CS5.

Defining a Symbol

1. Open a document with the art work you want to define as symbol or create one. I have created this watermark for Saffron Stroke, which I need to use often.

Text for watermark

2. Open the Symbols palette (Window > Symbols or Shift + Ctrl + F11).

3. Select the art work, drag and drop into the Symbols Palette. The ‘Symbol Options’ dialog box pops up, as shown below;

Symbol Options dialog box

Enter a name for the Symbol, like Saffron Stroke Watermark and click OK. The symbol will now be added to the Symbols palette.

Symbols Palette

To place your symbol, simply drag out the symbol and drop it on your artboard.

Redefining a Symbol

If I want to modify the watermark symbol I created above, lets say I want to add the Copyright symbol to the text, something like ‘© SaffronStroke.com’. Then I have to redefine the symbol, since I want all my existing instances as well as future instance of the watermark to be displayed with the copyright mark. Please note that instead of redefining the symbol, I can create a new symbol too. That would be good if I may require to use both the symbols. But that’s not what I want.

1. After you placed the symbol on your artboard, do one of the following;

a. Right click and choose ‘Break Link to Symbol’.

b. From the drop down menu of the Symbols palette choose ‘Break Link to Symbol’.

2. Now the watermark is no more a symbol and is reduced to its fully editable paths.

Watermark Symbol

3. Now edit it like normal text.

Edited Watermark

4. Now drag the modified symbol, while holding down the ALT key (Option key for Mac) and drop it over the existing symbol. As soon as you do that, any existing instances of the symbol will be modified too.

To give you an idea, I had created two more instances of the symbol earlier. Before redefining the symbol;

Redefined Symbol

After redefining the symbol;

Redefined Symbol reflected

Now that we have learnt how to define and redefine Symbols in Adobe Illustrator CS5, we will explore the Symbol Tools in our next tutorial.

Filed Under: Adobe Illustrator

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About the Author: Minal is a freelance web and graphics designer. She specializes in designing Logos, Stationery, Graphics and Icons as well as website templates using graphical tools like Photoshop, Illustrator and Expression Web. Twitter @saffronstroke

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