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How to add layers in illustrator

How to add layers in illustrator

Shapes are a basic element that you’ll find in most designs, and they can make drawing in Adobe Illustrator much easier. While you can get both basic and complex shapes from the Storyblocks vector library , it’s nice to know how to create the basics on your own when you need them. Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to geometric mastery in Adobe AI—or save yourself the time and download the shapes you need from our library.

How to Make Basic Shapes in Illustrator

Let’s start with the basics. To make a shape in Illustrator, you’ll need to choose from the Shape Tools . The default shape is a Rectangle , but you can also choose from a Rounded Rectangle , Ellipse , Polygon , Star , or Flare . To choose from these other shapes, right click on the Rectangle Tool and select the one you want to make. From here, all you need to do is click and drag to make your shape.

How to add layers in illustrator

Helpful Shortcuts for Drawing the Basic Shapes

  1. If you hold the Shift key when creating a rectangle or rounded rectangle, you will get a perfectly proportioned square.
  2. If you hold the Shift key when creating an ellipse, you’ll get a perfect circle.
  3. Holding the Alt key (the Option key for all you Mac users) will allow you to draw a shape from the center rather than the corner.
  4. If you know the exact size shape you want to create, then with the shape tool selected, click on the screen and don’t drag. A box will pop up, and you can enter the exact dimensions for your shape.

How to Color Shapes in Illustrator

Coloring in your shapes is easy. First, you’ll need to make sure your shape is selected. You can choose from common colors using the color pickers at the top left of the screen or you can choose from every color possible using the color pickers in the toolbar. Both options are shown below, so pick whichever one works best for you.

How to add layers in illustrator

How to add layers in illustrator

How to Cut Shapes in Illustrator

The basic shape tools don’t include some popular options like half circles, and in order to make these shapes, you actually have to cut your basic shapes. There are multiple ways to cut a shape, but the easiest way is to draw a line where you want the cut to occur, then divide the shapes using the pathfinder tool. You can see the pathfinder tool if you go to Window > Pathfinder .

  1. Draw a cut line (or two). How to add layers in illustrator
  2. Open the Pathfinder Tool.How to add layers in illustrator
  3. Select the lines and shape, then press Divide in the Pathfinder Tool to make the cut. How to add layers in illustratorHow to add layers in illustrator

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How to Use Keyboard Shortcuts to Make Triangles, Bursts, and More

You learned how to cut shapes, and you can technically do that to make a triangle, but there’s an easier way. If you choose the Star Tool, click and drag, and while still pressing down on your mouse button, also press the Down Arrow Key on your keyboard—this will reduce the number of points in the star. Do this twice for a triangle. You can also press the Up Arrow Key on your keyboard to increase the number of points and create bursts.

You can use this same concept on the Polygon Tool. Select the Polygon Tool , then click and drag while pressing the Up and Down keys to increase or decrease the number of sides on the polygon. You’ll no longer be limited to just a hexagon. Now you can easily create pentagons, decagons, and hendecagons—oh my!

How to Merge Shapes in Illustrator

At some point you may find that you want to merge or combine shapes in Illustrator. To do so, you will need to open the pathfinder tool. To find it, go to Window > Pathfinder , and the toolbox will pop up. Select the objects that you want to merge, then select Merge from the pathfinder toolbox. Tah dah! You can combine shapes to create arrows (a more common design element), but an ice cream cone seemed like a more exciting demonstration.

How to add layers in illustrator

How to add layers in illustrator

There’s a lot more that you can do with shapes, and with time and patience, you can create beautiful geometric patterns like these —or you can download what you need from our library, and save time for your other projects.

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I’m new in Adobe Illustrator. Are there any other ways to create a new layer in Illustrator than pressing the button at the bottom of the Layers panel? Is there a shortcut, like Shift + Ctrl + N in Photoshop? And for clarification – is there a way to create a new layer from the main menu? It seems layers are much more important in Photoshop, which has a separate Layer menu tab, missing in Illustrator.

How to add layers in illustrator

1 Answer 1

Command/Ctrl + L is the default shortcut in Illustrator for a new layer.

Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts > Menu Commands > Other Panel And you can change it to match Photoshop’s shortcut if you’d like (that’s what I do).

How to add layers in illustrator

The other way (besides the panel button) to create a new layer is via the Layers Panel Menu. There’s no "new layer" item in the main app menu.

Illustrator layers are quite different than Photoshop layers.

Illustrator has an Object Stack which is contained in every Layer. Photoshop has no object stack. In Illustrator, it’s often the object stack which is more imperative. Layers in Illustrator are typically more about artwork organization than actual construction and appearance.

In Photoshop, construction is often a mix of layer interactions, and indeed can greatly depend on layer interaction for some appearances. In Illustrator, layers are really more like "master groups" and don’t necessarily interact with one another. It’s the object stack in Illustrator which has interaction to a greater degree.

I am creating an illustration in Adobe Illustrator CC 2020. My illustration has got many objects and shapes and now I want to add a stroke only to layer, not for all shapes inside this layer. How can I achieve this? I was trying to group all draw but it’s not working properly too.

How to add layers in illustrator

How to add layers in illustrator

2 Answers 2

Group all objects and make a copy. Lock the original

Select the new group and merge it into a single object with the Pathfinder Merge tool (either Window > Pathfinder, top left icon OR Effect > Pathfinder > Merge)

Set the fill of the new object to white and place below the original object. Scale the object up with the frame handles while holding Option + Shift (Alt + Shift on Windows)

How to add layers in illustrator

To recreate this effect, I usually duplicate all of the artwork (or specific layers, that form the outer shape), Insert the Stroke I want and put it behind the original artwork.

That will create the effect you want but you remain a dirty vector, so, as an extra step I use the pathfinder tool to merge shapes together willing to create one single shape.

If you are doing this to Type (texts), remember to convert them to curves by selecting your text and then pressing Control + Shift + O (Mac: Command + Shift + O ). This will turn text to outlines.

We’re back with another Adobe Illustrator effect tutorial! This tutorial will show you how to add a paper cutout effect to your shapes or letters in Adobe Illustrator. For this tutorial we’re gonna to be adding this effect to a shape, but it works just as well with large, display text! If you download the working file for this tutorial, the colors and assets used here will be in there.

Be sure to download our free Adobe Illustrator Template to follow along.

Paper Cutout

Step 1:

How to add layers in illustrator

Choose the colors for your layers and top layer. This effect relies on shadows, so avoid very dark colors. Leave your darkest color to be the top layer that has your cutout. Use the pen tool to draw your layers. Start with the highest layer and make horizontal curved lines. Repeat with all your layers, making each one shorter than the previous.

Step 2:

How to add layers in illustrator

Start adding depth to the layers! Select all the layers you just made and add a drop shadow. You can do this by going to the “Effect” drop down menu, selecting the “Stylize” tab, and selecting “Drop Shadow.” In the pop-up menu, change the Y offset value to “0” so the shadows will cast upward onto the previous layer.

Step 3:

How to add layers in illustrator

Create a new layer that covers your entire artboard and set it to be your darkest color. Place your shape that you want cut out on top of this layer.

Step 4:

How to add layers in illustrator

Use the pathfinder tool to subtract the shape from the layer. This will reveal the layers below. Our shape split the paper into two different pieces, so we’re going to add two small rectangle shapes to imply paper connecting the two pieces. Use the combine function of the pathfinder tool to join those pieces together.

Step 5:

How to add layers in illustrator

Select the top layer that you just made and add a drop shadow. This shadow can have y offset value higher than “0.” We’ll make it the same value as the x offset value.

Now you have a paper cutout effect in Adobe Illustrator! Try this effect with different shapes and large sizes of type.

How to add layers in illustrator

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This tutorial provides you with a foundation for working with Adobe Illustrator templatelayers. It is the eighth lesson in the Adobe Illustrator CS6 Digital Classroom book. For more Adobe Illustrator training options, visit AGI’s Illustrator Classes.

Template layers are locked, nonprinting layers that you can use to manually trace images. Template layers can come in handy when you want to trace a raster image by hand or you want to create artwork from the scan of a mock-up design. Template layers are dimmed so that you can easily see any paths you draw over the layer. When that illustration is placed in a layout application, like InDesign or QuarkXPress, the template layer does not show or print. Template layers can be created in two ways:

The most common way to create a template layer is upon import, while placing raster artwork into Illustrator as a template. Select File > Place. In the Place dialog box, select the artwork you want to import and select the Template check box in the lower-left corner; then press Place. The file is placed on a locked layer and is dimmed to 50 percent by default, so that you can clearly see any paths you draw over it.

The second way to create a template layer is to convert an existing artwork layer into a template. Double-click a layer name in the Layers panel. In the Layer Options dialog box that appears, select the Template check box and press OK. The layers icon in the Visibility column changes from the Visibility icon (

Take a class from the authors of this tutorial

See available Adobe Illustrator Classes and learn from the expert instructors at American Graphics Institute. In-person classes at our locations, online courses, or private training is available.

Tutorials Category: Illustrator Tutorials

These tutorials are created by Jennifer Smith and the team of expert instructors at American Graphics Institute.

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I’d like to send the stamp image behind the “background” layer, and then have it only show through the white opening in the “design” layer. But even after trying all the “arrange” options, I’m still stumped. Any help greatly appreciated.

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In the Layers panel click and hold on the design layer and drag it beneath the background layer. Whether it is visible or not depends on whether the white area is open space or opaque objects.

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If you’re trying to make the graphic look like a wrap on the car, you would get a more convincing result using Photoshop. From there, I would make a distortion map for the side of the car then apply that to the image and use a layer mask to only expose the part of the graphic that you wanted. You could add a blend mode to pick up the highlights and shadows from the contour of the car, too.

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Peter is right. If you want to bring the stamp image behind the “background” layer, you need to drag the design layer below the background layer. Please take a look at this video:

You can also refer to this help article for more details: How to use layers in Illustrator.

To make background transparent, you can change the white fill to null (See screenshot).

How to add layers in illustrator

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Arrange only works within a layer, so if you “send to back” for example, and expect it to send it behind something that is on another layer, that will not work. You need to manually drag that to the layer behind. Hope that makes sense, it does seem a little misleading.

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but I can’t even seem to make a clipping mask that will help me scale the photo.

Does anyone know of decent video tutorials for wraps other than those by Ryan Haworth or “we print wrap designs”? (the former are too lengthy, and the latter are too fast and garbled).

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Did you try selecting more than one object? Making a clipping mask relies on having the shape you want to use as the mask and the object you want masked both selected.

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Practice on simple shapes first

on top of a photo

draw a shape eg a circle

Object > Clipping Mask > Make

Then, depending on your setup,

click the Edit Contents

Then you can move the photo about, or drag the corner handles to scale or use the Scale tool

How to add layers in illustrator

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Illustrator is not like Photoshop dealing with Layers.
You can arrange layers manually. If objects are in one layer, you can use the arrange functions with right click and choose the job you need to apply.

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Sorry to switch gears, but I’m now following this particular Ryan Howarth video, and I suspect that if I concentrate and take notes, I should be able to figure it out.

But now I’m wondering if I can import transparent gif’s into illustrator. On the attachment, you can see the file I made in Corel Paint, where the individual gif’s overlap so that the transparency part is invisible (circled in green), versus what I tried to do in illustrator where the transparencies can’t seem to carry over (circled in red).

Sorting, organizing, naming, and keeping track of layers is tricky and often gets left behind. Usually, when we first start a project there is some semblance of order. Unfortunately, as it progresses, Adobe Illustrator layers often dissolve into a single chaotic free for all layer. Using Layer Options in Illustrator can help set up a system to manage your layers through the entire project.

To access the Layer Options in Illustrator, double click on the layer and you will see something like this:

How to add layers in illustrator

1. Name

Name your layers! Yes, really. I like to start out with a couple of layers like “Background” or “Sketch” or “Guides.” More often than not as the project progresses, I add random layers that make sense at the moment. However, I am lost when I open the file up the next time. Proper naming would help solve this problem.

2. Color

There are a good amount of colors (from ochre to olive) you can choose from or you could pick a custom color. The color of the layer corresponds with the color of the bounding box of each object on that layer. This is helpful when trying to distinguish layers without having to open and wade through the layers window.

3. Template

This is a super helpful tool that I wish someone had told me about sooner. It comes in handy when you are drawing over a template or scanned sketch. When you select this option, the Lock, Show, and Preview options are automatically turned on. The Dim Images to option is also automatically selected, but you are able to choose how much the image is dimmed. The Print layer is deselected, so this layer will be visible on screen but will never actually appear in a print.

4. Show

Same as the main layers window, you can only see a layer when this is clicked on.

5. Preview

The best way I can explain this is as that it is the opposite of outline mode. This is what we’re used to seeing most of the time and shows a full rendering of the illustration, not just the vector outlines and points.

6. Lock

This does the same thing as the Toggle Lock checkbox in the main layers window. If a layer is locked, no object within it can be moved.

7. Print

This lets you decide whether this layer will appear in a print. The layer will still appear on your screen as per usual but if it is not checked on, it will not end up printing. This is helpful if you want to leave yourself little notes and references or for initial sketches.

8. Dim Images

This option will fade down all the objects to the percentage specified in the little input box. This is also a great tool for tracing over sketches and you don’t have to manually and individually modify the opacity of each object.

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Copy link to clipboard

I’d like to send the stamp image behind the “background” layer, and then have it only show through the white opening in the “design” layer. But even after trying all the “arrange” options, I’m still stumped. Any help greatly appreciated.

  • Follow

1 Correct answer

Copy link to clipboard

In the Layers panel click and hold on the design layer and drag it beneath the background layer. Whether it is visible or not depends on whether the white area is open space or opaque objects.

  • Follow

Copy link to clipboard

If you’re trying to make the graphic look like a wrap on the car, you would get a more convincing result using Photoshop. From there, I would make a distortion map for the side of the car then apply that to the image and use a layer mask to only expose the part of the graphic that you wanted. You could add a blend mode to pick up the highlights and shadows from the contour of the car, too.

  • Follow

Copy link to clipboard

Peter is right. If you want to bring the stamp image behind the “background” layer, you need to drag the design layer below the background layer. Please take a look at this video:

You can also refer to this help article for more details: How to use layers in Illustrator.

To make background transparent, you can change the white fill to null (See screenshot).

How to add layers in illustrator

  • Follow

Copy link to clipboard

Arrange only works within a layer, so if you “send to back” for example, and expect it to send it behind something that is on another layer, that will not work. You need to manually drag that to the layer behind. Hope that makes sense, it does seem a little misleading.

  • Follow

Copy link to clipboard

but I can’t even seem to make a clipping mask that will help me scale the photo.

Does anyone know of decent video tutorials for wraps other than those by Ryan Haworth or “we print wrap designs”? (the former are too lengthy, and the latter are too fast and garbled).

  • Follow

Copy link to clipboard

Did you try selecting more than one object? Making a clipping mask relies on having the shape you want to use as the mask and the object you want masked both selected.

  • Follow

Copy link to clipboard

Practice on simple shapes first

on top of a photo

draw a shape eg a circle

Object > Clipping Mask > Make

Then, depending on your setup,

click the Edit Contents

Then you can move the photo about, or drag the corner handles to scale or use the Scale tool

How to add layers in illustrator

  • Follow

Copy link to clipboard

Illustrator is not like Photoshop dealing with Layers.
You can arrange layers manually. If objects are in one layer, you can use the arrange functions with right click and choose the job you need to apply.

  • Follow

Copy link to clipboard

Sorry to switch gears, but I’m now following this particular Ryan Howarth video, and I suspect that if I concentrate and take notes, I should be able to figure it out.

But now I’m wondering if I can import transparent gif’s into illustrator. On the attachment, you can see the file I made in Corel Paint, where the individual gif’s overlap so that the transparency part is invisible (circled in green), versus what I tried to do in illustrator where the transparencies can’t seem to carry over (circled in red).

How to add layers in illustrator

It’s time for a second part of our tutorial: coloring and shading in illustrator! Thanks to this our character will get even more personality. This tutorial should help you to understand better how layers in Illustrator CC work.

This will be our final result:

How to add layers in illustrator

We start from the moment where we finished our previous tutorial (look at “Creating a character illustration in Illustrator CC with hand drawn brushes”).

How to add layers in illustrator

Before we will take some coloring actions let’s remove redundant layer named “Drawings” by clicking icon Remove Layer at the bottom bar of Layer Panel. Let’s also rename “Brushes” Layer to “Colors”.

How to add layers in illustrator

Now let’s change our character’s outlines colors to a softer grey. This is the code of one I used: #5e636d. To pick exactly this color for our character’s outlines let’s select our horse with selection tool and then let’s double click on fill. New window will appear with HEX text box – let’s paste there our grey color HEX code and then click OK.

How to add layers in illustrator

How to add layers in illustrator

Now let’s add some more layers to project. In total we will use 5 layers, so we need to create 4 more. To do this, we need to click on New Layer Icon at the bottom bar of Layers Panel. Lines Layer and Color 2 Layer should be positioned above Colors Layer and Shadow Layer and Background Layer should be positioned under it. To move layers in Layer Panel we just click, hold and then drag them up or down.

How to add layers in illustrator

Now we have to copy our character to the top layer named Lines. To do this we select our character in Colors Layer and we press Command + C. Then in Layer Panel we click on Lines layer, and with it selected we copy our horse to the exactly same position by clicking Command + Shift + V. Now we have to lock Lines Layer by clicking Lock Icon on this layer.

How to add layers in illustrator

Preparations finished, time to start some coloring! To add first colors to our anarchist character we need to select again Colors Layer and use Live Paint Tool. After selecting character with Selection Tool in Colors Layer, let’s go to top bar menu in Illustrator, then to Object > Live Paint > Make.

Remember that all of the brush lines we created in previous tutorial supposed to be transformed to outlines. Thanks to this Live Paint Tool will detect the exact edges of our shapes and won’t do any harm to our outlined character during coloring process.

To color my character at this level I used this palette for individual objects -> Jacket #027a9a, Pants #547385, Shoes #5e7380, Skin #e2d8c9, Details #748d9d.

To put colors to our punk horse we need to pick Live Paint Bucket Tool from Tool Panel (K). With this tool and preferred color selected we click on the parts of illustration we want to color.

How to add layers in illustrator

How to add layers in illustrator

This is how our character should be like after filling all of the white areas:

How to add layers in illustrator

Now when we have our first color layer ready let’s add some shadings and details! To make it happen, we have to pick Layer named Colors 2. and with Blob Brush Tool (Shift + B) tool create there some shadings.

Remember that Lines layer has to be visible. Thanks to this our illustration coloring stays clean and we don’t harm character’s outlines.

For shading colors I used slightly lighter variations from the same color palette that I used during Live Paint coloring process. To pick slightly lighter colors we have to go to Color Picker panel and there from color spectrum on the right side pick the preferred one.

In a first sequence in underneath image you can see the original of character’s hand after using Live Paint Bucket Tool only.

In the second sequence you can see shadings made with Blob Brush Tool. To fix or smoothen shapes created with Blob Brush Tool use Eraser Tool (Shift + E). If you want to change the shape or size of your Blob Brush Tool or Eraser Tool edit their options by clicking their icons in Tool Panel.

In the third sequence you can see l created thiner line shapes with Blob Brush Tool by changing a size of brush in settings of this tool. I applied them to edges, so the shading effect creates natural impression.

How to add layers in illustrator

This is how our illustration supposed to look like after complete coloring and shading process:

How to add layers in illustrator

Now when shading process is finished it’s time for adding some stylish background. To do this, we select Background Layer and there we create a rectangle with Rectangle Tool with dimensions parameters W: 135mm, H: 150mm.

For the background I used this HEX color code: #80a0b0.

With our rectangle selected we go to top bar menu in Illustrator, then to Window > Align.

Align Panel will appear. In there we click on these two icons marked with rounded rectangle. Now our background is aligned to art board!

How to add layers in illustrator

The last thing we have to do is to apply some shadow effect on the ground. to do this we select Shadow layer, then we create there a rectangle with dimensions parameters W: 84mm H: 2mm and HEX code color #7793a3.

Now we have to go to top bar menu, select there Effect > Stylize > Feather. New Feather Window will appear – there we need to set radius and amount of effect. I picked 2mm.

That’s how the final illustration is presenting:

How to add layers in illustrator

Conclusion: by combining Live Paint Tool and Blob Brush Tool we are able to create some nice coloring for our characters. The more you use it method the more you get better. And remember that you can always add even more color and shading layers – thanks to this our illustration will get even more detailed and deep.