How to use Dynamic Symbols in Illustrator CC Tutorial / How to recolor

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Dynamic symbols in CC 2015.1 tutorial

Setup of Dynamic symbols in Illustrator

Dynamic symbols is a new feature with CC 2015.1 and I am certain everyone will find a lot of uses for it. Normal shapes have been around since version 10 and you have been able to re-color them using the sprayer tool / stainer as well as change them via the appearance panel. Well, now they are dynamic (though surely that should be smart ?? to follow Photoshop). Anyway, they are setup in the same way as the old shapes simply by dragging the artwork to the preset panel. The preset panel can be found in the window panel.

 

Adding a new dynamic symbol

Select a path or multiple paths and drag into the presets panel and select the dynamic type. You will see '+' sign appear in the panel and this indicates the new status. To create a new instance, simply drag the item to the artboard. This doesn't work well with the sprayer tool as you can't access the individual items with the direct selection tool.

 

Selecting them and changing the fill color

You can select the items as before using the selection tool. You can also select the individual parts of the shape by selecting the individual parts using the direct selection tool. If you have a new shape with say a green outer rim and a red inner core and you use the direct selection tool and select the green path then the color of the fill will change to green and if you select the red part of the new shape then the color in the fill will change to red. You can then change the red to orange or any other color. Any change you make with the direct selection tool to the color will not change the master which will remain in the preset panel untouched. You can select the master again and drag it to the document / artboard and you can then select the different color filled paths and again you can change the red to blue or the green to yellow etc and this will be independent to the first instance and again, the master will be unchanged.

 

Fill color and stroke

You can change the fill color as well as the stroke color as well as the stroke width such as making it 10pt for one instance and 20pt for another instance (again, the master is unchanged). Sadly this does not seem to work with the text / type so if you have a set of characters in the artwork this can be selected but trying to change the black text to white text seems to fail (in this version, who knows if that feature will appear at a later time?). There does seem to be a few quirks with this first release of the CC 2015 as sometimes it appears that if an effect such as drop shadow is added then you cannot change the fill or stroke even though you can select the item with the direct selection tool and the fill color in the toolbox changes accordingly but it does not seem to change if you change it from black to yellow and then suddenly the direct selection does work (perhaps it is me but it does seem to happen every once in a while). If you display the stroke panel with all the options such as width profile then you can change the width profile for each of the instances without affecting the master. You can also add dashes into the mix as well, again without affecting the master.

 

Brushes

You can add Illustrator brushes to the instance and the individual parts of the instance. If you have an object made up of three parts then just use the direct selection tool to select one of the parts and then go to the brushes panel and select a brush from the presets. You can select another path within that instance and set the brush stroke for that. As the brushes can be made up of text and images, you can change the image and text via the brushes. You can also change the size of the brush stroke as well as the color.

 

Swatches

Another preset that works well with the tool is the swatch. Select one instance with the direct selection tool and then select a swatch and that will be reflected. Select another and change the swatch and that will be reflected in the instance. You can also use them (Master etc) as a swatch but the content will be expanded so you can't change the color etc of the artwork as you would outside the editor, though you can always expand the instance and then just use it as a normal path and change the color inside the pattern editor that way

 

Opacity

You can select via the direct selection tool any of the parts and change the opacity from 100% to 50% etc for one instance and 100% to 25% for another instance and again, the master will be untouched. If you have an instance with multiple paths and you change the opacity of the top path then the opacity is only for that and if the top part is on top of another then any underlying paths are still blocked by any lower items in the instance. You can also use the blending modes as well such as darken and difference with each of the instances and so one part can be lighten and another instance can be darken (it can get pretty complex and messy in the appearance panel perhaps)

 

Position and effects

Yes, you can add effects to the individual parts as well. You can use the transform live effect to move the individual parts, again without affecting the master. You can add all kinds of other effects such as blurs etc to the individual parts so you can have a slight blur in one instance and a large blur in another.

 

Transformations

As well as fill and color, you can add into the mix with the dynamic symbols, transformations. The transformations being scale and rotate and skew / shear (free transform tool). Sadly, the perspective and free distort seems to have no effect at all on the instance. The individual parts cannot be rotated and scaled.

 

Editing the master

You can double click the master and change the vector shape in numerous ways and change the font, change the color etc of the type and then exit out of the editing mode. All the instance will then be updated accordingly so all the items will be set to the fill / stroke as well as before and all the transformations will be added as before.

 

Complex pieces

In many of the examples I have been using only a couple of color paths but the new shapes can be used to re-color individual parts of a composite path with 1000s of pieces such as perhaps a complex interface or perhaps a map etc. The same basic map or interface can remain but you can then display different setups with different colors and strokes.

 

Old shapes

If you are using resources from before CC 2015.1 then you will have to convert them to the new format and by taking the old 'static' type and then expanding and then placing back in the new format. A bit of hassle and it would be great if there was a straight conversion tool via a right click context menu or via the panel itself. Noticed that sometimes (as before) the fill / stroke and direct selection does get confused and refuses to change the color (again, that may be my machine). You might like to check the new features out with our old sets which can be quickly made far more exciting.

 

More complex paths

If you have a path that you have combined into a compound path and then try the same direct selection / fill trick then it appears not to work. A workaround being to split the artwork up and this can be done via the live paint tool where the artwork can be individual colored again (perhaps if the original is in black, in subtle variations of black) and then ungrouped and that can be saved to the preset panel for use with the new feature.

 

Smart dynamic symbols

This is an interesting new addition to AI and I hope it will be extended further to include many other features such as effects etc and perhaps even tie the results into Photoshop. We are supposed to be in a creative cloud environment where any changes to the vector shapes should be reflected throughout and AI instances perhaps should be no different as a resource in PS as well AE and other applications of CC 2015 / CC 2016 etc.