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Lesson 4. Using Layers > Using the Layers Panel

Using the Layers Panel

The Arrange commands you experimented with in the previous section control only items on a single layer. Using the Layers panel, you can add separate layers for your objects and change the order of each layer. Note the distinction between the stacking order within a layer and the layer order: if an object is on the top layer and you send it to the back, it will be the bottom object on that layer, but it will still be above any object on a layer below it.

FreeHand has three default layers: Foreground, Guides, and Background. You can add multiple foreground and background layers. The Foreground layer is the default layer for objects on the page. The Guides layer holds all of the guides you use for aligning elements in your document. One use of a background layer is to place objects that you want to trace. For example, you might have a logo or a piece of artwork that you’ve scanned and want to use as a guide for your drawing. Objects on a background layer are screened to 50 percent of their original color, making them easier for you to trace. In Lesson 5, “Using Points and Paths,” you will place some artwork on the Background layer to use as a guide for drawing.

The Layers panel is divided into two sections: the top section contains foreground layers; the bottom section is for background layers. Any layer (except the Guides layer) above the separator line on the Layers panel is a printing layer. Any layer below the separator line is a nonprinting background layer.

In the next section, you will add layers to your document and move objects onto the layers.

Open your film_canister.fh11 file if it is not already open.

You can also use the film_canister_start.fh11 file in the Start folder within the Lesson04 folder if you no longer have your file.

Select the text block on the film canister.

Look at the Layers panel. The Foreground layer is highlighted, indicating that the selected object is on that layer.

Choose New from the Layers panel Options menu.

A new layer, named Layer-1, is added at the top level on the Layers panel.

Select Layer-1 on the Layers panel.

The selected text block moves to the layer.


This is the default behavior, but you can change this in your preferences. If this step doesn’t work as described, check the Panel section of the Preferences dialog box and verify that the option to click the layer name to move selected objects is selected.

Double-click the Layer-1 name to select it and then type text. Press Enter (Windows) or Return (Macintosh) to rename the layer. Press Tab to deselect the text block.

It is very easy to move an object to a layer. You select the object or objects and then select the name of the layer on the Layers panel. It is also just as easy to inadvertently move objects to the wrong layers. Just remember that anything that is selected when you select a layer is moved to that layer. When you are changing a layer name or moving a layer, be sure to press Tab to deselect all objects on the page before making the change to the layer.


If you find yourself continually moving objects to the wrong layer, deselect the option in the Panel section of the Preferences dialog box and deselect the option to click the layer name to move selected objects.

If you are drawing a new object and want it placed on a layer, deselect everything, select the layer, and then create the object. It will be placed on the selected layer. If you later decide to move the object to another layer, select the object and then select the new layer while the object is still selected.


The Layers panel displays a small pen icon to the right of the text layer you just created. That icon indicates the active layer. New objects you create are always placed on the active layer. The blue bar across the layer name doesn’t represent the active layer unless you see the pen icon as well. Select the yellow object on the page. The Layers panel highlights (with the blue bar) the layer name, but the pen icon remains on the text layer. If you draw a new object on the page, it will be placed on the text layer.

Create a new layer, name it bar code, and move the bar code object to that layer.

You now have three foreground layers in addition to the Guides layer.

Click the lock icon to the left of the bar code layer name.

When a layer is locked, you can’t select any objects on that layer. You also can’t move an object to that layer. When working on complex drawings, it is very handy to lock a layer you are not currently modifying or using. That way, you can’t inadvertently delete or move the contents of the layer. However, you can still change the stacking position of a layer when it is locked.

Power Tip

To quickly lock or unlock all layers, hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Option (Macintosh) and click the lock icon to the left of any layer name.

Click the check mark to the left of the bar code layer name to hide the layer; then click the same area again to display the layer.

When the check mark is gone, the text block, and any other objects on that layer, is hidden. The text is not deleted; it is just hidden from view. Click the same area again to redisplay the check mark and show the layer.

Showing and hiding layers is another way to make complex drawings easier to work on. Think again of the map example. You have streets and street names. Perhaps you are trying to modify the curve of a street, but the street name is in the way, and you keep selecting the street name instead of the street. If you’ve placed all of the text on a separate layer, you can hide the text layer and just concentrate on the streets.

Power Tip

To quickly hide or show all layers, hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Option (Macintosh) and click the check mark (or check mark area) to the left of any layer name.

Power Tip

To select all objects on a layer, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) and click the layer on the Layers panel.

Save your file.

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