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Chapter 2. The Illustrator Interface and... > Illustrator Terminology and Labels

Illustrator Terminology and Labels

Most terms will be explained (or be obvious) within context throughout the book. Others, however, should be identified here to establish a firm foundation of understanding. The first set covers the basic Illustrator Interface.

Interface Terminology

  • Artboard— The area upon which the illustration is created is the artboard. The artboard itself is, by default, outlined onscreen by a black rectangle. It should not be confused with page tiling (see later in this list).

  • Bounding box— When an object is selected on the artboard, a rectangular outline appears. You can use the bounding box to move, rotate, or scale an object. When a transform tool is active, the bounding box can be used to further alter the object’s path. To manipulate an object using the bounding box, use the mouse to drag within the object, or use the eight handles located around the bounding box to transform the selection. When multiple objects are selected, a single bounding box encompasses them all. You can hide or show this temporary outline by using the View menu.

  • Brush— A selected brush determines the appearance of a path’s stroke. Brushes are stored in the Brushes palette, and sets of brushes can be loaded and saved. The different kinds of brushes (calligraphic, scatter, art, and pattern) are discussed in Chapter 6, “Utilizing the Four Types of Brushes.” You can apply a brush to a selected path or paths by clicking on it in the Brushes palette. The Paintbrush and Pencil tools can also use brushes.

  • Contextual menus— You can access these options and commands by Ctrl+clicking [right-clicking]. They are called contextual because the choices available vary depending on what is clicked.

  • Dialog boxes— Many commands open dialog boxes, which give you the option of adding or changing specific values before executing the command.

  • Guides— These nonprinting vertical and horizontal lines can be used as alignment and spacing cues. You drag them from the rulers and lock/unlock and make them visible/invisible through the View menu.

  • Layers— Artwork can be separated within a single document by using layers. Each layer is comparable to a sheet of clear acetate. Where no artwork appears, the underlying layers are visible. You use the Layers palette to organize and control layers. You can move objects from layer to layer and control their look by specifying an appearance for everything on a particular layer.

  • Menu commands— You can interact with Illustrator and the artboard and objects on it by using the drop-down menus at the top of the screen. Some commands execute an action (Clear, Copy, Zoom In), whereas others open a dialog box (Save As, Check Spelling, Rasterize). Many menu commands have submenus, which open to the side of the drop-down list of commands.

  • Page tiling— Shown onscreen by default as a dashed rectangle, page tiling represents the printable area of the page. It depends on the Page Setup options selected. It should not be confused with the artboard (see earlier in this list).

  • Palettes and tabs— The so-called “floating palettes” appear by default along the right side of the screen. Many of the palette windows have multiple tabs, each representing a separate palette. Clicking a tab brings that palette to the front of the floating window. You can move palettes among the floating windows by dragging the tabs and can “dock” them at the bottom of another palette.

  • Pop-up menus— Many palettes and dialog boxes have pop-up menus. To access a pop-up menu, click the option that is showing, and additional choices are made available.

  • Preferences— Illustrator maintains a small file that records your particular choices for working with the program. This preferences file is updated every time you quit the program. You can select many of the choices by using the dialog boxes available when you choose Edit, Preferences. Others, however, are automatic, such as the location of palettes when you exit. This file, because of the nature of its contents and the fact that it is rewritten so often, can easily become corrupted. When Illustrator starts misbehaving, it is most often a preferences problem. If you quit Illustrator, delete the file, and restart the program, you often can set things right. You can find full instructions on replacing the preferences file in Chapter 16. Check the sidebar “Re-creating Illustrator’s Preferences.”

  • Ruler origin— The rulers and the Info palette, among other aspects of Illustrator, measure distance from a set point. By default, Illustrator measures from the lower-left corner of a document. You can change the ruler origin to any point visible onscreen by dragging from the intersection of the rulers in the upper-left corner. (The rulers must be visible.) The ruler origin differs from the point of origin (although you will see the term used), which refers to transformation procedures (see “Techniques and Procedures,” later in this chapter).

  • Tool— The tools are the basic link between you and the creative process. Visible in the Toolbox (see the following description) along the left side of the screen, they each have certain properties and capabilities.

  • Toolbox— This palette contains Illustrator’s tools (see the preceding description). Many of the tools are hidden by default. When an icon in the Toolbox hides additional tools, a small triangle appears in the lower-right corner of the icon’s box. To access the hidden tools, click and hold the visible icon. The hidden tool palettes can be “torn off” to become floating palettes of their own. Simply drag the palette away from the Toolbox.

  • Unit of measure— Controlled by the Units & Undo preferences, this setting determines how the rulers, document setup and page setup, and several other interface elements express size. Typically, the term unit of measure refers to the setting in the General box of the Units & Undo panel in the Preferences dialog box. However, separate settings exist for both Stroke and Type.

  • Zoom— Zoom can be controlled through a tool (the Zoom tool), a palette (the Navigator palette), menu commands (under the View menu), or the status bar (to the lower left of the screen in Standard View). It changes the appearance onscreen without affecting the actual artwork.



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