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Adobe Illustrator CS5 : Setting Up a New Document & Modifying the Setup of a Document

3/19/2012 3:36:40 PM

1. Setting Up a New Document

When you first load Illustrator, you see the Illustrator Welcome Screen, as shown in Figure 1, which allows you to choose to create a new document from scratch or from an existing Illustrator template. Alternatively, you can choose to open an existing document so that you can do some additional work with that document.


The Illustrator Welcome Screen lists recently opened files, allowing you to open them directly with a single click on the name of the file and also allowing new documents to be quickly created from the list of document profiles on the right.

If you have Illustrator already up and running without the Welcome Screen showing, you can create a new document by choosing File => New or by pressing Ctrl+N . This new document now becomes the active document. An active document means that the document is in front of any other documents.

Figure 1. Illustrator's Welcome Screen allows you to create a new document or open an existing one.

The New Document dialog box, as shown in Figure 2, offers several settings you can set before you start working on a new document:

  • Name. You can type a name for your new document.

  • New Document Profile. This is a named set of all the settings in this box. By choosing a different named set, all the values below will update.

  • Number of Artboards. The first field lets you set how many artboards will appear initially when you create your document. The buttons to the right of this field control how the artboards are positioned relative to each other.

  • Size. This allows you to choose standard preset dimensions, such as Letter or Legal, for your document.

  • Width and Height. Instead of selecting a preset size, you can specify exact dimensions in the Width and Height text fields.

  • Units. You can select the units you prefer to work in. Most artists choose points, but some prefer working in picas, inches, millimeters, centimeters, or pixels.

  • Orientation. You can choose the orientation of the page. The orientation options are portrait (meant to be viewed vertically) and landscape (meant to be viewed horizontally).

  • Bleed. This controls the bleed settings for the document (how far outside the edges of the defined document artwork will print).

  • Color Mode. You can choose from the CMYK and RGB color modes.

  • Raster Effects. This is the resolution that raster-based effects (like drop shadows) will use. Print documents should have at least 150 (although 300 is preferred), while Web-based documents should use 72.

  • Preview Mode. You can choose to automatically preview your document in Pixel Preview mode (showing pixels at 100% or closer) or Overprint Preview mode (showing the results of objects set to Overprint).

  • Align New Objects to Pixel Grid. If you select this option, all objects will be automatically aligned to the pixel grid, reducing jaggies and blurries.

Figure 2. Use the New Document dialog box to choose the basic settings for a new document.

The document window initially appears at Fit in Window size. In the title bar at the top of the window, you see Untitled-1 (or another number, depending on how many new documents you have started during this particular session of Illustrator) and the percentage zoom the document is displayed at. As soon as you save the document, the title bar contains the name of the document.

You can't change the way that some of the panels or presets appear when you first start Illustrator. For example, the Selection tool is always selected in the Tools panel. Another unchangeable item is the initial paint style with which you begin drawing: a fill of White and a stroke of 1-point Black. The character attributes are always the same: 12-point Myriad Roman, auto leading, flush-left alignment.

2. Modifying the Setup of a Document

After you create a document, choose File => Document Setup to display the Document Setup dialog box (shown in Figure 3). Here you can change almost anything about the document structure and how you work with that document.

At the top of this dialog box is a list box (a popup menu on the Mac) that includes sections of options for Bleed and View, Transparency, and Type.


Document Setup no longer contains Artboard options. Instead, you need to either click Edit Artboards in the Document Setup dialog box or select the Artboard tool from the Tools panel.

Figure 3. The Document Setup dialog box provides options for controlling your document's settings.

2.1. Adjusting the Bleed and View Options

At the top of the Document Setup dialog box is a section called Bleed and View Options, although it could just as easily have been called miscellaneous options we didn't know where else to put. This section contains the following settings:

  • Units. This sets the unit of measurement for this document. All basic measurements that are displayed in Illustrator use this setting for the current document.

  • Edit Artboards. This button is a little unusual. It simulates choosing the Artboard tool. It's most likely here for those of us who instinctively press Ctrl+Alt+N +Option+N) to change the Artboard size and then remember that the Artboard options aren't here anymore.


    To quickly access the Artboard tool (and thus the Control panel options to let you quickly change the page), press Shift+O, which selects the Artboard tool and throws you instantly into Artboard mode so you can access the Control panel.

  • Bleed. This sets the amount of outside gutter around the edge of the printed page (or PDF) that appears. It's useful for projects where backgrounds and artwork extend off the edges of the page.

  • Show Images In Outline Mode. Instead of seeing the glorious detail in your placed images, selecting this option puts a very neat late-1980s box frame in its place, as shown in Figure 4.

  • Highlight Substituted Fonts. When a font isn't available, Illustrator substitutes another font for it. This highlights those substituted fonts.

  • Highlight Substituted Glyphs. When a glyph isn't available, Illustrator substitutes another character or a space for it. Selecting this option highlights those temporarily changed characters.

Figure 4. Selecting the Show images In Outline Mode option changes placed images from their original full-detailed glory (left) to a box frame (right).

2.2. Working with Transparency options

Transparency options refer to making a transparent background screen. Many users like to use a transparent grid to see the opacity of their objects. On a white background, the opacity isn't easy to see. Just as in Photoshop, you can see a checkered grid that shows the opacity of the objects in front. The Flattener settings let you pick a resolution for the object when you change it to a rasterized (pixel) object when it's flattened — that is, converted into a single layer with all overlapping objects combined. The Transparency options are also found in the Document Setup dialog box.

  • Grid Size. This list box (popup menu) lets you can change your grid size to small, medium, or large.

  • Grid Colors. You can customize your own grid colors.

  • Simulate Colored Paper. Selecting this check box makes the Artboard color match the darker of the two grid colors you've chosen.

  • Preset. Select a preset (high, medium, or low resolution) from the Preset list box (popup menu) or choose a Custom setting.

2.3. Changing Type Options

In the Document Setup dialog box, you can also change these Type Options:

  • Use Typographer's Quotes. Select this option to use smart (curved) quotes rather than the dumb (straight) ones.

  • Language. Choose a desired language from the menu. You can choose from a variety of languages, including English, French, and Finnish, but you must have the language set up on your system to be able to use that language.

  • Double Quotes. Choose the style from the drop-down list (popup menu). You have a variety of quotes to choose from. Some users like the curved quotes rather than the straight ones.

  • Single Quotes. Choose the style from the drop-down list (popup menu). The choices of single quotes are the same as the double quotes.

  • Superscript, Subscript, and Small Caps. Choose the Size and Position for Superscripts, Subscripts, and Small Caps as a percentage of the original size.

  • Export. In this list box (popup menu), choose from Preserve Text Editability and Preserve Text Appearance. In this case, you either choose to be able to edit the text (but it may not look like you intended) or let the text look like it should (but make it so you can't edit it).

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