Adobe Illustrator One on One Mastery Notes 04

Adobe Illustrator One on One Mastery Notes for Chapters 7 & 8 covering Symbols and Graphs

Hello my name is Christian and I am a graphic designer based in Massachusetts. This post goes over my notes for Chapters 7 & 8 of Deke McClelland's Adobe Illustrator One on One Mastery. The chapter covers symbols and graphs within Adobe Illustrator.


Create a Symbol

To create a symbol from your currently selected object click on the New Symbol button located at the bottom of the Symbols Panel. Alternatively you can create a symbol by dragging and dropping an object into the Symbols panel.

Symbol Options

The Symbols Options pop up menu will open when you create a symbol. Within this menu you can set the name, export type, symbol type, registration, and enable guides for 9-slice scaling. Another way to open the Symbol Options menu by clicking the Symbol Options button at the bottom of the Symbols panel.

Create an Instance of a Symbol

  1. Drag and Drop a symbol from the Symbols panel to the Artboard
  2. Click on Place Symbol Instance button from the Symbol panel

Replace an Instance of a Symbol

  1. Select the Symbol you want to replace from the artboard. Followed by selecting the Symbol from the Symbols panel to replace it. Click on the fly out menu in the Symbols panel and choose Replace Symbol.
  2. Select the Symbol you want to replace from the artboard. Use the Replace Instance with Symbol pop up menu from the control panel.

Dynamic Symbols

With dynamic symbols you can make changes to instances of symbols without changing all instances. To change a symbol to dynamic select the option within the Symbol Options menu located in the Symbols panel. Examples of changes you can make are color or effects.

9-Slice Scaling

You enable this setting in Symbol Options menu. With 9-Slice Scaling enabled there will be 2 vertical and 2 horizontal guides in the Symbol Edit mode. These guides limit the scaling of the artwork. The corners will not scale, the central column scales horizontally, and the central row scales vertically.

Save Symbols

To save a set of symbols for use in another document or on another computer click on the Symbol Libraries Menu button in the Symbols panel and navigate to Save Symbols... The default save location will place the symbols within the User Defined folder. To access the symbols in the User Defined folder click on the Symbol Libraries Menu within the Symbols panel.

Edit a Symbol

You can edit a symbol by doubling clicking on it from either the artboard or from within the symbols panel.

Custom Arrowheads

Location of the Arrowheads document C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Illustrator CC 2019\Support Files\Required\Resources\en_US. This location may vary depending on your version of Illustrator and whether you are using a Window or Mac. First you want to create a copy of the file in case of any issues. Make sure you have the correct permissions to edit the file. If you are having issues saving the Arrowheads file then quit out of Illustrator and open Illustrator as an Administrator.

You can add arrowheads and edit existing ones. Save your custom arrowheads as symbols in this file and they will be saved as custom arrowheads. The name and location in the symbols panel is all that matters. Strokes cannot be part of an arrowhead so make sure to outline any strokes. You cannot create any arrowheads with a symbol nested inside so make sure to break link to any symbols before creating and saving an arrowhead. The Break Link button is located in the Control panel.

Stroke Panel

In the stroke panel you can assign arrowheads to both sides of an open path. You can also scale the size of the arrowhead independently of the stroke and other arrowhead.

Import Symbols from Photoshop

Photoshop has vector symbols which you can bring into Illustrator. First use the custom shape tool which is under the rectangle tool in photoshop. This will bring up symbol libraries in the control panel. Select and place a symbol on the artboard. Next you need to select the artwork with the black arrow tool and copy it with Ctrl + V (Cmd + V) and paste the symbol into Illustrator.


Create a Graph

To createa a graph you can use the Graph Tool (Shortcut J) or use the menu Object > Graph > Type... There are 9 types of graphs: Column, Stacked Column, Bar, Stacked Bar, Line, Area, Scatter, Pie, and Radar. You can select different graphs in the Type Graph Options or clicking over the Colum Graph Tool. There is no permanency to this decision as you can change the graph type at anytime. While you can scale the graph you cannot resize it. The best way to work on all the elements of the graph is to find out the final size then recreate the graph. You won't have to recreate all the graph edits as some of them carry over.

Edit a Graph

You can select individual elements with the white arrow tool or all similar elements by holding down Alt (Option on Mac) and click on an element of the graph with the white arrow tool. With elements selected you can manipulate colors, strokes, effects, etc. You also make changes to the graph by selecting the graph with the black arrow tool and right clicking on the artboard (not on the graph) and selecting Type... The Graph Type menu can also be found via Object > Graph > Type... The options you can change are Type, Style, Width Options, Tick Value, Tick Marks, and Labels.

Graph Data

To edit the data within the graph, select the graph with the black arrow tool and right click on the artboard and click on Data... from the pop up menu (alternatively you can use the drop down menu Object > Graph > Data...). Within this data menu you can edit the cells, import data, transpose row/column, switch x/y, cell size, revert edits, and apply edits. To convert a column into category first delete and leave empty the top cell and the remaining cells need to have a double quote mark at the beginning.

Imported data needs to be .txt file that is tab delimited. You can create this type of file in a program such as Notepad or TextEdit. Seperate the rows in .txt file by putting them on different lines and the columns/cells are created by inserting a tab between the cell contents.

Graph Column

Within the Graph Column Design menu you can set custom art for the column. You can set the custom art for the entire graph or individual elements. To select the entire graph use the black arrow tool. For a more precise selection, alt click on a element with the white arrow tool. Additional alt clicks with the white arrow tool will include similar elements.

There are four different columns types: vertically scaled, uniformly scaled, repeating, and sliding. To add custom art as a graph design navigate to Object > Graph > Design... within the Graph Design menu you can create new, delete, rename, paste, and select unused designs. Another customization option for a column graph is to set a custom stretch point for the graphic. To achieve this create a guide line on the area you want to stretch. Next select both your object and the guideline, create a new graph design (Object > Graph > Design). With your new design created apply it to the graph via the Graph Column (Object > Graph > Column) menu and select Sliding as the Column Type.

Custom Legend

The graph options does not add much customization to the legend. But it doesn't limit it either. You can move all elements of the legend and style them as you see fit.


Sub Layers do not inherit the color of the parent layer. This is a quick way to identify a sub layer.

You can assign a key object for alignment.

Video Tutorial going over Symbols

That's it for this post. Hope you enjoyed and found it useful. Coming soon is a video tutorial of this post and the next set of Adobe Illustrator Mastery One on One Notes for Chapter 9 Type Effects. For now check out the blog post that covers Patterns and Gradient Mesh here: Adobe Illustrator One on One Mastery Notes 03

Please check out Deke McClelland's course here: Adobe Illustrator One on One Mastery.