Infographics: The Essentials of Adobe Illustrator

One of the charms of Adobe Illustrator, the best program for designing infographics, is that its developers really try to anticipate what users will want. Check out the Essentials Switcher, accessible by clicking the Essentials button at the top-right of the window.

This drop-down menu holds a list of several workspace presets: Automation, Essentials, Layout, Painting, Printing and Proofing, Tracing, Typography, Web, and a lower menu. These are preset configurations for what Adobe thinks would be some typical workspace arrangements.

When you click and hold the Essentials button in the upper-right corner of the Illustrator window, you see the list of preset workspaces. Here is a rundown:

  • Automation: This workspace arranges the palette menus down the left side of the window in a way that concentrates workflows on automated commands like the Actions palette (automatically performs commands by assigning quick keys); Links palette (allows you to keep track of imported items); Variables palette (where a linked image, a text object, a graph, or an object can be made dynamic or changeable); and Layers palette (content can be arranged on separate layers to allow for easier editing).

  • Essentials: This is just the basics. The palettes bar on the right is collapsed, but any of the palettes are available from the Window menu.

  • Layout: This workspace has the essential editing palettes for any single or multi-page layout you may have to perform.

    It includes the Artboards palette (allows for added artboards for multi-page layouts); the Stroke, Swatches, and Graphic Styles palettes (for line editing, quick color swatches, or background patterns); the Color palette (for editing line, text, or fill colors); the Transform palette (for editing size of objects); and the Type palette (for text editing).

  • Painting: For the artist who loves to draw, paint, and create. This workspace features the Color, Swatches, and Kuler palettes (for finding color palettes through a web-hosted community); the Color Guide palette (some preset color schemes); the Brushes, Stroke, and Symbols palettes (for choosing brush tools, line editing, and quick symbol generation); and the Layers palette.

  • Printing and Proofing: After you complete a project, you can switch to this workspace to help usher your way through the production process. This workspace offers the Layers palette, the Info palette (you can view attributes on any object in the work area), and the Links and the Artboards palettes.

    It also contains the Swatches palette, Appearance palette (for quick editing of stroke, fill, and opacity in an object), the Transparency palette (for another quick opacity edit), and the Color palette. After those, you have the Separations Preview palette (for viewing preproduction cyan, magenta, yellow, and black layers of an artwork or photo), the Document Info palette (for a quick rundown of various objects in the project), and the Attributes palette (for adding overprint options or fill options).

  • Tracing: This workspace offers the Image Trace palette, which allows for photo tracing or quick and easy autotracing. This workspace also has the Navigator palette (you can quickly view where you are on the project by pushing the navigation box around the work area in this palette), and the Info palette. It also includes the Color, Swatches, Color Guide, Layers, and Links palettes.

  • Typography: This workspace gives the user the most important palettes for editing text color and editing, plus the Open Type palette (gives the user the ability to change Open Type fonts within the fonts list).

  • Web: When designing projects for the web, this setup comes in handy for preparing files for interactivity.

When working on a project, you may end up with a lot of palettes strewn across the work area. You can easily get back to an organized workspace by clicking a preset workspace above or a new customized workspace of your choosing.

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