Using Symbols Panel in Adobe Illustrator

In this tutorial, you will be learning how to use Symbols Panel in Adobe Illustrator. Symbols Panel or Symbols Palette is one of the most useful panels to work with. It can save a lot of time if you know the proper use of Symbols Panel. There are many things inside Symbols Panel that many Illustrator users don’t know.

I noticed that many Illustrator users use symbols but after having the symbol instances on the artboard, they just expand them away and that’s the thing that you shouldn’t do because if you want to do a common change in all symbol instances, you have to do it one by one as you expand all of them apart. So, this tutorial will cover many important points about Symbols Panel that you may not know.

If you do not have the Symbols Panel visible, just go to Window menu » Symbols or press the hotkey Shift+Ctrl+F11 to bring up the Symbols Panel. We have many options under Symbols Panel to deal with symbols. If you noticed, there are some icons present at the bottom of the Symbols Panel.

So, let’s begin with the Symbol Libraries first. Symbol Libraries are the large collections of symbols which we can use in our designs.

using symbols panel in adobe illustrator

  • Symbol Libraries Menu – You can access or save your Symbol Libraries by clicking on Symbol Libraries Menu icon.
  • Place Symbol Instance – Place Symbol Instance will place the selected symbol instance on your artboard.
  • Break Link to Symbol – Break Link to Symbol option breaks the link between the symbol and its symbol instances – so whenever we make a change to our symbol; that change will not be reflected on the symbol instances as they are no longer linked to the symbol.

using symbols panel in adobe illustrator

  • Symbol Options – In Symbol Options dialog, you can name your Symbol and specify its type to Graphic or Movie Clip. You can set the registration point of your symbol and you can also use an option called 9 – Slice Scaling for smart scaling.

    Those who use Flash may familiar with these options. You can use these options if you want to export your symbol instances to Flash for web or animation purposes.

using symbols panel in adobe illustrator

  • New Symbol – Sometimes we need our own artwork (Objects, text, curves etc) to be used as a symbol rather than using symbols from Illustrator’s Symbols Libraries. New Symbol option lets you convert your artwork to symbol.

    To convert your artwork into symbol, simply select your artwork then click on New Symbol icon on Symbols Panel. After clicking the icon, Symbol Options dialog will appear, hit Ok and your symbol is now on Symbols Panel and ready to use.

  • Delete Symbol – You can also delete the existing Symbol by clicking on Delete Symbol icon.

So, these are some options that you can use while working with symbols, but Symbols Panel has some more options that can be accessed by clicking an arrow at the top-right corner.

using symbols panel in adobe illustrator

  • Redefine Symbol – You can redefine existing symbol using your own artwork. To redefine a symbol, select that symbol from Symbols Panel; then select your artwork that you want to use to redefine your symbol and just click on Redefine Symbol option.

    Note: If you are using symbol instances of any symbol in you design, then after redefining the symbol, the symbol instances will update automatically.

  • Duplicate Symbol – Simply duplicates the selected symbol.
  • Edit Symbol – You can change the shape and size, even the color of your symbol by making use of Edit Symbol option. You can also double click on your symbol to enable the symbol editing mode.

using symbols panel in adobe illustrator

  • Replace Symbol – The Replace Symbol option lets you replace symbol instances of a symbol with another symbol. To replace a symbol instance, first select a symbol from Symbols panel then click on a symbol instance that you want to replace and click on replace button.
  • Select All Unused – This option selects all unused symbols in Symbols Panel.
  • Select All Instances – This option selects all the symbol instances of the selected symbol.
  • Sort by Name – This option arranges all the symbols in alphabetical order.

You can also use three different views to display your symbols in Symbols Panel: Thumbnail View, Small List View and Large List View.

That’s all. By using all these options, you can take the full advantage of Symbol Panel in you designs and artwork and I recommend one more thing, while using Symbols Panel, do make use of symbol tools from toolbar.

It saves a lot of time as it’s quite easy to manipulate all the symbol instances at a time rather than working on every single instance one-by-one.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Let me know if you have any problem regarding this tutorial. Thanks!