How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Stylism is an Illustrator plug-in which makes the creation and refinement of native live Effects a cinch. To get the most of Stylism, we strongly advise that you learn Adobe's native Appearance panel. This tutorial reveals how — the presence of Stylism, including the FREE 14 day trial, being completely optional.

Today we will learn how to work with the Appearance panel through the example of creating web buttons. The ability to use this panel, in combination with applying the graphic styles, will speed up your workflow by several times. Moreover, the styles you create will be useful in future projects. This tutorial is primarily designed for beginners, but advanced users can refresh their knowledge and pay attention to details that previously may have gone unnoticed.

The Appearance panel is a native Illustrator panel (Window > Appearance or Shift + F6), where all the properties of the selected object, group of objects or an entire layer are indicated. Target object or objects may have multiple fills and strokes, to which different live effects, blending modes and opacities may be applied. This gives us the ability to create quite complex and easily controlled objects.

To learn about the peculiarities of working with the Appearance panel you can practise by creating these simple web buttons. When working with the Appearance panel it is always important to make sure an object is selected when you access the panel. When it is not selected the Appearance panel shows elements of the last selected objects, but nothing happens when you edit it.

First, draw a check mark symbol with black color fill and no stroke. As you can see, all of the attributes of this object are listed in the Appearance panel.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Using Gradient panel (Window > Gradient or Cmd / Ctrl + F9), apply a linear gradient from a white to light gray color to the object's fill.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Now let's create a new fill. The 'Add New Fill' button, in the Appearance panel, is intended for these purposes. After clicking on this button a new fill will be created above the existing fill.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Live effects can be applied to any target fill and stroke. Keeping the object and the new fill in the Appearance panel selected, go to Effect > Convert to Shape > Rounded Rectangle … and set the required parameters in the dialog box, which you can see in the picture below.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

You can also access the menu containing all the effects by clicking on the fx button in the Appearance panel.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

If you click on the small triangle to the left of the selected attribute, you will see a list of the applied effects. Clicking on the name of the effect will open a dialog box with its options. This allows you to change the parameters of the effect at any time.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Apply a linear gradient consisting of two green colors to the upper fill.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

We are able to change the sequence of items in the Appearance panel. Drag the green fill to the bottom of the stack. This now enables the Check mark sign to be visible again.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Select the upper fill, then click on the 'Add New Fill' button.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Select the second fill and apply gray color to it.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Proceed to Effect > Path > Offset Path … and set Offset value in the dialog box.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Now go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform … and set the value of horizontal offset.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Apply the Multiply blending mode to this fill. This can be done directly in the Appearance panel without opening the Transparency panel.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Select the bottom fill and then click the Duplicate Selected Item button in the Appearance panel.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

This action will result in the duplication of the fill with all its attributes and applied effects, as opposed to using the 'Add New Fill' button which simply creates a new fill.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Select the bottom fill, then go to Effect > Path > Offset Path … and set the Offset value in the dialog box.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Change the direction of the linear gradient, of the bottom fill, with the help of the Gradient panel.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Apply the the Drop Shadow effect to the bottom fill, for this, go to Effect > Stylize > Drop Shadow … and set the parameters shown in the picture below. Congratulations! the first web button is created.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Before we continue, I would like to concentrate on some of the features of the Appearance panel which we did not use in the process of creating a button. For instance you can turn off the visibility of any attribute and applied effect by clicking on the eye icon in the Appearance panel. This feature will help you understand how the attributes affect the appearance of the object and how the attributes interact between each other. Also, in the process of work, it is sometimes convenient to temporarily turn off the visibility of certain attributes that hide the newly created ones.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

The trash button is designed to delete the selected attributes of the object.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

The 'Clear Appearance' button is intended to remove all the attributes. After clicking on this button we get a path with no fill and stroke.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Many commands from the fly-out menu of the Appearance panel repeat the actions of the buttons, the actions of other commands are understood from their names. I would like to draw your attention to the 'New Art Has Basic Appearance' command.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

If you untick this command, the newly created object will have all the properties of the last selected object. This feature will allow you to save a lot of time when creating similar objects.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

After a brief but important digression, let's continue. Select the created button, open the Graphic Styles panel (Window> Graphic Styles or Shift + F5), then drag the button to the panel or choose 'New Graphic Style' in the fly-out menu of the panel.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Now you can apply this graphic style to all the existing symbols that turn into the same buttons with a single click.

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

Such incredible time saving potential is provided by the ability to use the Appearance panel and Graphic Styles.

For more information about using the Appearance panel please see the following sources:

Appearance attributes

The Secrets of the Appearance Panel: Multiple Fills

How to use the Appearance panel - one of the most powerful tools in Adobe Illustrator

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