How to Use Symbols to Save Trims in Adobe Illustrator

Symbols can be tremendously helpful to save trims and create trim libraries. They also make it very easy to update an item that is repeated multiple times within a document.

So, what is a Symbol? A symbol is an art object that can be reused in a document. The other symbols reused on the page are called instances, and they’re all linked to the original artwork. They can be created using vector or raster artwork, and symbols can save time and reduce file size.

In the later versions of Adobe CC, Dynamic Symbols were introduced. Dynamic Symbols share a master shape but different instances can have a dynamically modified appearance. This can be handy when you’re creating color CAD pages. For example, you can have a shirt w/ a different colorway but if you need to modify the style itself (remove a button, change the collar, etc.), you can make that change and still maintain the various colorways.

Dynamic symbols allow appearance overrides to color, pattern and gradients, and these overrides can be modified using the Direct Selection Tool.

How to Create a Symbol

To create a symbol, select the artwork you’d like to save and drag it into the Symbols Panel. You may also click the “New Symbol” icon at the bottom of the Symbols Panel. A

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In the Symbols Panel Options, name the symbol. Then, choose the “Type”: Movie Clip or Graphic. Note: the type is a tag for Flash import. There is no difference between the two types of symbols in Illustrator. B

Leave all other options as is, and click “OK”.

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How to Use a Symbol

The easiest way to use a symbol is to drag it onto the page from the Symbols Panel. If you need to use multiple instances in a particular area, you may want to use one of the Symbol Tools.

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How to Update a Symbol

One of the benefits of using a symbol is that you can make updates to it in one place, and it will update everywhere on your document.

To make your update, double click the object anywhere in the document, and Illustrator brings you into Symbol Isolation Mode. Make any desired changes; then, double click the artboard OR click in the grey bar across the top of the page to exit and save your changes. C

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Double click the symbol to get into Symbol Isolation mode.

How to Unlink a Symbol

To convert a symbol back to the original artwork, select the symbol and choose ‘Break Link’ from the Control Panel D, OR click the ‘Break Link to Symbol’ icon at the bottom of the Symbols Panel. E

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How to Use Dynamic Symbols

Dynamic symbols are great to use when you are creating color CADs. You can create multiple colorways of a style, and although each colorway shares the same symbol, you can still color each trim differently for each colorway. To recolor a dynamic symbol, use the Direct Selection Tool.

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Although each colorway has the same Dynamic Symbol, each bow can be its own unique color. Use the Direct Selection Tool to color or Select>Same>Fill Color to recolor the bow.

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