Illustrator: The Symbol Tools Gallery Overview

The Symbol Tools in Adobe Illustrator allows you to create and manipulate clusters of symbol images.  You can use the tools to change the density, color, location, size, rotation, transparency, and style of the instances in the set.  Below I will go through each symbol tool and how to use them.

. . .

Before we start, make sure you have the Symbols panel available by going Windows > Symbols.

symbol tools

Also you’ll need to open up the Symbol Libraries Menu by click on the button on the bottom, left-hand corner of the panel. Adobe Illustrator already a wide variety of symbols built-in, so there’s no need for you to create your own symbols for this guide. Here’s I’ve selected the Nature library.  Just double click on a symbol to add it to the Symbols panel.

symbol tools

 

The Symbol Sprayer Tool

This is the main symbol tool that basically sprays symbol instances onto the canvas.  If you click once, it will create only once symbol:

symbol tools

However, if you hold down the mouse button, the brush will create a cluster of symbol images:

symbol tools

If you hold the Alt/Option Key the Symbol Sprayer Tool will have the opposite effect and will delete symbol instances.

Double-clicking on any Symbol Tool button will bring up  Symbolism Tools Options window:

symbol tools

Each Symbol Tool has its own options, but from this window you can custom each option.  Here the options for the Symbol Sprayer Tool:

Diameter: the brush size.

Intensity: how quickly symbol instances are created when you hold the brush down.

Symbol Set Density: how closely packed the symbol instances are when generated.

The other options such as Scrunch, Size, Spin, Screen, Stain and Style apply the effects of the other symbol tools to the Symbol Sprayer Tool.

When working with any symbol sets you produce with the Symbol Sprayer Tool, bare in mind that any of the other Symbol Tools we will use next will only affect the symbol or symbol sets that have been selected in the Symbols panel.  So if you have mixed symbol sets of ants and bees, you will need to select both ants AND bees in the Symbols panel.  If you only select one symbol then that will only been affected.

 

The Symbol Shifter Tool

This tool is used to move symbols around in a symbol set.

illustrator

Just click into the symbol set and drag out in the direction you desire.

symbol tools

 

The Symbol Scruncher Tool

This tool moves symbol instances closer together or farther apart.

illustrator

Increase the brush size to be larger then the symbol set cluster by continually pressing ] (and [ if you want to make brush smaller).  Then click onto the center of the cluster to pull all the symbol instances together.

symbol tools

Alternatively, if you hold the Alt/Option Key when you do this, then the symbol instances will be pushed outwards instead.

 

The Symbol Sizer Tool

With this tool you can resize symbols.

illustrator

Simply clicking on a symbol will increase its size:

symbol tools

 

While holding the Alt/Option Key when you press down will shrink the symbol:

symbol tools

 

The Symbol Spinner Tool

Using this tool will allow you to rotate symbol instances.

symbol tools

Click down on a symbol or group or symbols, drag around the direction you want them in and release.

symbol tools

 

The Symbol Stainer Tool

Colours symbols by changing the hues towards the selected tint colour, while not affecting the luminosity.  However because of this, colours with very high or very low luminosity change very little (blacks or whites).

illustrator

To use the Symbol Stainer Tool, first select a colour swatch, then click onto the symbol instances.

symbol tools

 

The Symbol Screener Tool

Applies transparency to symbols.

illustrator

Clicking on symbols will cause them to become more transparent, but holding option/alt while clicking on symbols will decrease transparency.

symbol tool

 

The Symbol Styler Tool

Lets you apply or remove a graphic style from a symbol instance, which you can control the amount and location of the application.

symbol tools

To use this tool, first select the Symbol Styler Tool, then select a style from the Graph Styles panel (which you can find via Window > Graphic Styles).  Then click onto the symbol instances.

symbol tools

Also, holding down alt/option while clicking down will decrease the style effect amount.

. . .

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.