In VectorStyler, each canvas contains a hierarchy of layers, while a document may contain multiple canvases. When a new document is created, the initial canvas will contain a single layer. This layer is the place of initial object drawing. A canvas can contain multiple layers, and it is also possible to place objects on a canvas. A layer may contain other sub-layers, and multiple objects. An object (a group or other container), may contain multiple other objects. An object cannot contain layers, but objects may refer to layers as symbols or transparency masks.
The hierarchy of layers containing other layers or objects, and objects containing other objects, forms the content of an illustration or design. These layers and objects are rendered in their order of appearance, using their selected style, opacity, transparency and composition modes.
The hierarchy of layers and objects can be managed using the Layers panel, opened from the Panels menu, or with the Option+L shortcut. The Layers panel shows a list of layers and objects of the current canvas. Layers and objects can be opened, to reveal sub-layers or member objects. The layer and object list can be changed and edited using the commands accessible from the Layers panel icon section, or the panel menu.
The Layer and Object Hierarchy
In the Layers panel, each layer and object is shown as a list item, displaying a small preview of the content, the layer or object name, and several quick access options of the layer or object.
A layers panel item, as seen in the figure, contains the following visual elements:
- (1) The color of the layer in outline mode. Also used to identify the layer. All list items of objects inside a layer start with the layer color. The layer color visual is shown in varying sizes to indicate the layer and object hierarchy.
- (2) The arrow tool used to open or close a layer, or group containing other objects. When closed, the objects inside the layer or group are not listed in the panel.
- (3) The preview of the layer or object. A double click, or long press on the preview opens a much larger preview of the object or layer.
- (4) The name of the layer or object. The name can be edited, by clicking again on the selected layer or object. A double click on the layer or object name will open the layer or object options view, used to edit the name, opacity, blending mode and other options.
- (5) The transparency tool is shown only if the layer or object has a transparency mask. Clicking on the transparency tool will open a menu of transparency options.
- (6) The layer color tool is shown only for layer items. Click on the color tool to select an other color for the layer.
- (7) The lock tool can be used to lock or unlock the layer or object.
- (8) The visibility tool can be used to show or hide the layer or object.
- (9) The selection tool can be used to select the layer or object using regular object selection.
The lock, visibility and selection tools can also be used, by pressing and dragging the mouse over multiple objects or layers. In this case, the selected lock or visibility is changed for all the objects under the mouse, or all these are selected for the selection tool.
Objects and layers can be rearranged, by dragging and dropping in the layers panel:
- To drag and drop one or more selected objects, or layers, press the mouse on the list items and start dragging.
- Dragging the selection over an object, or layer will highlight the object, indicating that the selected objects will be dropped inside the object or layer.
- Dragging the selection close to the margin between two objects in the list, will show a highlight between the objects, indicating that the selected objects will be dropped between the two objects.
- Dragging and dropping the selection over the current canvas will place the object onto the current layer of the canvas.
- Holding the Command key when pressing the mouse on an object, to initiate a drag and drop operation, will create symbolic references to that object.
- Holding the Control initiates the dragging and dropping of object styles from one object to another.
Layer Panel Options
Various aspects of the Layers panel can be configured, using the Panel Options command from the panel menu. Configuring the layers panel includes setting the list item sizes, enabling or disabling previews and setting highlight and search options.
- Item Size - Set the size of a list item in the layers panel. Predefined sizes are Small, Medium or Large. In addition, any user selected size is accepted.
- Font Size - Set the size of a font used to show the layer and object names.
- Indent - Set the amount of rightward indentation, when showing member objects of groups or layers.
- Layers Only - Enable or disable the layers only list. When enabled, the layers panel will list only the layers of the current canvas. This option is disabled by default.
- Match Name - Enable or disable the use of exact matching when searching for object names. This option is used when searching for objects by name in the layers panel. When enabled, only objects with a name matching the search name are selected. Otherwise, objects whose name contains the search string are also selected.
- Case Sensitive - Enable or disable the use of case sensitive comparison of the object names with the searched name.
- Restrict List - Enable or disable the use of restricted object and layer list, when searching for objects by name. When enabled, and objects are searched by name, the layers panel will list only the objects containing (or matching) the name. This option is disabled by default.
- Select Highlighted - Enable or disable the selection of objects highlighted in the layers panel. When enabled, the objects selected in the layers panel will be selected in the document also.
- Highlight Selected - Enable or disable the highlighting of selected objects in the layers panel. When enabled, the objects selected in the document will be highlighted in the layers panel.
- Preview Layers - Enable or disable the display of a small preview for layers.
- Preview Groups - Enable or disable the display of a small preview for groups.
- Preview Objects - Enable or disable the display of a small preview for objects.
- Preview Mask - Enable or disable the display of a small preview of transparency masks.
- Open Selected - Enable or disable the automatic opening of layers, when selected.
- Separator Lines - Enable or disable the display of separator lines between objects in the layers panel list.
Searching for Objects
Objects can be searched by name, using the search box in the layers panel.
- To search for an object by name, type the name into the search box. The first object found is highlighted.
- To find the next object with that name, press enter while in the search box, or click the button.
- To search backwards, hold the Option key and click the button.
- The search options can be configured in the panel options view.
- The object name can be matched exactly, or searched for text inside the name.
- The object name matching can be case sensitive, or ignoring case.
- When searching for objects, the Restrict List mode can be enabled to show only the objects that match.
- The search text can be cleared by clicking the button.
Layer Panel Commands
The bottom section of the Layers panel contains a number of commands used to manage the layer and object hierarchy. The following commands can be selected:
- - Open the object or layers options view, to edit the selected object or layer options. These options are described in the Object Options section.
- - Duplicate the selected objects or layers.
- - Create a clone for each selected object or layer.
- - Group the selected objects or layers. When grouping layers, a new layer is created that will contain the selected layers.
- - Expand the selected object groups or layers into its member objects.
- - Create or edits the image effects applied on the selected objects. If a layer or an object has image effects, a similar icon will be shown after the object name in the layers and objects list.
- - Create a new layer, by opening a layer options view to setup the new layer.
- - Create a new member layer under the selected layer.
- - Delete the selected objects and layers. Dragging and dropping the objects or layers on this icon will also delete them.
Layer Panel Menu
The Layers panel menu contains various commands, that can be used to manage or modify selected objects in the panel. The following commands are accessible from the Layers panel menu:
- Enter Isolated Mode - Enter into isolated editing of a layer or a group. In isolated mode, all objects and layers outside the isolated location, are rendered in a dimmed mode. Only objects inside the isolated layer or group are selectable.
- Isolate to Parent - Set the isolated group to the container group of the current isolated object. This command is used to move the isolated editing to one level up, in the object hierarchy.
- Exit Isolated Mode - Exit the isolated mode, and returns to the editing on the whole canvas.
- Edit Options - Open the Object Options for object selection, or Layer Options view for layer selection. The object and layer options are described in the Object Options section.
- Rename Objects - Rename the selected objects, using an automated naming scheme. The Renaming Objects section contains a detailed description, on how to rename multiple objects using the Rename Objects command.
- Render as Image - Enable or disable the image rendering mode of the selected objects or layers. When enabled, the object is composited into an image, and the image is rendered onto the canvas. The object image is cached and reused if the object is not changed. This option is disabled by default. This option can be used to speed up the rendering of complex object groups or layers.
- Remove Image Effects - Remove all image effects from the selected objects or layers.
- Active Shapes - Enable or disable the use of the object shape in image effects, for non-visible objects. When enabled, shapes of objects that are not visible, are take into account when computing a group bounding box and applying image effects on that group. This option is disabled by default.
- Local Styles - Open the style override editor view on the selected layer or object. A layer or object may contain redefinitions of styles (style overrides) used inside the layer or object. The appearance of objects and symbols, inside a layer or group, can be modified using local style overrides.
- Object Role - Open a sub-menu of object role options, for the selected layers or objects. Object roles can be used to setup symbols and styles, that remain linked to the originating object. The Symbols and Styles chapter contains a detailed description on how to use object roles to define new symbols and styles.
- Shape from Selection - Set the shape of objects selected in the layers panel, to the shape of object selected in the document. This command can be used to set clipping shape for layers and groups, or to just change the shape of an object.
- Content is Mask - Enable or disable the use of object or layer content, as a mask for the adjustment image effect. This option is available only when the selection contains an image or object with enabled Adjustment Layer option.
- Collect in New Layer - Create a new layer and moves the selected objects and layers into the new layer. The Layer Options view is shown before creating the layer, to setup the new layer.
- Create New Layer - Create a new empty layer, by setting the layer options in the Layer Options view.
- Create Adjustment Layer - Open a sub-menu of image effects, suitable to be used for adjustment layers. Selecting an image effect, will open the image effect editor view, to set the options of the effect. If the image effect options are confirmed, a new adjustment layer is created, using the image effect. Adjustment layers can also be created by enabling the Adjustment Layer option of a layer or object. The Image Effects chapter contains more details, on image effects and their options.
- Adjustment Layer - Enable or disable the adjustment layer mode of the selected layer or object. Any object or layer can become an adjustment layer, applying one or more image effects on the backdrop of the layer or object.
- Arrange - Epen a sub-menu containing various object and layer stacking arrangement commands. These commands are described in more detail in the Arranging Objects section.
- Duplicate - Duplicate the selected objects or layers.
- Clone - Clone the selected objects or layers.
- Reference - Create a new object containing a symbolic link to the selected object.
- Delete - Delete the selected objects.
- Delete Empty - Delete the empty objects and layers from the selected objects and layers.
- Detach Clone - Separate a clone object from its master object, making the clone an independent copy.
- Master Link - Open a menu of available master objects, to select and change the master of the clone object. Master objects can be defined using object references with the Master role.
- Cloned Properties - Open a menu of object property options, to enable or disable the cloning of a specific object option. Working with cloned objects is described in the Cloning Objects section.
- Group - Create a group from the selected objects.
- Ungroup - Move the members of a group outside of the group, and removes the group.
- Style Mixer - Open a menu of various object style mixing options, for the selected objects. When multiple objects are selected, their fill and stroke styles can be adjusted using color and style blending schemes. The Color Filters chapter contains more details on how to use style mixers.
- Color Filters - Open a menu of various color filtering commands. These are the same color filters, as the ones found on the Color Filters section of the Effects menu, but applied to object selections made in the Layers panel. Color filters are used to adjust the colors of objects, using various color changing scheme. The Color Filters chapter contains more details on how to use color filters.
- Shape Styles - Open a menu of available shape styles, that can be used to set the shape of an object. If a layer or a group is selected, selecting a shape style will set the clipping shape.
- Shape References - Open a menu of available objects with the Shape role. These shapes can be used to set the shape of objects, or the clipping shape of layers or groups.
- Clear Shape - Remove the clipping shape from selected layers or objects.
- Create Shape Style - Create a new shape style, from the shape of the selected object. Shape styles can be used to set the shape of objects, from the Layers or Shape panels.
- Create Shape Presets - Create a new shape preset, from the shape of the selected object. Shape presets can be used to set the shape of objects, from the Layers or Shape panels.
- Shape Presets - Open a menu of available shape presets. These shapes can be used to set the shape of objects, or the clipping shape of layers or groups.
- Fill Region - Open a menu of options used to set the fill reference region of an object. By default the fill region of an object is determined by the object shape. This can be changed to an other mode, or an other shape, creating fill regions that are shared between multiple objects. Fill regions can be used to position fill styles at matching locations, in multiple objects. The Object Styling section contains a detailed description on how to set fill regions.
- Mask Region - Open a menu of options used to set the transparency mask reference region of an object. By default the transparency region of an object is determined by the object shape. This can be changed to an other mode, or an other shape, creating transparency regions that are shared between multiple objects. Transparency regions can be used to position transparency masks at matching locations, in multiple objects. The Object Styling section contains a detailed description on how to set transparency mask regions.
- Create Style - Create a new object style from the selected object. Object styles contain the various fill and stroke styles, transparency masks and effects of an object. Object styles can be reused on multiple objects. Styles are linked to a common definition. When using styles, the changes to an object style will be mirrored on all objects using that style.
- Create Style Preset - Create a new object style preset from the selected object. This is similar to the linked object styles, except that when using presets, changes on the preset are not mirrored on all objects using that preset.
- Open with Location - Open a new Layers panel, fixed to the current editing context. By default, the current editing context is the current canvas. If a layer or group is isolated, the current editing context will be the content of that layer or group. Multiple Layers panel instances can be used to access objects from an other canvas, or from a specific layer or group, while having current canvas in the main layers panel.
- Open with Document - Open a new Layers panel, fixed to the current document. When multiple documents are opened, a layers panel can be fixed to a document that may become inactive (but still remain opened). Opening layers panel instances on inactive documents can be used to copy and reuse objects from that document.
- Panel Options - Open the panel options view, used to edit the various options of the Layers panel.
Using Multiple Layer Panels
Multiple instances of the Layers panel can be opened, to access different parts of the same document, or content from an other open document. Objects can be dragged and dropped from these panels, into the main layers panel, or into the current document canvas.
Using multiple layer panel instances makes it easy to access content from other canvases of the same document, or from other open documents. These objects and symbols can be reused, by dragging and dropping into the current document canvas, or into the main Layers panel.
- To open a new Layers panel on the current canvas, select the Open with Location command from the panel menu. Make sure, that no isolated editing mode is active. For example, to easily reuse objects and symbols from a Reference canvas, go to the reference canvas, and open a layers panel using the Open with Location command. Then go to the regular canvas, and drag and drop objects from the layers panel showing the reference canvas content.
- To open a new Layers panel on a specific layer or object content, select the layer or object and enter isolated mode, by selecting the Enter Isolated Mode command from the panel menu. Once in the isolated mode, the Open with Location command will open a new layers panel, fixed to the same layer or object content. The isolated mode can be exited in the main panel and document, by double clicking on an empty area of the canvas, or selecting the Exit Isolated Node command from the main layers panel. In this case, the new layers panel will show only the content of the layer or group, used to open the panel, while the document editing can proceed over the whole canvas, or other canvases.
- To open a new Layers panel on an other document, open that document in VectorStyler. It is important to note, that in VectorStyler, multiple documents can be kept open in different document views. These documents can be accessed by clicking on the document name in the document view title region. Once the document is open, select the Open with Document command from the main Layers panel menu. A new layers panel is opened, fixed to the current document. Now switch to an other document, by selecting its name, or by opening it. The extra layers panel will keep showing the content from the previous document, allowing the reuse of objects by drag and drop into the current document canvas.