Preview options and selecting objects in Illustrator

My brother-in-law sent me an Illustrator file the other day with a plea to help him delete an object that he couldn’t figure out how to get rid of. It was visible, but he could not select it because it was stacked beneath other objects in the file. Every time he would click on it, the uppermost object would highlight. There are a couple of ways he could have gotten rid of the unwanted object.

First, look in the Layers palette. If you see the object there, you can select it by clicking the blank area to the right of the target circles. Clicking there selects all objects on that layer. This is a good way to select objects that are “buried” under other objects. Think of Illustrator files like piles of painted acetate or clear film. If you stack them on top of each other, even though you can see through parts of them, you may still have trouble grabbing the one on the bottom. Using the Layers palette can help with this problem. But if you have too many layers or objects, and you still cannot select that object, try my second method.

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Clicking the Selection area in the Layers palette selects all objects on that layer.

The second method for selecting layered objects is to change the preview mode. Once you are viewing your image in Outline mode, you should be able to select that object. For a good explanation of the different previewing options, see this post on the DesignGeek E-Zine by Anne-Marie Concepcion. As I read her article, I was wishing it had illustrations, so I made some to accompany the text. The illustrations below go with the three different situations she describes. Enjoy!

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Choose Window > New Window and display both side by side. Then choose View > Outline to view one window in Outline mode next to the one in Preview mode.

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Choose Window > Navigator to display the Navigator palette. Enlarge the view in the palette by expanding the window size from the bottom right corner. Note that the red rectangle in the Navigator palette corresponds to the section of the illustration visible in the main window. Choose View > Outline to view the illustration in outline mode.

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Display the Layers palette and Command-click (Mac OS) or Ctrl-click (Windows) the eye icon for the layer to toggle between Preview and Outline modes.

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