How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

Shapes are a basic element that you’ll find in most designs, and they can make drawing in Adobe Illustrator much easier. While you can get both basic and complex shapes from the Storyblocks vector library , it’s nice to know how to create the basics on your own when you need them. Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to geometric mastery in Adobe AI—or save yourself the time and download the shapes you need from our library.

How to Make Basic Shapes in Illustrator

Let’s start with the basics. To make a shape in Illustrator, you’ll need to choose from the Shape Tools . The default shape is a Rectangle , but you can also choose from a Rounded Rectangle , Ellipse , Polygon , Star , or Flare . To choose from these other shapes, right click on the Rectangle Tool and select the one you want to make. From here, all you need to do is click and drag to make your shape.

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

Helpful Shortcuts for Drawing the Basic Shapes

  1. If you hold the Shift key when creating a rectangle or rounded rectangle, you will get a perfectly proportioned square.
  2. If you hold the Shift key when creating an ellipse, you’ll get a perfect circle.
  3. Holding the Alt key (the Option key for all you Mac users) will allow you to draw a shape from the center rather than the corner.
  4. If you know the exact size shape you want to create, then with the shape tool selected, click on the screen and don’t drag. A box will pop up, and you can enter the exact dimensions for your shape.

How to Color Shapes in Illustrator

Coloring in your shapes is easy. First, you’ll need to make sure your shape is selected. You can choose from common colors using the color pickers at the top left of the screen or you can choose from every color possible using the color pickers in the toolbar. Both options are shown below, so pick whichever one works best for you.

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

How to Cut Shapes in Illustrator

The basic shape tools don’t include some popular options like half circles, and in order to make these shapes, you actually have to cut your basic shapes. There are multiple ways to cut a shape, but the easiest way is to draw a line where you want the cut to occur, then divide the shapes using the pathfinder tool. You can see the pathfinder tool if you go to Window > Pathfinder .

  1. Draw a cut line (or two). How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator
  2. Open the Pathfinder Tool.How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator
  3. Select the lines and shape, then press Divide in the Pathfinder Tool to make the cut. How to create a new layer in adobe illustratorHow to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

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Article Information


  1. Layer Basics
  2. Creating and Editing Layers
  3. Using Layers to Select Content
  4. Merging Layers
  5. Sharing Layers
  6. Controlling Layer Appearance
  7. Summary

Article Description

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Creating and Editing Layers

When you begin working in an Illustrator document, it can be very beneficial to set up layers in the Layers panel, based on the content that you’ll eventually create. Suppose you’re creating a web page design mockup composed of header, sidebar, main content area, and footer area. It makes sense to create layers for each of these content areas in the Layers panel. That way, the content can be locked, hidden, or selected easily. Here’s how to do it:

    In the Layers panel (Window > Layers), double-click the default Layer 1 to open the Layer Options dialog box. Change the name of the layer to Header and make the layer whatever color you like (see Figure 2). Click OK.

Figure 2 Creating a new layer.

You’ve created all four of the layers for your web page design mockup.


Have a simple document that might not require layers? You can still use layers to your advantage. Since the color of the layer in the Layers panel dictates the color of the content’s bounding boxes, anchor points, and more, you can double-click the name Layer 1 and change the layer color to a color that makes the anchor points and bounding boxes easier to see and select.

Naming Layers

Another potentially important aspect of working with layers is the naming of layers, which can save you time by keeping your content better organized. The following list discusses a few general naming conventions for layers. Choose the conventions that mesh best with your personal working style.

  • Be consistent when naming layers in either uppercase or lowercase.
  • Keep layer names short and sweet.
  • By default, the Layers panel doesn’t take up much screen real estate on most monitors. Using long layer names may change that situation.
  • Create a naming convention for special layers such as templates or masks[md]all uppercase, for example.
  • Try different naming conventions for layers and sublayers. It may seem silly, since the sublayers are indented in the Layers panel, but try naming layers with title case (each word having an initial capital letter) and sublayers all lowercase, for example. Visually it will be easier to tell the difference (see Figure 3), making it more likely that you’ll select the correct layer quickly.

Figure 3 Sample naming conventions for layers.

Layers Versus Sublayers

Sublayers should be used in a more complex document, where content needs to be organized within a layer. It may surprise you to learn that the layers in Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop differed from each other in Adobe Creative Suite 4 or earlier. Illustrator has always had its own way of working with layers because it not only had the main parent layer(s), but also sublayers. A sublayer is a child of a parent layer. Huh? Sublayers are those “subfolders within folders” that Adobe Help mentioned.

In Adobe CS5, InDesign adopted layers and sublayers, so now two programs of the big three use sublayers. Actually, Photoshop does as well (sort of), but they’re called layer groups.

Here’s how you create sublayers:

  1. Select the layer in which you want to create a sublayer.
  2. Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac) the Create New Sublayer button at the bottom of the Layers panel. The Layer Options dialog box opens immediately. Name the sublayer, select a color, and click OK. The new sublayer is added to the top of the stack that’s underneath the selected layer or sublayer in the Layers panel.

The selected layer now has a sublayer. If a sublayer was selected in the Layers panel when you used the Create New Sublayer button, a sublayer would be added to that sublayer, creating a layer hierarchy three levels deep.


If you use Ctrl-Alt-click (Windows) or Cmd-Option-click (Mac) with the Create New Sublayer button, you create a new sublayer at the bottom of the selected layer in the Layers panel.

Layer Groups

Similar to sublayers are groups. Try selecting several objects on a layer and then select Object > Group. Look in the Layers panel and you’ll see as a sublayer (shown earlier in Figure 3). You can rename the group by double-clicking the name in the Layers panel. Renaming the group can make it visually difficult to distinguish it from a true sublayer, but also makes it easier for you to know what’s in the group. A potential naming convention for groups might be something like this: ” widgets.” This naming plan still indicates a group, but gives you an idea of what content is in the group.

Groups in the Layers panel cannot contain sublayers. They also offer fewer options than sublayers do when double-clicked in the Layers panel.


Ever notice how selecting objects on different layers and grouping them forces all of those objects onto one layer? Illustrator doesn’t like having grouped objects spread across multiple layers. A quick fix is to select multiple objects and choose Select > Save Selection. The new selection appears at the bottom of the Select menu. The next time you need to work with that bunch of objects, you can choose it from the Select menu.

Layers Panel Options

I always say that you should change the viewing options of the Layers panel to match your working style. Expand the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and choose Panel Options from the Layers panel menu to display the Layers Panel Options dialog box shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4 Changing Layers panel options.

In this dialog box, you can start by selecting Show Layers Only. This option hides all the sublayers and makes the Layers panel work like Adobe InDesign CS4 or earlier. This technique can be great if you’re getting lost in the sublayers and need to just focus on the main layers.

Another option in the Layers Panel Options dialog box is the ability to set row height. The default row size is Medium. If you have a document with lots of layers and you need to be able to see more of them to drag content or layers around, choosing Small will suit you well. If you have a document where you need to be able to see what’s on the layer based on the thumbnail, choose Large.

Sometimes the layer thumbnails in the Layers panel can be annoying, taking up some of your precious computer processing speed. They can also be plain useless if you have lots of little “pieces.” Deselecting the thumbnail options in the Layers Panel Options dialog box can remove them completely, or allow you to choose which ones to hide.

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

Introduction to Layers in Illustrator

Layers in Illustrator are the transparent folders that contain text, images, and artworks. These layers can be hidden or shown at any point in time from the document as required by the user. The layers contain all the necessary information about the objects or artworks present inside that layer. The user can change the opacity of that particular layer and lock the layer to work on the other objects without touching that layer. The layers in Illustrator are very important to learn and understand because most of the work is done with the help of the layers and their functions.

Create a Layer in Illustrator

In the first section, we will discuss how to create a Layer.

3D animation, modelling, simulation, game development & others

Step 1: To start using the Layers, open it from the Windows and select the Layers option.

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

Now you will see a layers panel in the bottom right part. You can begin using the layers options to list, manage, and control items in your work. It is recommended to always keep the layers panel activated in your document for easy access.

Step 2: Now, go to the Layers panel and press the icon below as shown in the image. This will create a new layer. By default, the layer is named Layer 1. You can rename it by double-clicking on the layer you want to rename.

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

Step 3: Also, the new layer will have the default color. You can change its color by double-clicking the layer and using the layer options. See the below image.

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

Step 4: You will find adobe illustrator layers adjacent to the created Layer. It is used to hide or show the content in the Layer.

Step 5: Press it, and the Eye icon disappears, making all the items in it out of sight. If you need to see the Layer again, all you have to do is press the eye icon area again.

Step 6: Next to the eye icon is the area to lock your Layer. On clicking there, a padlock icon appears. This means that your layer is locked, and you cannot move or select anything from the items inside the layer. Again, if you need the items, click on the lock icon, and now you can work on the Layer again.

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

Set Layer and Sublayer options

Illustrator allows the users to further create objects and link them with the parent layers. It is called sub-layers, where the items will be branching from the original layer. Follow the below instructions.

  1. Double click the object from the layers panel.
  2. From the layers panel, select options after selecting the item.
  3. Finally, select New Layer or New Sublayer from the layers panel menu

Move an Object to a Different Layer

Often in Illustrator, once you have created an object, you might have to move it to a different Layer. After creating objects in a layer, you could still move them to a different Layer by following the below instructions:

  1. Choose the items you need to move.
  2. Select the Layer you want the item to be moved to.
  3. Now go to Object> Arrange> Send to Current Layer.
  4. A more simple option is to drag the object directly to the desired layer. Just be careful that you are moving the object to the correct layer.

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

Consolidate Layers and Groups

You have the option to fuse different layers or objects into one. If you require the need to merge or flatten layers into a single layer. Merging allows the consolidation of selected items into a single layer, while flattening makes all the items consolidate in a layer. With these two options, the stacking order is preserved; however, all the layer level elements will be lost.

  • For merging items, hold the Control key if you are using Windows or the Command key in case if you are using Mac. You can also select a few objects among the layers by using the shift key. After that, using the layers panel menu, choose Merge Selected option. The result will be a merged layer based on the layer you picked last.

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

  • If you want to flatten layers, select the layer you want to flatten. After that, using the layers panel menu, choose Flatten Artwork option.

Locate an item in the Layers Panel

There might be instances while working in your document that you might have lost track of the objects in your artwork. There is a very easy method available in Illustrator for tracking such lost elements.

  • Select an object in the document window. If you select more than one object, the front-most objects in the stacking order will be located. This order is particularly useful for finding things in complex layers.
  • Pick Locate Object from the options, and if the Show Layers Only is selected, the option becomes Locate layer.

Change the Display of the Layers Panel

It is upon you to decide how you want to showcase your layers panel. You can either make it simple or complex, depending on your needs. As a standard, all the items will be housed under the parent layer. Using the layers panel, you can further customize the look, color, and other properties like the lock, hide, etc.

Step 1: From the layers panel menu, select Panel Options.

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

Step 2: For hiding the paths and clubbed objects, pick Show Layers Only from the panel options.

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

Step 3: Now, for the row size, choose one that suits your needs. Usually, you can fill between the values of 12 and 100. In the newer versions of Illustrator, you are provided with three options- Small, Medium, and Large.

Conclusion – Layers in Illustrator

Creating detailed and complex artworks is often difficult as you have to manage many elements, including shapes, path, and objects. Illustrator makes thing easy with its layer panel options that provide a lot of assortment for controlling the layers and objects. It also makes it simpler to find minute things quickly. Try using layers and optimize your workflow in Adobe Illustrator.

Recommended Articles

This is a guide to Layers in Illustrator. Here we discussed steps for Creating a Layer in Illustrator and discussed the different sub-layer options, consolidated layers, and groups. You can also look at our other related articles to learn more –

Illustrator Training (1 Courses, 2+ Projects)

Illustrator provides many shortcuts to help you get work done faster. Many keyboard shortcuts appear when you hover over icons in the command menu.

  • The following list includes the most helpful shortcuts. You may find additional shortcuts in menu commands and tool tips.
  • You can customize the keyboard shortcuts in Illustrator. See Customize keyboard shortcuts.

Download and print a handy one page reference of some helpful keyboard shortcuts for Illustrator.

Direct Selection tool

Magic Wand tool

Blob Brush tool

Add Anchor Point tool

Delete Anchor Point tool

Switch to Anchor Point tool

Line Segment tool

Free Transform tool

Shape Builder Tool

Perspective Grid Tool

Perspective Selection Tool

Symbol Sprayer tool

Column Graph tool

Live Paint Bucket tool

Live Paint Selection tool

Switch to Smooth tool while using Blob Brush tool

Toggle between screen modes: Normal Screen Mode, Full Screen Mode with Menu Bar, Full Screen Mode

Fit imageable area in window

Double-click Hand tool

Double-click Hand tool

Double-click Zoom tool or press Ctrl + 1

Double-click Zoom tool or press Command + 1

Switch to Hand tool (when not in text-edit mode)

Switch to Zoom tool in magnify mode

Switch to Zoom tool in reduce mode

Ctrl + Alt + Spacebar

Spacebar + Command + Option

Move Zoom marquee while dragging with the Zoom tool

Hide unselected artwork

Ctrl + Alt + Shift + 3

Command + Option + Shift + 3

Convert between horizontal and vertical guide

Ctrl + Shift-double-click guide

Command + Shift-double-click guide

Command + Shift + H

Show/Hide artboard rulers

Command + Option + R

View all artboards in window

Ctrl + Alt + 0 (zero)

Command + Option + 0 (zero)

Paste in place on the active artboard

Command + Shift + V

Exit Artboard tool mode

Create artboard inside another artboard

Select multiple artboards in the Artboards panel

Navigate to next document

Navigate to previous document

Ctrl + Shift + F6

Command + Shift + F6

Navigate to next document group

Command + Option + F6

Navigate to previous document group

Ctrl + Alt + Shift + F6

Command + Option + Shift + F6

Switch to last-used selection tool (Selection tool, Direct Selection tool, or Group Selection tool)

Switch between Direct Selection tool and Group Selection tool

Add to a selection with Selection tool, Direct Selection tool, Group Selection tool, Live Paint Selection tool, or Magic Wand tool

Subtract a selection with Selection tool, Direct Selection tool, Group Selection tool, or LIve Paint Selection tool

Subtract from selection with Magic Wand tool

Add to selection with Lasso tool

Subtract from selection with Lasso tool

Change pointer to cross hair for Lasso tool

Select artwork in active artboard

Command + Option + A

Create crop marks around selected object

Select behind an object

Press Ctrl+click twice

Press Command+click twice

Select behind in isolation mode

Set keyboard increments in General Preferences ( Ctrl/ Cmd + K ).

Constrain a shape’s proportions or orientation to:

equal height and width for rectangles, rounded rectangles, ellipses, and grids

Increments of 45° for line and arc segments

Original orientation for polygons, stars, and flares

Move a shape while drawing it

Draw from the center of a shape (except for polygons, stars, and flares)

Increase or decrease polygon sides, star points, arc angle, spiral winds, or flare rays

Start dragging, then press the Up Arrow or Down Arrow

Start dragging, then press the Up Arrow or Down Arrow

Keep the inner radius of a star constant

Start dragging, then hold down Ctrl

Start dragging, then hold down Command

Keep the sides of a star straight

Switch between an open and closed arc

Start dragging, then hold down C

Start dragging, then hold down C

Flip an arc, keeping the reference point constant

Start dragging, then hold down F

Start dragging, then hold down SF

Add or subtract winds from a spiral while increasing the length of the spiral

Start dragging, then Alt-drag

Start dragging then Option-drag

Change the decay rate of a spiral

Start dragging then Ctrl-drag

Start dragging then Command-drag

Add or remove horizontal lines from a rectangular grid or concentric lines from a polar grid

Start dragging, then press the Up Arrow or Down Arrow

Start dragging, then press the Up Arrow or Down Arrow

Add or remove vertical lines from a rectangular grid or radial lines from a polar grid

Start dragging, then press the Right Arrow or Left Arrow

Start dragging, then press the Right Arrow or Left Arrow

Decrease the skew value for horizontal dividers in a rectangular grid or radial dividers in a polar grid by 10%

Start dragging, then press F

Start dragging, then press F

Increase the skew value for horizontal dividers in a rectangular grid or radial dividers in a polar grid by 10%

Start dragging, then press V

Start dragging, then press V

Decrease the skew value for vertical dividers in a rectangular grid or concentric dividers in a polar grid by 10%

Start dragging, then press X

Start dragging, then press X

Increase the skew value for vertical dividers in a rectangular grid or concentric dividers in a polar grid by 10%

Start dragging, then press C

Start dragging, then press C

Increase size of Blob Brush

] (right square bracket)

] (right square bracket)

Decrease size of Blob Brush

[ (left square bracket)

[ (left square bracket)

Constrain Blob Brush path horizontally or vertically

Switch through drawing modes

Join two or more paths

Select the paths, then press Ctrl + J

Select the paths, then press Command + J

Create corner or smooth join

Select the paths, then press Shift + Ctrl + Alt + J

Select the anchor point, then press Shift + Command + Option + J

I am trying to group layers but the option is greyed out. The layers are based on drawing using pen tools. How can I group layers into one?

2 Answers 2

You can create groups by selecting objects and pressing ctrl/cmd + G How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

Grouping layers is not quite the same as in photoshop. You can stack layers by drag and dropping layers onto an other layer. It can help to organise your file. But unlike in photoshop (with layer styles, effects and masks) illustrator groups and layers don’t have much functionality. How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

You can’t “group” layers using the Object > Group menu item. Layers are layers, not objects. It is only possible to “group” objects.

You however, can create a new layer and combine other layers as sublayers. This is kind of a pseudo-group.

Merely highlight the layers in the Layers Panel and from the Panel Menu choose Collect in New Layer .

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

Again, this isn’t really a “group”, but rather a new layer with sub-layers. But as a new layer you can lock/hide/select it to control the internal sublayers as if it were a “group”.

Select one or more objects.

Select the Selection, Direct Selection, or Group Selection.

Alt‑drag (Windows) or Option‑drag (Mac OS) the selection (but not a handle on the bounding box).

You can quickly duplicate objects, groups, and entire layers by using the Layers panel.

Select the items you want to duplicate in the Layers panel.

Do one of the following:

Choose Duplicate “Layer name” from the Layers panel menu.

Drag the item in the Layers panel to the New Layer button at the bottom of the panel.

Start to drag the item to a new position in the Layers panel, and then hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS). Release the mouse button when the indicator is in the position where you want to place the duplicated item. If you release the mouse button when the indicator is pointing to a layer or group, the duplicated item is added to the top of the layer or group. If you release the mouse button when the indicator is between items, the duplicated item will be added in the specified position.

You can use the Clipboard to transfer selections between an Illustrator file and other Adobe software including Adobe Photoshop and Adobe InDesign. The Clipboard is particularly useful for importing paths because paths are copied to the Clipboard as PostScript language descriptions. Artwork copied to the Clipboard is pasted in PICT format in most applications. However, some applications take the PDF version (such as InDesign) or the AICB version. PDF preserves transparency; AICB lets you specify whether you want to preserve the overall appearance of the selection or copy the selection as a set of paths (which can be useful in Photoshop).

To specify copying preferences, choose Edit > Preferences > File Handling & Clipboard (Windows) or Illustrator > Preferences > File Handling & Clipboard (Mac OS). Select PDF, AICB, or both. If you select AICB, select Preserve Paths to discard any transparency in the copied artwork or Preserve Appearance And Overprints to flatten any transparency, maintain the copied artwork’s appearance, and preserve overprinted objects.

In this guide, we show you how to simply create, scale and edit fill patterns in Adobe Illustrator; via the following steps:

  1. Creating the pattern you want to duplicate/make your fill pattern
  2. Filling your shape
  3. Scaling, moving or rotating your pattern
  4. Editing the pattern swatch/customising an existing swatch

Patterns are a useful tool for creating a design within a shape without having to duplicate the item and use a clipping path increasing the file size.

Follow these simple steps to create your pattern. We have used a simple geometric bird design in this tutorial that you are free to download.

1. Create the pattern you wish to duplicate and turn into your fill pattern

This can be any shape or size you want to fill your area. If you want a seamless background make sure your shape is symmetrical. When you are happy with the shape or design, drag the whole shape into your swatches panel to create a new fill.

You can also use seamless patterns created in Photoshop. Open the psd, png, or jpg file in Illustrator and then drag it to the Swatches panel. Use it as a fill the same as any pattern. Start with a high resolution image for best results.

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

2. Fill your shape

Select the object you wish to fill, and click on the new fill you have created in your swatches panel.

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

3. Scale, move or rotate your pattern

You can easily transform the pattern within your shape, by moving, scaling or rotating it. Select the shape containing the fill pattern. Go to the Object Menu and click Transform, here you can select move, rotate, reflect, scale or shear.

Select the transform option you want to use. When the transform box appears, ensure you click Patterns in the options, this way you are only scaling the pattern and not the object.

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

4. Edit the pattern swatch or customize an existing swatch

To edit the pattern swatch, click and drag the swatch onto your art board. Once you have finished editing your pattern, you can either replace the swatch you have edited by clicking alt and dragging it over the previous swatch, or you can create a new swatch by simply dragging the pattern into the swatches menu as before.

How to create a new layer in adobe illustrator

Written by Jenny

Since joining Evoluted in 2011, Jenny’s extensive design experience has helped hundreds of our clients to obtain great results. Comfortable working on illustration, branding and print projects – as well as websites and apps – her skillset has been enhanced thanks to an intriguing career path.

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Im not new to PS, but I am new to illustrator, and especially Draw. Im on the iPad Pro. Wondering, if I make a layer with either the pen (so just drawing) or make a shape, can I then change the colour of that drawing or that object some how? I cant seem to figure this out. Its such a barebones app, its kind of limiting.

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To fill a layer with color, create a new Draw Layer, then press-and-hold inside the canvas to fill it with color (it will change to the color of whatever brush you have selected). To use it as your background layer, press-hold-and-drag it just above the existing Background Layer.

To change the color of something already drawn on your canvas, just select a brush with the color you want to change it to and press-and-hold on it.

Hopefully I’ve answered your question(s) completely, but let me know if I haven’t.

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Thank you Sue. That helps quite a bit. One thing though, what if the layer consists of many brush strokes? Can I change them all to a new colour without having to hold the pen on each piece of the drawing? I wish I could click the layer itself on the side menu and apply a layer mask or somethign to easily change the colour of the entire layer. Like if I had drawn 100 circles, I wish I didn’t have to hold the pen on each circle to get them all to change colours.