Export for Screens and Asset Export Panel in Illustrator CC2015

Photoshop has been improving and updating it’s export capabilities over the last couple of years, with functionality that is much more relevant for the requirements of digital design these days, but Illustrator has been stuck with the Save for Web dialog—until now. This is great news, especially as Illustrator became the most popular Creative Cloud product this year for the first time in years—probably as the modern UX designer demands vector assets for a multi-screen world—and this makes me especially happy as I’ve been stressing it’s importance as a tool for years.

Asset Export Panel

exportForScreens1A new Asset Export Panel has been created that allows you visually collect—and organise—individual assets simply by dragging* objects into the panel; any art added to the panel automatically updates to reflect any changes made in Illustrator, and the items in the panel also travel with the file—which is great if you’re working collaboratively.

*If you’re more of a clicker than a dragger, there is also an Export Selection… command in the File menu—as well as the command being present in contextual right-click menus, too. Also in the contextual menu you’ll find a Collect for Output command that adds the asset to the panel.

Export Options

In the Asset Export Panel you can set up all of your different rendering options for file type and scale (except of course for lovely, lovely SVG, which does not need it) and there are preset buttons for iOS and Android that will pre-populate at the required sizes:

iOS@2xiOS:

  • 1x
  • 2x
  • 3x
  • SVG

android@2xAndroid:

  • ldpi
  • mdpi
  • hdpi
  • xhdpi
  • xxhdpi
  • xxxhdpi
  • SVG

The complete list of default file formats include:

  • PNG (24)|PNG-8 (the algorithm for generating PNG files has been tweaked to generate the files faster and produce better transparency in PNG-8 files)
  • JPG (presets for compression are 100|80|50|20)
  • SVG
  • PDF

Tip: When dragging assets into the panel, make sure that you change the name that is automatically generated (Asset 1, Asset 2, etc.) to something more meaningful—simply double-click to the name to change it—and the export will use that name as the basis for the filename; click the Export button at the bottom right to export your assets.

If you only want to export a subset of the assets in the panel, simply click on those you wish to exclude—deselecting them—and they will not be exported.

To remove a scale rendering, click the X icon to the right of the output type

If you’d like to export the assets and the artboards at the same time, then click the Export for Screens Dialog button (or select the command from the Export menu item in the File menu).

Export for Screens

The Export for Screens… dialog gives you a number of options for tuning your export:

  • Location—specify where the files will be exported to, and if you’d like that location to open up in your Finder/Explorer then there’s an Open Location after Export checkbox
  • Prefix—text that will start at the beginning of the exported filenames for all the exports
  • Suffix—text to ensure that exports have individual names; usually, this is for different size renderings and is automatically generated when you add new scale renders
  • Range Selector—in the artboards tab (see next) you can determine what artboards are exported, or export the complete document as one file

Export Artboards

exportForScreensAt the top of the dialog you’ll see that there is a tab for artboards, so you can also export an entire set of artboards to multiple formats and sizes in one go, with the same options that are available for assets.

Wrapping Up

These options mean that rather than multiple time-consuming trips to the Save for Web dialog, or needlessly creating whole new artboards for individual asset export, you can now set all of your exports, at all of your required asset types and dimensions, in one go; welcome to getting half of your day back!

How To Use The Width Tool in Illustrator

widthToolFeaturedIllustrator’s Width Tool was introduced way back in CS5, believe it or not—so it’s amazing that there are a number of users who haven’t discovered it. The tool is easy to use and can give some fantastic results—you’d be amazed at what can be created with it—especially when it’s combined with gradients, as it can be used to get a gradient mesh drawing started (check out the reference to that on this post from May 2015).

Using The Width Tool

All you need to use the Width Tool is a stroke to use it on. You’ll find the tool with the warping and distortion family, and it has a keyboard acceleration shortcut (SHIFT-W) that will get you the tool even faster. You then move along the stroke, clicking and dragging to change the width, away from the centre (vector) line to increase the width…

widthTool…towards the centre line to decrease the width…widthTool1and you can use the tool to grab the nodes that appear on the outer edges too—which makes it easier to create tapers at the end of your stroke.widthTool2

You can distort the width asymmetrically by holding ALT as you drag…widthTool3and you can drag the nodes along the centre line to smooth out (or not) the transition between widths.widthTool4

Saving a Width Profile

You can add a profile to Illustrator by selecting the stroke that you’ve used to make the profile, opening the Profile Selector in the Control Strip, and clicking the Save icon at the bottom of the panel.

Deleting a Width Profile

Should you need to delete a profile, open the Profile Selector then drag the unwanted profile to the trash icon in the panel, and validate the confirmation dialog that appears next.widthTool5 Applying a Width Profile

Simply select the object or strokes that you’d like to apply the profile to, and choose your profile from the Profile Selector. The profiles are width-dependent, so you may need to increase or decrease the stroke width to get the desired effect. Remember that the profiles are not a fixed style, so you can always continue editing the profile on instances where you have used it. It’s a great way to make your work look a little more hand=drawn, but there are loads of other effects that you could achieve with it.widthTool6As a kind-of demonstration when the feature appeared, I had three hours to draw something with it and managed to come up with Tower Bridge, made from just strokes (and gradients on strokes); the only rectangle used was one to frame the sky and only because there’s a limitation of 1,000 points as a stroke width, or it would have been completely made from strokes! If you’d like to see it, watch the movie below.

Work Smarter, Not Harder: How to Use The Width Tool

Touch Type Tool: The Movie

Last June on the blog there was a post about the Touch Type Tool in Illustrator and now, as part of the new “Work Smarter, Not Harder” series on my Youtube channel, you can see a live demonstration 0f how to use the tool.

The Movie

Refer to the post for specifics on the other controls associated with it—it’s one of the evolving tools that works really well on touch-enabled devices (I use often on my Wacom Cintiq Companion, even for simple kerning overrides) and doesn’t require modifier keys to do things such as proportional scaling.

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