June 9, 2006

Symbols, Symbols, Symbols

Ok, I'll admit that I thought of the title for this post while "Money, Money, Money" by ABBA was what iTunes has chosen for me to listen to at the moment. But there's a deeper meaning here as well. Symbols, within Symbols, within Symbols -- oh yes -- it's a nested symbols fiesta!

At a recent session that I gave, someone had asked me if it would be possible to "nest" symbols -- meaning, placing a symbol within a symbol. I hadn't really thought of it before, so my initial reaction was no. But lately I've been playing with Flash a lot more and in Flash, you CAN nest symbols. So I headed back over to Illustrator and decided to give it a try. And wouldn't you know it -- IT WORKED.

Go ahead and try it. Create some artwork and define it as a symbol. Then create another symbol. Drag instances of each of those symbols out onto your artboard, select them both and define a symbol of the two. The result? A symbol that contains two symbols inside of it.

No go ahead and redefine one of the first symbols you created -- you'll find that the symbol with the other symbols nested within it will update as well! Yay! I can think of many cool uses for this, and I'm sure that you can as well. But it defintely means you can think of your designs in a more modular fashion, which could save you some valuable time when it comes to making updates.

UPDATE: Teri Petit has informed me that a bug exists in Illustrator CS2 that will cause nested symbols to print incorrectly. The bug does not exist with Illustrator CS or Illustrator 10. See comments for more details (thanks Teri).


Teri Pettit said...


Unfortunately, there is a bug in CS2 where nested symbols do not export to PDF. (The bug is in the PDFPort library, not in Illustrator per se.) It is pretty bad, in that the PDF file omits all file contents after (i.e., below in stacking order) the first instance of a symbol containing a nested symbol.

Since native printing from Illustrator is based on PDF, that means these files will also not print. So files containing nested symbols will need to have the symbols expanded before printing or exporting to PDF. It's safer just to avoid making them.

The bug is not fixed in the 12.0.1 update.

They work correctly in CS (or in 10.)

Mordy Golding said...

Thanks for the heads up Teri. Nasty bug indeed. I've updated my post.

Anonymous said...

muchas gracias!!!

Greg said...

Works just fine in CS3, even prints.

The old version is past it, and you can even get a trial of the latest CS5.

Margaret D. Williams said...

Tried it in CS5 and works just fine also. Thanks for the info.

Jim said...

Thanks for this infomation the version CS5 and works just fine also and i can print cannot see any problems
thanks James

Dave Carr said...

What a useful discovery! Thank you.