by infinite_resolution


March 12, 2009

Working Smarter, with Templates

Contributed by Brenda Sutherland, Illustrator Drum Major

Wouldn’t it be handy if you could keep a shoebox for every client you had. You could fill it with the colors, fonts and logos that you keep around just for that client, and every time you had a new job for them, you could just open that shoebox and shake the content out onto your computer and PRESTO, begin work with everything at your fingertips!

What if I told you this wasn’t pure fantasy, that you can assemble that shoebox, and many more like them, so they’re always ready for you whenever you need to pull them off the shelf? There is a way, and it’s so simple you won’t believe anything this easy could be so powerful and save you so much time.

You may already be aware of Illustrator Template files. In fact, you might already be using them when you need to layout business cards or 3 fold brochures. But have you considered creating custom templates for each of your clients, loading them with all the content that you use repeatedly?All you need to do is open a new file (Choose an RGB or CMYK profile, depending on the type of work you usually do for the client), and add the following things to the new empty file:

  • Type Styles: If your client wants everything in HOBO (Come on, we’ve all had clients like this!) then open up the Type Style panel and change your default font to HOBO. Create new, additional styles with other fonts that you typically use for this client and give them meaningful names, like “Menu Items” so you’ll know at a glance what each style is for. Paragraph styles can also be added and customized.
  • Swatches: Open a library and select the colors you use for this clients and add them to the Swatch Panel. Remember, you can also open an existing Ai File as a swatch library, so if you already have a file for this client with all the colors you need, you can open that as a library (choose “other” from the library menu) and add them all into the new document’s current Swatch panel.
  • Symbols: Paste logos and other recurring graphics you use for this client into the new document. Select each one and create a symbol out of it. When you have all the new symbols loaded into your Symbol panel, delete the artwork from the document.
  • Brushes: Any Brushes that you commonly use for this client?
  • Graphic Styles: Any Graphic Styles that you use repeatedly? Remember, in CS4 you can apply graphic styles additively, so if find yourself constantly creating a custom drop shadow, just save it as a graphic style and apply to art while holding down the option key (Mac)/Alt key (Win) to ADD it to you selection’s appearance.

Just a couple more things to do:

  • Look over all the content panels (Swatches, Symbols etc..) and clean out anything you know you will NEVER use.
  • Choose File>Save As Template. This will save the file as an .ait (Illustrator Template) file. You can save this anywhere you like.
The next time you get a job for this client, start off by opening the .ait file. Notice that you have actually opened a new file “” rather than the template file? Also, notice that when you start to type, the default font is the Client’s font. When you need to add a logo, you can place it from the Symbols panel. The client’s colors are all in the Swatches Panel, and that special drop shadow you always use is available as a Graphic Style!Now that you’ve gotten an inkling of what custom templates can do, here are some of the other things you can add to template files that will carry over to all new files created with them:
  • Layer Structure: For example, create layers named ‘Text’, ‘Guides’ or ‘Images’ if that’s how you usually work.
  • Rulers: Turn them on, set them to the units you usually want displayed. If you find you usually reset the ruler origin, then change it in the template.
  • Views: Yes, these can be saved with templates as well!
  • Default Fill and Stroke: These can be changed by redefining the ‘Default’ style in the Graphic Styles panel.
  • Artboards: All artboard settings, from size, number to bleed, will be carried over in your template.
Templates can be stored anywhere, so you can organize them by client, type of job, schedule, whatever works for you. And of course, you don’t need to limit them to clients. You can create templates for recurrent projects or workflows. As you can see, working with templates can save you lots of time by cutting down on the mundane setup tasks so you can get started on the creative tasks that much sooner!


  • By Tim Sutherland - 11:53 AM on March 12, 2009  

    Great stuff Brenda, I’ve never worked with Illustrator so don’t use it just Photoshop. It’s nice to know there is another great Sutherland working in the arts!!!!

  • By maeda - 6:33 PM on March 12, 2009  

    Illustrator team web space, finallylooking forward..

  • By Sherri Walker - 10:38 AM on March 13, 2009  

    Thanks Brenda. I create a lot of artwork, and fliers in illustrator. I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to use fonts, styles and colors from a previous project. However, its so time consuming to pull up the project and click on all the text, images and colors just to see how I created them. This will definitely come in handy.Be blessed.

  • By Kieth Iribarren - 2:04 PM on August 30, 2010  

    That’s a sound written piece friend in this specific theme. I have been pondering on if I could use this write up on my own webpage, I will link it back aimed at your blog though. If this sounds an irritation remember to make me aware and I’ll take it down instantly. Angela

  • By Jodi - 7:23 PM on February 4, 2011  

    Brenda, thanks for the great write-up. Do you know if there is a way to get Illustrator to automatically load templates for a location that is NOT the default? I use my templates on two different computers and store them in a Dropbox folder. It would be great if I could click on “New from Template” and have it open my Dropbox folder instead of Applications/Adobe Illustrator CS5/Cool Extras/en_BG/Templates.


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