Underlines in Illustrator

October 20, 2004 - 1:00am ||| 0 Comments | Add new

Bear with me for a second while I give you the back story.

Last week at the huge Graph Expo at Chicago's McCormick Place, I had the novel experience of donning an official Adobe trade show shirt and helping them at their booth. (Well, not "helping" as in "volunteering," I was more of a hired geek. I got to send them an invoice too, which was a refreshing change from sending a check.)

For much of the four days of the show, I was ensconced in a little free-standing wet-bar-like structure in a corner of Adobe's booth, facing out into a busy intersection on the show floor, with the words "Ask the Expert" plastered across the fronts-piece high above my head where everyone could see.

A great idea, right? It was a place where people could ask questions about any Adobe product and get extended, detailed answers, leaving the usual presenters and demo station personnel to do their thing.

My first day I was scared to death. Graph Expo attendees are commercial printers, in-plant print shop managers and pre-press managers. As a designer, I'm usually asking *them* the questions. How was I going to cope with the nightmarish questions I was imagining they'd ask, like, "Adobe's in-rip ICC flattener chokes our Brisque RIP when we pass-through a trapped DCS 1.0 file — [pause for dramatic effect] — EVEN though it's set to DeviceN with 20% overprint removal! Why is that?"

Homina-homina-homina … hey, look at this cool thing you can do with tabs in InDesign …

Turned out there were no nightmarish questions; the few "bad" ones were usually problems with equipment I wasn't familiar with, and sometimes I surprised myself by being able to answer even those. (Thanks to the patient explanations of printers I've worked with in the past.) And I was usually teamed up with another expert, a "real" Adobe staffer from tech support or a more experienced Adobe consultant, so I could fob off the toughest ones on them, if they weren't busy answering another printer's questions.

Get to the Point, Already

So what does all this have to do with underlines in Illustrator? I thought it was interesting that the attendees had as many designer-like Illy questions as they had "back end" type of questions on Acrobat or InDesign. That took me by surprise. And as usual, being on the receiving end of questions you often learn as much as the questioner.

One attendee's Illustrator problem flummoxed me: "Why doesn't Illustrator CS let you underline type?" My initial thought, unvoiced: Tsk, tsk. Poor soul hasn't checked the Character palette fly-out menu.

I booted up Illy on my "expert computer," went to the palette menu and — it wasn't there. No underline option in the Character palette. Shows how often I underline type in Illustrator. The guy patiently stood there, going, "See! All the other CS programs can make underlines, but not Illustrator. Why is that?"

Homina homina homina …

Luckily, one of the Adobe pros sitting behind me overheard this and came to my rescue. She said, "I know, it's strange. But you can set type in Photoshop, apply an underline there, then copy and paste the text into Illustrator. The underline stays, even if you edit the text or change the formatting."

Interesting! I quickly grabbed some paper and scribbled this down for a future issue of DesignGeek.

Permanent Underline Option

So this morning I finally sat down to test it out, and it works just like she said. Photoshop CS has an Underline button in its Character palette. Just select text in a Type layer with the Type tool, click the Underline button, then copy the selection to the clipboard. Switch to Illustrator, click an insertion point with *its* Type tool, and paste. There it is, underlined text, fully editable.

But then I thought, what a pain. What if I accidentally deleted it? I'd have to go back to Photoshop and do it again.

Answer: Make it a Character style, new in Illustrator CS. Select the underlined text in Illustrator, open the Character Styles palette, and choose New Character Style from the palette menu (or click the New icon at the bottom of the palette). The new style picks up the properties of the selected text, including the underline setting.

To make the Character Style *only* apply an underline, and not everything else it picked up from your selection (the typeface, size, color etc. of the type you originally set in Photoshop), do this:

1. Double-click the name of the new Character Style to open its Options dialog
2. There are five panels on the left, starting with General. Click the second panel, Basic Character Formats.
3. Click the Reset Panel button at the bottom. This clears out any specific formatting instructions for this panel.
4. Do the same for the remaining panels, and click OK when you're done.

Now you can select any other text in the document and click the Character Style sheet name, and voila! It gets underlined. All other formatting that the text had before you applied the style is retained. (If you find that new text you enter in the document automatically has an underline, it's probably because your new Character Style is still selected. Click the default [Normal Character Style] in the palette, then try again.)

Since Illustrator lets you load (import) custom Character Styles from one doc to another, you should never need to do the Photoshop-to-Illustrator dance again. Just bring the Underline character style sheet over via the Load Character Styles command in the current document's Character Styles palette menu, and apply away.

Better yet, why not add the Underline character style to your Illustrator start-up document? That way it'll be available in every new document you create. I wrote detailed instructions on how simple it is to edit the start-up file in the article "Reducing Bloated Illustrator Files" in DesignGeek 17:

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