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Creating Custom Default Files for Adobe Illustrator

How to make common settings available in all new documents By Dave Nagel
Those of you who use Adobe Illustrator every single day are no doubt aware of how to use this technique. But for those of you who use it less frequently--say for creating titles for video projects or occasional vector graphics--there is a way to create custom settings that apply to all new documents, saving you a lot of time and effort when you want to reuse styles, colors, gradients and the like without having to recreate them each time.

Now, I know you can simply go back and open up old template files, delete the contents and start from there. But it's certainly less of a hassle to create default settings than to hunt for elusive old documents every single time you go to work on a new project.

By default, anytime you create a new document, Illustrator accesses settings from two templates stored in the program's Plug-Ins folder. In order to add your own custom settings to new documents, you need only modify these two templates. Here's how you do it.

First, find the two template files in your Plug-Ins folder. They're called "Adobe Illustrator Startup_CMYK" and "Adobe Illustrator Startup_RGB." As you might have guessed, the former is the default file for CMYK images, while the latter is for RGB images. Not too tricky so far.

Once you've located these files, go ahead and copy them to a new directory outside the Plug-Ins folder. This will help ensure that, if you do anything crazy and destructive, you'll have the original default files to fall back on. After you've copied these files and tucked them safely away, open up one of the originals in Illustrator. For this tutorial, we'll work on the RGB default, just for the heck of it. (Actually, it's not just for the heck of it. It's that my screen capture utility hangs miserably in the CMYK color space.)

When you open the document, you'll be presented with something like this:

Adobe has considerately supplied you with examples of all of the styles, swatches and symbols available in the default document. You don't actually have to create visual representations of all of your default elements in order to make them available for future documents. These are just there for your convenience.

In order to add new elements to default documents, you merely need to define them in the various palettes. There are two options for this. First, you can load up any Brush, Style, Swatch or Symbol you've used in previous documents. In order to do this, choose Window > Brush Libraries > Other Library to load any brushes you might want to use. Simply choose a document that contains any number of custom brushes, and these brushes will be opened up in a new Library window.

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