Wondering How to Preview in Illustrator?
Great question! Having done thousands of Illustrator designs, I must say there was a time when the output of my printed page did not show the same results as what I see on screen.
For example, I can have a line that can’t be seen on my Illustrator file, but when printed out, the line is shown. Even if you’ve saved your work religiously, things like that can happen and can make you feel exhaustingly defeated.
In this case, making use of Illustrator Preview mode is the best way to counter such situations. You can make informed decisions about your design, ensuring that it looks perfect, image files are embedded or linked and there are no missing fonts before sending it out to clients or publishing it online.
Back to this article, we’ll explore the different ways you can use the preview feature in Illustrator to enhance your design process, and so much more.
How to Preview in Illustrator
Is there a preview mode in Illustrator?
Yes, there is a preview mode in Illustrator. Best of all, there isn’t just one preview mode. In fact, there are so many preview modes in Illustrator that it has a dedicated menu just for that.
The View menu has every Illustrator Preview Mode you can find in Illustrator. Just select View in the top menu bar and everything in the drop-down menu will help you preview your designs in real-time. And the View menu is just one place, there’s also the Window menu and more!
You are not short of quality available tools to preview errors on your Adobe Illustrator files before publishing, exporting them to other formats like PDF files, or printing them. We will dive deep into the nuts and bolts of each Preview Mode you see here.
Why Use the Illustrator Preview Mode?
Using Illustrator’s various preview modes is crucial for creating high-quality artwork. Each mode serves a unique purpose, allowing you to view your design in different contexts and make informed decisions about its appearance before saving your file.
By familiarizing yourself with these preview modes, you can create more accurate, professional, and visually appealing designs that are tailored to various output formats.
By leveraging the different preview modes in Illustrator, you can ensure that your designs meet the specific requirements for print, digital, or other media. These modes provide valuable insights into how your artwork will appear in different situations, allowing you to optimize your designs for maximum impact and effectiveness.
Ultimately, knowing how to use Illustrator’s preview modes is an essential skill for you looking to design outstanding artwork that sends a clear message to your audience.
How to Preview in Illustrator
You can Preview your work in Illustrator by going to Window > Navigator to open up the Navigator panel. For Presentation Mode, use the keyboard shortcut Shift + F to preview your work full screen at high resolution.
For font preview, you can select the text box, open the Character panel and view all font names in the font family drop-down menu. As you mouse over the fonts, you can see your text changing fonts too. More on how to do all that in this guide:
How to Preview in Illustrator
1. GPU Preview
GPU Preview or Graphics Processing Unit Preview leverages the power of your computer’s graphics processing unit to render complex vector graphics more efficiently. This mode is especially useful when working with large files or complex effects.
To enable GPU Preview in Illustrator, go to View > View Using GPU. Note that your computer must meet certain system requirements to take advantage of GPU Preview, including having a compatible GPU and updated graphics drivers.
When using GPU Preview, it is essential to ensure that your computer’s GPU and graphics drivers are up-to-date, as outdated or incompatible hardware may cause performance issues or prevent the feature from working altogether.
By keeping your system up-to-date, you can ensure that you get the most out of GPU Preview and enjoy the best possible performance in Illustrator.
2. Navigator Panel
With your AI file opened, access the Navigator panel by selecting Window in the top menu bar. Then select Navigator in the drop-down menu. Or select Window > Navigator.
If you wish to preview your work in full color while you zoom in or out on your complex artwork to iron out the details, you can use the Navigator panel. Enter your desired zoom percentage at the bottom of the panel to view your design at a different magnification.
The Navigator panel works best if you need to work with multiple artboards or if you have to deal with tiny details and have to zoom in at super magnification to do that. Even as you zoom in, the Navigator panel still shows a zoomed-out view of all your artboards.
You can see a red rectangle in the Navigator panel window. This rectangle represents your current view. If you hover your cursor over it, the cursor changes to a Hand tool. You can navigate around your Illustrator canvas or artboard by clicking and dragging the Hand tool inside the panel window.
3. Real-Time Drawing and Editing
I see some graphic designers having questions about real-time editing previews. They want to be able to see their vector graphics as they are while they make changes to them.
If this is you, you may only see the outline paths of the objects in the process of clicking and dragging the Anchor Points or moving them around. The only way to resolve this is to use the Real-Time Drawing and Editing feature.
First, make sure your Illustrator file is in the “View using GPU” mode. You can check this by selecting the View menu in the top bar. In the drop-down menu, if you see “View using CPU“, this means you are in the correct mode of viewing using GPU. If you see “View using GPU“, select that and move on to the next step.
Next, select Illustrator on the top menu bar and select Preferences. Then select Performance in the drop-down menu. The preferences dialog box opens up. Then, go to the last item and select “Real-Time Drawing and Editing“.
Now go back to your vector images, try editing them and moving them. You will be able to see your whole image as it is while making changes to it.
How to Preview in Illustrator
4. Layers Panel
When I work, I like to always have my Layers panel opened up. Especially if my work involves massive numbers of separate layers in vector files. Using the layers panel to preview my work helps me identify where every single layer is located.
This helps me select the right layer to make changes if required. You can do this too by first making sure the thumbnails in the Layers panel are not too small to be seen. I make them really huge so that I won’t miss out on anything.
To do this, open the Layers panel by selecting Windows > Layers. In the Layers panel, select the Layers panel menu option in the top right-hand corner.
Select Panel Options in the drop-down menu.
Then, in the Panel Options, set the size of each layer row by selecting any of the sizes in the Row Size section. I set mine at 100 pixels in the field that says “Other“.
5. Turning on Overprint Preview
The Overprint Preview is a valuable feature in Adobe Illustrator, specifically designed to help designers and print professionals simulate how inks will overprint on a printing press.
This powerful tool allows you to identify potential issues with overlapping colors and make necessary adjustments to your design before sending it for print. If you are wondering how to see print preview in Illustrator, Overprint Preview could just be your answer.
To access the Overprint Preview in Illustrator, go to View > Overprint Preview.
You can also use the keyboard shortcut Option + Shift + Command + Y for Mac.
Or use Shift + Ctrl + Alt + Y for Windows.
This will activate the Overprint Preview mode, simulating how your design will appear when printed with overlapping objects.
When using the Overprint Preview, it is important to remember that the on-screen representation may not be an exact match for the final printed output, as factors such as monitor calibration and ink characteristics can affect the appearance.
However, the Overprint Preview provides a valuable approximation, allowing you to identify potential issues and make necessary adjustments to your design.
How to Preview in Illustrator
6. Working with Pixel Preview
Pixel Preview displays your artwork as it would appear when rasterized, showing the individual pixels that make up the design. This mode is helpful for ensuring that your artwork will appear crisp and clear when exported as a raster image.
This is one of the best ways on how to preview in Illustrator. To enable Pixel Preview, go to View > Pixel Preview.
You can use the keyboard shortcut Option + Command + Y for Mac.
Or use Alt + Ctrl + Y for Windows.
By using Pixel Preview, you can identify pixelated edges, fine-tune your design for optimal screen display, and make adjustments to improve the overall appearance of your artwork in a raster format.
7. Trim View
Trim View is a feature in Adobe Illustrator that allows you to see only the portion of your artwork that will be visible after trimming. This is especially useful when creating designs for print, as it allows you to see exactly how your design will look without actually cropping your design.
This feature allows you to focus on the specific area you are working on without distractions and gives you a better visual of which part of your design will be seen after exporting from Illustrator.
You can enable the Trim View by going to the View menu and selecting Trim View in the drop-down menu. Or select View > Trim View.
Once you enable Trim View, you will only see the portion of the artwork that will be visible after trimming.
To exit Trim View, simply go back to the View menu and uncheck the Trim View option by clicking on it once.
How to Preview in Illustrator
8. Using the Outline Mode
Outline mode displays your artwork as a wireframe, showing only the paths and Anchor Points. This mode is particularly helpful when you want to focus on the structure of your design without the distraction of colors and effects.
By stripping away these visual elements, you can better concentrate on the underlying framework of your artwork. In Outline mode, you can easily adjust paths, align objects, and spot any potential issues with the structure of your design.
To use Outline mode, select View in the top menu bar and select Outline. Or select View > Outline.
Or use the Outline view Illustrator shortcut keys Command + Y for Mac.
Or Ctrl + Y for Windows.
When using Outline mode, it is essential to remember that this view is not intended for final output, as it does not display any fill colors, gradients, or effects.
To get out of outline mode and view your artwork with all visual elements intact, simply go back to the top menu bar to select View > Preview. Or press the same keyboard shortcuts Command/Ctrl + Y.
9. Rotate View
Another amazing feature on how to preview in Illustrator is the Rotate View. This invaluable feature allows you to change the orientation or rotate the canvas or artboard without altering the actual content of your design.
This tool enables you to work more comfortably and efficiently, particularly when creating or editing artwork that requires precise adjustments at various angles.
If you wish to rotate all artboards, select View in the top menu, then go to Rotate View or select View > Rotate View. You will see a drop-down menu of numbers, they represent the angles you can rotate. Select the one you prefer.
You will see that your artboards have rotated to the angle you’ve selected.
From here, if you wish to rotate your canvas relative to a selected object, first click your object to select it. Then, go to View, then select Rotate View to Selection, and all artboards will rotate based on your selected object.
To go back to the original orientation, select View > Reset Rotate View.
If you don’t know the angle to rotate to, you can select the Rotate View tool from the toolbar. It has a hand, arrow, and artboard icons that can be found with the Hand tool. Or use the keyboard shortcut Shift + H.
Bring the cursor to your artboard, click, and drag it around to rotate it.
Hold down the Shift key as you drag your cursor to rotate every 15 degrees.
10. Presentation Mode
Presentation Mode is a helpful feature in Adobe Illustrator that allows you to preview your artwork in a full-screen, distraction-free environment. This mode is ideal for presenting your designs to clients or colleagues, as it removes interface elements and displays your artwork in a clean, professional manner.
Enabling Presentation Mode in Illustrator is a simple process. To activate Presentation Mode, go to View > Presentation Mode.
Or use the keyboard shortcut Shift + F.
This will display your artwork in full-screen mode, hiding the Illustrator interface elements such as toolbars, panels, and menus.
To exit Presentation Mode, press the Escape or Esc key and you will return to your Illustrator canvas or artboard. You can carry on with editing your artwork if you wish.
How to Preview in Illustrator
11. Font Preview
You can quickly preview different fonts directly on your artwork without making changes in real-time. With this feature, you know how the font looks like the first thing you see in the Character panel just by hovering your cursor over each font name.
Font Preview is a convenient feature in Adobe Illustrator that allows you to see how different fonts will look in your design before applying them. This feature streamlines the process of selecting the perfect font for your artwork.
To enable Font Preview in Illustrator, follow these steps:
Go to Illustrator > Preferences > Type on Mac or Edit > Preferences > Type on Windows to open the Type Preferences dialog.
In the Type Preferences dialog, check the Enable in-menu font previews option to activate Font Preview. Click the OK button to confirm settings and close the dialog box.
Next, select any text bounding box, and open the Character panel. Go to Set the font family field and select the arrow pointing down to reveal all fonts. You can see each font style already applied to the sample text.
Bring your cursor over the font names and you will start to see your selected text changing fonts in real-time.
Adjust the “Sample Text Size Preview” to set the desired preview sample size for the fonts in the dropdown menu. This will determine how large the font previews appear in the list.
After running through the Font Preview and having made a decision on the font you like, select the font by clicking on it once inside the font drop-down menu of the Character panel. Your text font is now changed to the one selected.
12. Separations Preview
Separations Preview simulates how your artwork will appear when printed using different color separation methods, such as process and spot colors.
This feature is especially important when working with print projects that require precise color control, as it allows you to identify potential color issues before printing.
Separations Preview can help you optimize your color usage and ensure accurate color reproduction in the final print output.
To access Separations Preview, go to Window > Separations Preview.
In the Separations Preview panel, check the “Overprint Preview” checkbox to activate the color separations preview for your artwork.
13. Flattener Preview
The Flattener Preview is an essential tool in Adobe Illustrator, particularly when preparing artwork for printing or exporting as a PDF.
This feature allows you to visualize how Illustrator will flatten transparency and blend modes in your design to ensure compatibility with output devices and formats that do not support these advanced features.
To access the Flattener Preview in Illustrator, go to Window > Flattener Preview. This will open a panel where you can select different flattening settings and view how they will affect your artwork.
In the Flattener Preview dialog box, you may see an empty window. Click the Refresh button to preview your design.
Then select the options menu in the top right-hand corner. Select Show Options in the drop-down menu to see settings.
The Flattener Preview provides various options, such as Raster/Vector Balance, which controls the balance between rasterized and vectorized areas of your design, and the Line Art and Text Resolution, which determine the resolution of rasterized text and line art objects.
When using the Flattener Preview, it is essential to experiment with different settings to find the optimal balance between maintaining the appearance of your design and ensuring compatibility with the desired output format or device.
Once you have identified the best settings for your artwork, you can apply them when exporting or printing your design, ensuring that the final output looks as intended.
How to Preview in Illustrator
Setting Up a Custom Preview
On top of all the ways on how to preview in Illustrator, is to create a custom new view. You can save specific zoom levels, orientations, or focus areas of your artwork, enabling you to quickly switch between different views while working on your design.
Creating custom views gives you more control over your design environment, allowing you to tailor your workspace to your preferences and working style. You can save your custom views and use them as and when you need to with just one click.
To set up a custom preview, set up the desired view or preview of your artwork, such as adjusting the zoom level and orientation as needed. Then, go to View > New View.
This will open the New View dialog box, and you’ll be able to set up a custom preview that meets your specific requirements.
In the New View dialog, enter a name for your custom view. This name should be descriptive and indicative of the view’s purpose (e.g., “Close-Up of Logo” or “Full Artboard View”).
Click the OK button to save your custom view. If you go to the View menu, you will see your new custom view option in the drop-down menu.
How to Preview in Illustrator
FAQ On How To Preview In Illustrator
How can I preview my artwork in different color modes in Adobe Illustrator?
Color modes are an essential aspect of creating and editing digital artwork, as they define the color spaces used for displaying and reproducing colors on various devices and in print. Adobe Illustrator supports two primary color modes: RGB (Red, Green, Blue) for digital displays and CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key/Black) for print.
To preview your artwork in different color modes, follow these steps:
- Open your artwork in Adobe Illustrator.
- Go to View > Proof Setup. This will open a drop-down menu with various color modes and profiles.
- Select the desired color mode from the drop-down menu, such as “Working CMYK” or “Working RGB.” You can also choose “Custom” to define a custom-proof setup based on a specific color profile.
- After selecting the desired color mode, go to View > Proof Colors. This will switch the color mode preview from your document’s current color mode to the selected color mode.
What is the purpose of the GPU Preview in Adobe Illustrator?
Illustrator relies heavily on the processing power of your computer to render and display complex vector graphics, effects, and high-resolution images. GPU performance plays a key role in ensuring that Illustrator can handle large files, multiple artboards, and advanced effects without causing delays or compromising the user experience.
Enhanced GPU performance in Illustrator offers several benefits:
- Faster Rendering: A powerful GPU can render complex effects and high-resolution images more quickly, resulting in a more responsive interface and faster design iterations.
- Smooth Zooming and Panning: Improved GPU performance allows for smooth zooming and panning within your artboards, making it easier to navigate large and intricate projects.
- Higher Display Resolution: A powerful GPU can drive high-resolution monitors, allowing you to work with more precise detail and see your design as it will appear in the final output.
- Improved Performance with GPU Preview: GPU Preview utilizes the GPU to render your artwork more efficiently, providing smoother performance and faster rendering of complex effects.
How do I preview my artwork in full screen without the Illustrator interface visible?
To preview your artwork in full screen without the Illustrator interface, go to View > Presentation Mode or with keyboard shortcut, Shift+F. This will display your artwork in a full-screen, distraction-free environment.
How do I preview an Illustrator file without opening it?
Sometimes, you may want to preview an Illustrator file without actually opening it in Adobe Illustrator, either to save time or because you don’t have access to the software. Fortunately, there are several ways to achieve this:
- Operating System Preview: Most operating systems, such as Windows and macOS, offer built-in file preview functionality just by selecting the file. In Windows, you can use the Preview pane in File Explorer, while on macOS, you can use the Quick Look feature.
- Using Online File Viewers: There are several online file viewers available that can display the contents of various file formats, including Illustrator files. To use an online file viewer, upload your Illustrator file to the website, and it will generate a preview of your file. Or convert the Illustrator file to a PDF file online.
- Third-Party Applications: Some third-party applications, like XnView, Inkscape, or ACDSee, can also display previews of Illustrator files. These applications may have limited support for certain Illustrator features, so the preview might not be an exact representation of the file. However, they can still be useful for a quick glance at the content of the file without opening it in Adobe Illustrator.
Why can’t my Illustrator finish previewing?
There could be several reasons why Adobe Illustrator is having difficulty finishing the preview of your artwork. Some of the most common causes include:
- Large File Size: If your Illustrator file is very large or contains numerous complex elements, it might take longer to render the preview. High-resolution images, intricate vector graphics, or numerous layers and effects can all contribute to increased file size and longer preview times.
- Hardware Limitations: Your computer’s hardware, including its processor, RAM, and graphics card, plays a significant role in rendering previews in Illustrator. If your system has limited resources or outdated hardware, it may struggle to generate previews quickly, especially for large or complex files.
- GPU Performance: If your GPU is outdated or incompatible, Illustrator may not be able to take advantage of this feature, resulting in slower previews. To check your GPU Performance settings, go to Edit > Preferences > Performance (Windows) or Illustrator > Preferences > Performance (Mac) and ensure that GPU Performance is enabled.
- Software Issues: Sometimes, issues with the Illustrator application itself, such as outdated software or corrupt preferences, can cause problems with preview generation. To resolve these issues, try updating Illustrator to the latest version, resetting preferences, or reinstalling the application.
- Corrupted Files: If your Illustrator file is corrupted or damaged, it may cause issues with the preview. In this case, you may need to recover your work using a backup copy or by importing the damaged file into a new Illustrator document.
How can you Preview a graphic style on a selected object in Illustrator?
Previewing a graphic style on a selected object can help you decide if a particular style works well for your design before applying it. Here’s how you can preview a graphic style on a selected object in Illustrator:
- Open your document in Adobe Illustrator and select the object you want to preview the graphic style on.
- Open the Graphic Styles panel by going to Window > Graphic Styles. This panel contains a collection of predefined graphic styles, as well as any custom styles you have created.
- To preview a graphic style, simply hover your cursor over the desired style thumbnail in the Graphic Styles panel. Illustrator will display a live preview of the style on the selected object.
- If you find a graphic style that you like, click on the thumbnail to apply it to the selected object. You undo or redo your actions to toggle between the new and original styles.
How Do I Turn Illustrator Preview Mode Off?
There are times you wish to turn the Illustrator preview mode off but the keyboard shortcut keys Command + Y (Mac) or Ctrl + Y (Windows) just don’t work. Try clicking the eyeball icon of the selected layer while pressing and holding the Command (Mac) or Ctrl (Windows) key.
Final Thoughts: Illustrator Preview Mode
The preview feature in Illustrator is a powerful tool that allows designers to view their artwork in various formats.
Keep in mind that any preview is immune to the Redo and Undo functions in Illustrator. You will have to follow specific commands to enable or disable a preview.
By using the preview feature, you can make informed decisions about your design, ensuring that it looks perfect before sending it out to clients or publishing it online.
Go try them out!