Using Layered FreeHand, EPS, or Illustrator Files Flash

A handy feature of many popular illustration programs is support for layers. Just like layers in a Flash movie (.FLA file), layers in illustration programs enable you to keep individual groups of graphics separate from one another. A simple technique with animating vector graphic files is to animate or tween each layer separately in the Flash authoring environment.

A quick example of an easily converted illustration movie is a business card. If you have laid out any promotion materials in FreeHand or Illustrator and have kept the elements separated by layers, then you can create an interactive business card.

  1. Create a layered graphic in FreeHand or Illustrator. Before a new element is created, make a new layer for it.
  2. If you used extensive text controls (such as kerning, leading, tracking, and so on), then convert the text to outlines (or paths).
  3. Save the layout as a FreeHand file, an EPS file, or an Illustrator file. If you have used RGB colors in an Illustrator document and want the colors to appear the same in Flash 5, make sure you save it as an Illustrator 7 file; artwork saved as an Illustrator 8 or 9 file may not import correctly into Flash. Because Flash 5 supports direct import of FreeHand documents, we recommend that you save artwork as a FreeHand 9 document (.FH9 file).
  4. Import the FreeHand, .EPS, or .AI file into Flash 5. You may want to create a new scene or symbol to contain the imported graphic(s). Otherwise, the layers from the imported file will be stacked on top of or below your current layers.
  5. When a layered .EPS or .AI file is imported into the Flash, the layers are converted to Flash layers.

    When a layered .EPS or .AI file is imported into the Flash, the layers are converted to Flash layers.

  6. Even though Flash recognizes the layers in the .EPS or .AI file, it will not group elements on each layer. So, select any one layer and lock the others. Select everything on the active unlocked layer (Command+A or Ctrl+A) and group it (Command+G or Ctrl+G). Alternatively, you can convert the selection into a symbol for easier manipulation later. You need to make button symbols for any element that you want to use interactively (such as clicking the name to e-mail the person, and so on). Repeat this step for every layer.
  7. Now add any Flash tweens or actions to the groups or symbols in each layer.
  8. At this point, continue creating a full Flash movie with other components, or export a Flash movie (.SWF file). As you can see, in just six straightforward steps, you can create an interactive business card that can be put on a floppy disk or in an e-mail. Whenever you’re developing complicated layered work in an illustration application such as FreeHand or Illustrator, you can take advantage of those layers in Flash.

Going Wild with Expression

Creature House owns the vector-image creation application called Expression, which was formerly owned by MetaCreations. Expression is similar to Painter, with the exception that it works with vectors, not bitmaps. At the time of this writing, Expression 2 was near the end of its beta phase.

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