Thursday, 24 May 2012

New bits in CS6 part three: Liquid layouts

Liquid Layouts and Alternate Layouts are two sides of the same double sided print. As mentioned previously you use the Liquid Layout Rules when creating Alternate Layouts. These govern how objects on a page will react as you apply new page sizes. The main difference with Liquid Layouts is that you can perform these on the fly using the improved Page Tool. The options available are essentially the same so it should be a doddle!

The pen page is mightier
Before we rush headlong into the Liquid Layout Rules and Liquid Layout panel we must first cast our gaze over the Page Tool. Introduced in CS5 this rather brilliant piece of kit allowed you to mix up page sizes in the same document. Along with changing the size and orientation you could also move a page in relation to it's spread. Which in turn, enabled more interesting layout opportunities. It was a fantastic addition. As excellent as it was, the pen tool in CS6 has been improved upon. So, with no further ado lets open up a document and select the Page Tool (shift+P).

If you are familiar with the Page Tool from its previous iteration, the first thing you will no doubt notice is that you no longer need to select a page to trigger the Application Bar options. Now, by selecting the tool the Application Bar shows the Page Tool options and the page itself has handles around the edge of it. More on those in a moment.

As before, to alter the page you can select from a menu of preset page sizes or choose custom dimensions. There are also buttons for orientation which should look familiar. Skipping over the Liquid Page Rules drop down menu for now, next are a couple of checkboxes. Objects Move With Page and Show Master. These work the same as in CS5. The first one relates to when you are moving a page, if enabled the contents of the page will move as you drag it up or down the pasteboard. Show Master will overlay the currently applied master on top of the page. This becomes more useful as you resize pages as it allows you to see how your newly re-sized page will behave with any master items.

Back over to the document. As with most things Adobe, grab a handle! Start dragging around to change the size. The first thing you will notices is that when you release the mouse button the page will ping back to its original size. If do you want to click and drag a page size, rather than using the dimensions or any preset settings in the Application Bar, you need to hold down Alt/Option before releasing the mouse button. Also, assuming everything is set to default, as you drag out the new size the contents stay in the same position at the same time. That is because we are yet to set up the Liquid Page Rules, lets right that wrong now.

Without rules, chaos
As mentioned in the Alternate Layout post, Liquid Page Rules govern how the objects on the page will react to the new page size. These vary from quite simplistic "set and see" rules to ones which require a little bit more effort.
  • Controlled by Master: This is the default rule applied to the overall document. It means that whatever rule has been to the applied master will also apply to the pages. By default the rule applied to all master spreads is Off.
  • Off: The page objects will not be affected. They will not move or resize as you alter the page size.
  • Scale: The objects will scale proportionally with the page. This is great if you are going up or down pages sizes of the same orientation, for example A5 portrait to A4 or A3 portrait. However, if the orientation is different or the page dimensions change beyond multiplications of the original size, you will be left with empty space on the page. Objects will only scale until either the width or height hits a page edge, then they will stop.
  • Re-center: This will center the contents on the page. No re-sizing takes place. If the new page size is smaller, then the elements will bleed off the page.
These next two rules will take a bit more explaining. So they get sections all to themselves!

Object Based
This option gives you the most control of all the rules on offer. Using Object Based, you can choose exactly how each object on the page will respond. When you select the Object Based rule the rest of the Liquid Layouts panel (Layouts>Liquid Layouts or Window>Interactive>Liquid Layouts) suddenly springs into life. All of a sudden a whole bunch of checkboxes become selectable. You can use these to determine what will happen to your objects. Or you can achieve the same results by clicking on certain points on around the image.

With the Page Tool still active, select an object. There should now be a coloured dashed cross with handles overlaying the item. If you look at the panel while you do this next bit it may make a bit more sense!

If you click on the space between the horizontal or vertical lines of the filled handles you dictate whether or not the object will scale in that direction. A padlock near the centre of the cross means that it will not scale, a squiggly line means it will. This directly relates to Resize With Page: boxes in the Liquid Layouts panel. These will tick and untick as you click on the object overlay.

Similar to the above, the Pin: section of the panel is the same as clicking on the white handles on the overlay. You use these to lock an objects position in relation to the edge of a page. For example, if you wanted to lock an item to always be 20mm from the bottom and right of the page, you would position the item in that location, use the Page Tool and Object Based rules and then click on the relevant handles (or the checkboxes in the panel). The handle will jump to the page edge, this means its now locked in place. When you change the page size the item will now stay in that location, even if you have allowed it to resize, the position will be the same. To unpin an item, click the pinned handles again and they will jump back to their previous position

Guide Based
There is a new type of guide in CS6, known as Liquid Guides. You can easily differentiate between these and the old ones as they appear as dashed lines in your layouts. Apart from that they act pretty much the same as normal guides. Features like Snap To Guides will still work. To add a Liquid Guide, drag out a guide as you normally would when using the Page Tool. Or, even easier, without the pen tool selected, select a guide. Near the top or left edge will appear one of two new icons (shown below). Click on this to change the guide to other type.

Anything a Liquid Guide touches on the layout will re-size as you adjust the page size. Anything not touched by a guide will move but not re-size. Anything touched by a horizontal guide will transform vertically and anything touched by a vertical guide will transform horizontally. That bit may seem odd but it makes sense when you see it in action!

By default frames will re-size but content won't. You can change this behaviour for images by selecting the relevant Graphics Frame and enabling Auto-Fit in the Application Bar. You can find more fitting options by right clicking the frame and choosing Frame Fitting Options from the context menu. Text will reflow as text frames alter their size.

One last thing
If you want to use Layout Adjustment instead of Liquid Layouts, you can find the options for this in the Liquid Layouts panel menu. But this is an either or situation, you can't have both. 

Liquid Layouts are pretty darn awesome, with a little bit of preparation they can take a lot of the effort out of creating artwork for multiple device or page sizes. If you tried using Layout Adjustment in CS5, you probably would have come away disappointed as it never quite achieved what you wanted it to. Now though, you should definitely be using Liquid Layouts. Even if they don't get you to exactly where you want to go, it'll will be pretty close.


  1. Great article I enjoy your posts. I think you meant Page Tool instead of Pen Tool at the top.

  2. Thanks for the comment! And for the the page/pen correction. It's fixed now :)

  3. Thank you for the sharing i really like about these and i got all your concepts and analysis and i want to learn more through your blog i hope you will update your