How to Keep Layers on Copy & Paste in Illustrator

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You've created a complex illustration or technical drawing in Adobe Illustrator CS5, using multiple layers to place individual elements correctly in relation to one another and to isolate related materials so you can updated them quickly. Now you've been asked to incorporate your artwork into another Illustrator file. You would like to preserve your drawing with all its layers intact, but every time you copy and paste it, its elements come in on one layer. Resolving your difficulty requires one simple addition to the procedure you've been using.

  • Choose "Open" from the "File" menu or press "Control + O" (Windows) or "Command + O" (Mac) to open your source file if you haven't already opened it. When the "Open" dialog box comes up on your screen, navigate to the location of your Adobe Illustrator CS5 document. Double-click on the file name or click once to select it and then click on the "Open" button to open your document.

  • Press "Control + A" (Windows) or "Command + A" (Mac) or choose "All" from the "Select" menu to select all elements in your document. Press "Control + C" (Windows) or "Command + C" (Mac) to copy the items to the clipboard.

  • Open the file into which you want to paste your artwork or switch to it if it already is open by choosing its file name from the "Window" menu. Open the "Layers" panel by pressing "F7" on your keyboard if the panel isn't already open on your screen.

  • Open the fly-out menu at the top right corner of the "Layers" panel. Turn on the "Paste Remembers Layers" option in the menu list.

  • Press "Control + V" (Windows) or "Command + V" (Mac) or choose "Paste" from the "Edit" menu to paste your layers into your target document. Your artwork appears in the target file will all its original layers and sublayers intact.

Tips & Warnings

  • "Paste Remembers Layers" works within a file as well as between documents.
  • Turn "Paste Remembers Layers" off when you finish using it. It's off by default and can cause unexpected results if you're not expecting it to be active.
  • "Paste Remembers Layers" creates new layers with the same layer options as those from which you copied your artwork, including the layer-specific color that indicates selected objects and the layer's display mode -- preview or outline.
  • You don't need to activate "Paste Remembers Layers" before you copy artwork to the clipboard. In fact, you can turn it on after you copy, use it to paste into a new file, then turn the feature back off and paste a flattened set of artwork objects onto the target file's default layer.
  • Make sure your target document -- the one into which you're pasting -- doesn't contain any layers with the same names as the layers in the file from which you copied the artwork. If it does, those elements will appear on the similarly named preexisting layers in the target file.
  • Make sure all the artwork items you want to copy are unlocked and visible in your source document. Copying to the clipboard excludes locked and hidden items.

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