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Illustrator Start Up YOUR Way!

by Sara Froehlich


Frank Sinatra did it “his” way. Other crooners across the decades have done it “their” way”…


Frank Sinatra did it “his” way. Other crooners across the decades have done it “their” way”. Now you can sing “I did it ‘MY’ Way” every time you open Adobe Illustrator open with a default set of symbols, brushes, and even colors that are your choice rather than Adobe’s.
Every time you open Adobe Illustrator, a default set of symbols, brushes, graphic styles and more opens with the document. I’m not saying that’s bad—we need to start somewhere when we design—but most of us have design elements that we’d like available at start up without hunting for them to load them into the palettes. Company logos and colors, custom brushes you use often, and other elements can be added to the default Start Up files so they’re in the palettes whenever a new Illustrator document is opened.

Make “Default” Mean “What I Want”

To accomplish this, you need to edit the Illustrator Startup documents in the Illustrator plug-ins folder. There are two startup files: Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Illustrator Whenever you want to edit these files, the first step is to make a copy in case something goes wrong. Normally nothing goes wrong, but it’s always better to have a backup, just in case.


You will find the files in the Adobe Illustrator > Plug-ins folder. In Windows, this is usually in the C:\Program Files > Adobe > Illustrator folder. Copy the files by highlighting them, then ctrl-dragging and dropping them in any empty spot in the window. Windows calls the copies “Copy of filename”. Now you can open the original files in Illustrator.



On the Mac, you’ll find the two startup files in your Applications > Adobe Illustrator > Plug-ins.localized folder. To copy the files, highlight them and ctrtl-click to open the context menu; choose Duplicate, and they’ll be renamed with “copy” at the end of the filename.

copies Mac

Customizing the Startup Files

Step 1. Open Illustrator and go to File > Open and navigate to the folder with the startup files. Open the original CMYK or RGB startup file. Once the file is open in Illustrator, you’ll see a blank page. This is because once you use elements on the page such as brush strokes and symbols, they can be deleted from the page but will remain in the palettes, and therefore, part of the document.

Step 2. Open the file which has the symbol, brushes, or other elements you want to add to the startup file. I will be adding artwork as a symbol, but the procedure is the same for brushes, color swatches, or graphics styles. I’ll add the Designorati logo as a symbol so it will always be in my startup file.

Step 3. Copy your image from its document and paste it onto the startup file. Drag it to the symbols palette and drop it in to make it into a symbol.

add symbol

Step 4. In order for symbols or other elements to be included in the saved startup file, they have to have been used in the document. Drag the new symbol from the Symbols palette to the document and drop it. It doesn’t matter where you drop it on the document, because it isn’t staying long.

use symbol

Step 5. Select the symbol and the original artwork on the startup file and press the delete key to delete them.

Step 6. If you have other objects to add to the startup file, repeat steps 2-5 for each, remembering to use the element and then delete it from the page before going on to the next object.

Step 7. Go to File > Save and save the startup file. Start a new document and your new elements will be available in the palettes for use on the new document.

Step 8. Repeat for the other startup file.

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©2005-2008 Sara Froehlich