Troubleshooting common vector issues

We’ve put together these quick and easy troubleshooting tips for clients who purchase vector illustrations. This isn’t an in-depth tutorial on vectors but it should give you a good place to start.

Help, I can’t click on shapes!

Illustrators often lock shapes and layers to prevent accidentally bumping or moving them. Sometimes they forget to unlock these objects before submission.

Locked Layers: The most likely cause of unclickable shapes are locked layers. Open the file in Illustrator and under the ‘Windows’ menu (at the top of the screen) choose the ‘Layers’ palette. If there’s a small lock icon next to a layer, just click on it to unlock the layer.

If there are a lot of layers in the file, click on the drop down menu on the top right of the Layers palette and select ‘Unlock All Layers’ to unlock everything at once.


Locked Shapes: If the layers have been unlocked but you still can’t click on any shapes to select them it’s possible the artist locked the shape itself. To unlock shapes, go to Object > Unlock All or hit Cmd-Option-2 on your keyboard.

How do I group or ungroup objects?

You can ‘group’ and ‘ungroup’ shapes in Illustrator. This makes it easier to move objects around. To group shapes, select them all (click on each one while holding down the ‘Shift’ key to select multiple objects at once). Once all the shapes are selected hit Cmd-G on your keyboard or go to Object > Group. To ungroup, select the shapes and hit Cmd-Shift-G or go to Object > Ungroup.

I can’t ungroup or edit individual shapes

If you’re unable to ungroup shapes it’s likely the artist has used a Clipping Mask. A Clipping Mask is a tool that is used to crop vector objects but once it’s been applied, you can’t click and move shapes around like you usually can.

To remove a Clipping Mask, right-click on the shapes and in the popup choose ‘Release Clipping Mask’.

With newer versions of Adobe Illustrator you can also double-click into a clipping mask then double click again (repeating as necessary) to isolate the object you want to edit. This will isolate the shape you need to work on while graying out all the other shapes in the file, making it less distracting to work on. To get back out of the isolation just hit ‘Escape’ on your keyboard.


Please note that removing a Clipping Mask may change the appearance of the illustration, as you will be removing the crop from the artwork. If this is the case, you can still edit individual shapes within the Mask by using the Direct Select arrow (the white arrow in the toolbar).

I’m seeing weird blue lines across the artwork

Illustrators often use ‘guide lines’ to help them align shapes as they work, like a ruler. These guides do not print and are only visible in the vector artwork. To turn these off just click Cmd-; or go to View > Guides > Hide Guides.


How do I know what color space the artwork is in?

To tell what color space a vector illustration is, open it in Illustrator and look at the top of the document window. It will read either ‘RGB’ or ‘CMYK’. To change the color space go to File > Document Color Mode > and choose the color space (RGB or CMYK) that you require.

I need to delete empty layers in a file

Sometimes artists accidentally leave extra layers in a file. To check whether these layers are empty, open the Layers palette (Window > Layers). If a layer appears empty, click on the small circle on the right of the layer. If no objects in your artwork are selected this means the layer is empty. To delete it, select the layer and click on the trash can icon on the bottom right.

You can also turn layers on and off by clicking the little ‘eye’ icon on the left of the Layers palette.


You can also add layers by clicking the drop down menu on the top right of the Layers Palette and choosing ‘Add’.

I need to resize the artwork

To resize an illustration, first make sure that any strokes in the file will scale correctly. To do this go to Illustrator > Preferences > General and make sure ‘Scale Strokes and Effects’ is selected. This will ensure any strokes or effects used in the vector will scale correctly. Once this is done, unlock all the layers and select all the shapes (Cmd-A or go to Select > All). By holding down the ‘Shift’ key you can click-drag to make the illustration any size required.



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