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Double-click on the Adobe Illustrator eyedropper icon, and you get a useful panel of advanced options that allow you to control what it picks up and what it applies. Two columns, 'Eyedropper picks up' and 'Eyedropper applies'.

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You can set it to pick up things it doesn't apply, and apply things it doesn't pick up. This seems like a useful feature, but it doesn't behave as I expected, and I can't find any case in which it makes a meaningful difference.

I thought that the purpose of this would be to mix settings. So, you could set 'Pick up' and not 'Apply' for something, and fill up the eye picker with that setting. Then, you could reverse the settings, tick 'Apply' and untick 'Pick up', and those stored settings would be applied whatever was clicked on with the eyepicker, alongside whatever other things it was set to pick up. But it doesn't work like that at all. Here are the results of some experiments...

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These show that, when an item is selected and the eyedropper tool is used to grab the appearance of another item, 'Eyedropper Applies:' settings appear to make no difference.

My expectation was: nothing applied to A in Panel ii, blue fill black stroke applied in panel iii (picking up the blue fill, then applying the new blue fill plus the black stroke it picked up earlier from memory), and blue fill black stroke applied in panel iv (both from memory). However, in all these cases, the 'Applies...' settings seem to make no difference, and the 'Picks up...' setting appears to control both what is picked up and what is applied.

It's like the 'Applies' settings aren't there. But they must do something.

Can anyone give an example of different 'Picks up...' and 'Applies...' settings doing something useful that illustrates the significance of these two different settings and how they work?

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Excellent question. I don't use the eyedropper much, but my experience is the same as yours. Seems to be a bug or missing functionality. And it's the same at least in CS5 and CS6. –  Scott Dec 21 '12 at 19:40
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It seems like the Illustrator deve team has more in the works for the dropper than they've been able to release. Either that or they abandoned what they intended. I know it's not the answer you're looking for, but Graphic styles and Paragraph/Character Styles are often times a better way to go. The dropper is only moderately helpful when you're playing around. –  plainclothes Dec 22 '12 at 21:42

1 Answer 1

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The difference between "pick up" and "applies" settings are just how they name the two eyedropper tool modes. I mean, you can use eye dropper in two ways:

  • You could pick up something. Select nothing, then click on the thing with the appearance you want to pick up with the eyedropper tool. With no items selected, this 'fills up' the eyedropper based on the current 'Eyedropper picks up' settings.
  • Or, you could apply something. You pick up before, then hold alt with your eyedroper and when you click, you will apply something like stroke or fill, depending on what you picked up and what the current 'Eyedropper applies' settings are.

The two menus mean what you want to pick up and what you want to apply. You could make it pick up all things and just apply for just stroke, if you have nothing selected and switch between 'Picks up' and 'Applies' mode using the alt key.

I hope that I could make it clear.


Side note: If you have an item selected while using the eyedropper tool (like in the example in the question) it's a bit different: - 'Picks up' controls both what is picked up and applied to the selected object in regular 'Pick up' mode (not holding alt). - 'Applies' settings, when an item is selected, controls both what is both picked up and applied from the selected item to the one that is clicked on in 'applies' mode (while holding alt).

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I cleaned the older comments, as they became obsolete after the answer edit. –  Yisela Feb 26 '13 at 19:39

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