I have a quite complex draw in Illustrator (let's say, lots of vectors and that), and I have to make a mosaic for printing a hole page of them.

It's complex enough to be memory-heavy, so when I try to fill the page by copypasting them Illustrator runs out of memory.

Besides, there's no need to create copies of the objects - I just want replicas of them which I won't modify.

So I remembered Flash symbols, and that's exactly what I want.

How can I get those in Illustrator? Can I convert my draw to a symbol? Rasterizing's not an option.

Is there any better way to make a mosaic?


PS: I've seen in Does the usage of symbols improve illustrator performance? that they talk about symbols, but couldn't find anything else about them.

2 Answers 2


Window > Symbols (Shift+Ctrl+F11)

It's probably already open in a tab by your Swatches and Brushes

Then you can just select your objects as a group and drag them right onto that window and it will prompt you to make them into a Symbol as a Graphic or Movie Clip.


  • Movie Clip in Illustrator?
    – e100
    Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 16:15
  • Added a screenshot for you e. Bit hard but you can see it says "Movie Clip"
    – Ryan
    Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 17:02
  • 2
    @e100 Illustrator creates a Movie Clip so that when the file is read into the Flash authoring environment it imports as a Movie Clip automatically without having to be converted. Relatively few movies are made using Illustrator. They tend not to work well in print. :-D Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 23:16
  • Yeah, that worked! Here in Argentina we like to say "if it were a snake, you would've been bitten" :) Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 0:14

Another approach to this particular situation is to use a relatively obscure (in my opinion, anyway) feature of the Transform Effect. It's under Effect > Distort and Transform > Transform and not under Object > Transform.

The Transform effect doesn't create copies of your object, so it's light on memory. It is also a live effect, so if you change the original object all of the copies will update automatically. In the dialog, turn on Preview, put an arbitrary number (2 or 3 is fine) in the Copies field, adjust the Horizontal or Vertical Move value until you see the spacing you want, and update the Copies field to taste. Click okay, then apply a second effect on the other axis.

AI Transform Effect dialog

You will end up with a single object on the page and multiple apparent copies.

  • Nice. This could probably have been used in some of those questions about spacing objects evenly around a circle too
    – Ryan
    Commented Sep 14, 2012 at 14:33

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