Illustrator CS6: Difference between layer and sublayer

I was wondering if there was any difference between having objects in layers or in sublayers. Why I am asking — I always thought it was just a matter of organization and I could manipulate with both in the same way, but now when I applied the same operation to all elements in layer and then sublayer, it behaved differently:

I wanted to apply Transform each operation (only scale] on all objects of a layer. I selected them by clicking the “target” button on the right of layer name. It worked as expected — elements were scaled, but didn’t change their position.

However, then I needed to create a very similar layer so I decided to have these two layers as sublayers of a new LAYER. But suddenly when I selected all the objects of one sublayer and applied the same Transform each operation, it behaved as if it was grouped, therefore it not only scaled, but also changed position.

So could you please help me understand the difference? Are there other differences I haven’t come across yet? Or can I change this behaviour in any way?

Thanks for any explanations, tips or helpful resources. 🙂


There are basically 3 general tiers of hierarchy in the Layers Panel.

- Layer
 - Sublayers and Groups (including clipping groups)
   - Objects

The only real difference is the way they are labeled and stacked in the Layers panel. Expanding a sublayer to see what’s inside it is no different than expanding a <group> item to see what’s inside that.

  • You can have groups within groups, within groups.
  • You can have sublayers within sublayers, within sublayers
  • You can have groups within groups, within a sublayer
  • You can’t have sublayers within a any group

The only thing you can’t do is have a sublayer within a group. i.e. No Group can ever have a sublayer within it.

For all intent and purposes, Illustrator sees sublayers pretty much the same as it sees groups. There’s no definitive definition which purports to treat sublayers any differently than groups other than nesting within the Layers panel and object selection.

In terms of selection, with the Selection Tool or Group Selection Tool, Illustrator will select the parent group of the object selected if the object is within a group. However, with the same selection, Illustrator will not select the parent sublayer if the object is in a sublayer.

So, basically, sublayers are the same as groups but with the nesting restrictions and overall internal object selection behavior of layers.

Sublayers also offer the ability to set the Layer Options, such as non-printing, template, dimmed, etc., and to change their highlight color:

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Some of those options aren’t available for standard groups.

Source : Link , Question Author : KristinaZ , Answer Author : Scott

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