Adobe Flash CS4 Cribnotes




Here are the basics of the Flash creative tools. The last 3 we won't be using in the basic Flash Class.

  • Select Tool: select pieces of your objects. Be aware that this tool treats strokes and fill as separate items, and if you click and drag, you'll pull the shapes into curves. Does not work completely like Photoshop or Illustrator.
  • Sub select tool: select anchors on the anchor points of an object
  • Lasso tool: Selects portions of objects, and requires the contextual Magic Wand to click on sections for making changes
  • Pen tool: Creates and modifies Bezier curves
  • Text tool: Creates type
  • Line tool: Draws straight lines
  • Shapes tool (rectangle, oval, polystar): Draws shapes, with Ploystar doubling as polygon (including triangle) and star shapes
  • Pencil tool: Draws free-form lines
  • Brush & Spray brush tool: Paints fills and textures
  • 3-D Transform/Rotate tool: Transforms 3-D Objects *
  • Deco tool: Paints and animates patterns *
  • Bone/Bind tool: Creates armatures for animation *

* For Actionscript 3.0 files


Items/objects and their Properties


Flash allows you to work with many different types of items/objects. Each one changes the context of the Properties tab, so step very carefully when clicking anything to work on its properties (make changes, transform, etc.)

  • Shapes: Items you create by using the shapes, pencil, and pen tools on the stage (tools like in Illustrator). Change fills, strokes, size. Use transform tab for more.
  • Text: Text you create on the stage with the Text tool. You can change fonts, size, etc.
  • Imports: Images you import, such as from Photoshop, Illustrator, and gifs, jpgs, bmps, pngs, etc.
  • Symbols: A symbol is a master object that resides in one place—a panel called the Library—but can generate multiple copies of itself that can be used anywhere in Flash. Symbols do not show up in the Properties tab - they are Library items only.
  • Instances (of symbols): A copy of a Symbol which can be broken apart and modified, or transformed without breaking apart, and without affecting the original symbol. Includes Movie Clip, Button, and Graphic symbol types. These show up in the Properties tab, for basic modifications like size, filters, effects, etc.
  • Frames: Frames are also affected by the Properties tab, mainly to name or add a comment to a frame.
  • Stage: The stage itself can be modified in the Properties tab - size, FPS, Publish settings.


Naming things


It's important to have a clean and organized naming system for different parts of your items, assets, and processes. This is so that your work can be identified anywhere in the file and referenced by ActionScripting.

  • Layers: Required. Name by object and purpose so at-a-glance you know what layer you are making changes to and why, such as circle_tween, dog_motion, text_fade, etc. Double-click layer name to change it.
  • Created objects and text: These do not need naming until you make into symbols.
  • Symbols: Name for object and how you identify it, like pink_circle, purple_button, etc. Name in the dialogue boxt when you create the symbol.
  • Instances: Not necessary until using Actionscript. This is where you name the copy of any symbol you pull onto the stage. This is important since this affects scripting and programming. Use basic Javascript naming conventions: startButton, stopButton, myMovie, etc. Click on the object and name in the Properties area.
  • Frames: Not necessary but useful for labeling critical frames on big animations. Click on a single frame and name in the Properties area.


Do's and Don'ts



  • Forget to save your file often - Control S
  • Forget that you can undo up to 100 times - Control Z
  • Delete imported objects from your library if you made any symbols out of them.
  • Delete a symbol from your library (unless you are not using the symbol at all).
  • Leave all your Library items in the main level - you'll get lost locating things fast!
  • Leave your layer names at their defaults - you can't tell which is which just by looking at them.
  • Forget that everything on the stage, from the stage itself to every item on it, can be affected by what you choose in the Properties tab.



  • Keep a tidy Library with subfolders, and drag all assets into those folders for organizing
  • Have an Info layer in your file for identification and notes
  • Name every layer with the identfying item and purpose
  • Lock off all layers you are not working on so you don't click and change other layers by accident.
  • Keep a close eye on the Properties tab, which changes contextually based on what you click on/select on the stage