Tutorial: Illustrator CC Basics – Transforming Objects

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DIRECT SELECTION TOOL

In this tutorial I will be teaching you how to transform objects within Illustrator.

We have been using the standard form of making a selection inside of Illustrator. Now let’s learn about the Direct Selection tool. Let’s start off on Artboard 1.

When using the Direct Selection tool, when you click on a path you will see all of the anchor points. For example, if I click on the path that makes up this square you will see all the anchor points. If I then hover over one of the anchor points you will see it increase in size – making it easier to select.

You can select multiple anchor points at the same time with the Direct Selection tool. For example, I can click on the path of this square to show all of the anchor points. I can then select – by left-clicking – the top-right anchor point and then shift-left-clicking the bottom-right anchor point. With them both selected I can then manipulate the two anchor points at the same time.

You can also select anchor points on curved paths and then manipulate the anchor points or the control handles. For example, I can click on the path of this circle to show all of the anchor points. I can then select the right anchor point and then use the control handles to manipulate the curve of the circle.

Let’s look more closely at how these control handles work. If I click on the path of the circle and then click on the right anchor point you will notice three control handles appear. This is because on curved paths, the anchor points are connected. So if I then click and drag on the right control handle you will notice that the right-side of the circle is being shaped from both the top and bottom anchor points as well as the right anchor point.

It is also possible to manipulate the different sides of the control handle independently. For example, if I again click on the path of the circle and choose the right anchor point all I need to do is hold down the ALT key on a PC or the OPT key on a Mac and click and drag on the bottom part of the control handle.

GROUPING OBJECTS

Now that we know how to use the Direct Selection tool let’s learn how to group objects. Let’s move over to Artboard 2.

Let’s say that I want all of these independent objects to move and act as a group. The easiest way to make this happen is by actually grouping the objects. Using the selection tool I will shift-click on each object to make sure I have each object selected. (If you are finding this difficult – for example, if you have a lot of smaller pieces – then use the Layer Panel and shift-select the objects.) Once all of the objects are selected then simply go to the Object menu and choose Group.

If you need to ever ungroup your objects your simply select the group and then go to the Object menu and choose Ungroup.

If you have a group of objects and you need to work on only one part of the object you can ungroup the object. However, an easier solution is to use, what Illustrator calls, Isolation Mode.

You can enter Isolation Mode by simply double-clicking on a part of the grouped object. For example, if I double-click on this black square you will notice that a gray bar appears across the top showing us that we are now within that group of the object. You will also notice that everything else appears to be grayed-out and dimmed.

Now that you are in Isolation Mode you can choose any part of the group’s object to work on without needing to ungroup the object. For example, let’s say I wanted to change the color of the circle. All I need to do is simply click on the circle to select it and then change the color.

You can also double-click to select and object behind another object and work on that single object within Isolation Mode. For example, let’s say I wanted to change the color of the red square. All I need to do I double-click on the red square and change the color.

In order to move up one level – back to where I can see the entire group – I can simply click on the <Group> in the gray bar and that will take me up one level. After I have completed everything in Isolation Mode all I need to do is either click on the arrow in the gray bar or double-click anywhere on the blank artboard outside of the grouped object.

DUPLICATE OBJECTS

Now that we know how to group objects let’s learn how to duplicate objects. Let’s move over to Artboard 3.

The default way of duplicating objects is to select the object and the copy and paste. For example, if I wanted to duplicate this square I would first select the square and the go to the Edit menu and choose Copy and then go back to the Edit menu and choose Paste. The problem with this method is that when you paste the object Illustrator places it randomly on the artboard – in this case in the center of the artboard.

The simplest way to duplicate an object is with the Selection tool. Let’s say I wanted to duplicate this square. All I need to do is select the square and the holding down the ALT key on a PC or the OPT key on a Mac simply click and drag the object. If I want to keep the object in line with the previous object I just need to add the Shift key.

If you need to make multiple copies there is a quick and easy way to do that within Illustrator.

Let’s say I need a row of these squares. So, I will, using the ALT key (PC) or OPT (Mac) key plus the Shift key duplicate this square and put it to the right of the original square. Once that square is in place all you need to do now is hold down the CTRL key on a PC or the CMD key on a Mac and press the letter D. This will use the currently selected square’s information to make duplicate squares.

SCALE OBJECTS

Now that we know how to duplicate objects let’s learn how to scale objects. Let’s move over to Artboard 4.

You can scale objects in different ways within Illustrator.

The easiest way to scale an object is to select the object and then, using the bounding box, simply click and drag. You can scale the object in any given direction. For example, I can make this polygon skinnier. If you want to keep the proportion of the object then hold down the Shift key as you drag.

If you hold ALT (PC) or OPT (Mac) along with the Shift key you can scale the object proportionally our from the center.

If you want more fine control over scaling the object then use the Scale tool.

Let’s double-click on the Scale tool to bring up the dialog box. You can scale an object uniformly or non-uniformly with the Scale tool.

Let’s say that I needed this polygon to be 175% larger. So, I click the preview box and type in 175% in the uniform box and hit my Tab key. You will now see the polygon grow to 175% its original size. You also have the options for scaling corner as well as scaling strokes and effects. When you are done with your scaling options simply click OK and those options will be applied to the object.

ROTATE OBJECTS

Now that we know how to scale objects let’s learn how to rotate objects. Let’s move over to Artboard 5.

The simplest way to rotate an object is to select the object and the use the bounding box to rotate the object. Notice that when you get to the corner of the bounding box you see a curved double-headed arrow. Once you see this arrow you can simply move your mouse to rotate the object. After you have rotated it how you want, release your mouse button and see the results.

If you want to rotate the object a bit more succinctly then you can hold down your Shift key while rotating the object. This will snap the rotation angle to multiples of 45o.

For better control over the rotation of an object it is best to use the Rotate tool.

Let’s say I want to change the clock from 12:00 to 12:15. When I select the minute-hand and then click on the Rotate tool you will notice a small cross hair in the middle of the minute-hand. This is called the reference point. Since I do not want to rotate this object from the center I need to move this reference point to the bottom of the minute-hand in order to rotate it from the bottom-center of the object.

Now, if I grab the top-right anchor point and, holding down my Shift key, rotate the minute-hand I can rotate it 90o to make the time 12:15.

DISTORT AND TRANSFORM OBJECTS

Now that we know how to rotate objects let’s learn how to distort and transform objects. Let’s move over to Artboard 6.

Let’s look at some of the tools you can use to transform objects. First we will look at the Free Transform tool.

Let’s select the square using the Selection tool and then click on the Free Transform tool. You will see that Illustrator gives you three tools from which to choose.

The Free Transform tool allows you to rotate an object and distort the sides of the object independently. The Perspective Distort tool allows you to choose an anchor point and distort the object. The Free Distort tool allows you to manipulate the anchor point independently.

You also have access to the Shear tool. Click and hold down the Scale tool until you see a fly-out menu and then choose the Shear tool. With the Shear tool you can assign the reference point (just like in the clock example).

If we want to shear this polygon from the upper-left corner simply move the reference point to that corner and then, choosing any other anchor point, use your mouse to move the chosen anchor point.

If you want more fine control over any type of transformation you can use the Object menu and choose a transformation option under Transform. When you click on Shear for example you will be presented with a dialogue box where you can make your changes and preview them.

REFLECT OBJECTS

Now that we know how to distort and transform objects let’s learn how to reflect objects. Let’s move over to Artboard 7.

In this simple example I want to recreate the other half of this circle to make a complete circle. It is very common for people who work in Illustrator to create only half of what they need and then use the Reflect tool to make the remainder of the artwork.

In order to complete this circle you need to first select the half-circle. Then, click and hold down the Rotate tool until you see a fly-out menu. From the fly-out menu choose the Reflect tool.

It is important to note that the reflection will take place from wherever the reference point is. In this case, that would be from the center of the half-circle. What you want to do is carefully choose the reference point. In this case, you would use the upper-most anchor point as the point of reflection and move the reference point to that anchor point’s position.

Once you have the reference point in place choose the left anchor point and start dragging out the other half of the circle. When you have the other half of the circle in place, hold down the Shift key and the ALT key on a PC or the OPT key on a Mac to keep the proportion and location correct in order to complete the circle. You will notice that the transformed side will then snap into the correct position.

After you finish the reflection it is always a good idea to zoom into the object to see if there is a noticeable seam (which in this case there isn’t one). If there is a noticeable seam, use your keyboard arrow keys to nudge the reflected object until the seam disappears.

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