Illustrator #2: Manipulating Objects


Previous Tutorial

Illustrator #1: Getting Started
Introduction to Adobe Illustrator - its basic functionality and value it brings to architects' workflow.


In this tutorial, you will learn how to:

Set Up

To get started, create a new file called Tutorial 2 (RGB color space) and make a composition similar to the one on the image, with a:

Don’t worry about placing the objects accurately.


Manipulating Objects

1-0-selectYou can easily move, rotate and scale objects using Selection tool (‘V’ key):

Moving Objects

Activate Selection tool, and select yellow circle. Then click anywhere inside the yellow circle and move mouse to drag the circle around the screen:


Hold down SHIFT key while dragging or drawing to limit movement to the nearest 45° angle.

Scale/Stretch Objects

See those blue handles around the selected object? They are used to stretch or scale object.
Try stretching the circle by dragging the handles in the middle:


You can also stretch in both direction by dragging the corner handles. Please note that you can maintain the same proportion (width/height) of an object if you hold SHIFT key while drawing:


Rotate Objects

Now select a green rectangle, and move the mouse just next to any handle (but not OVER a handle).
You will see the pointer will change to indicate we can now rotate the element (left image).
Now click and drag mouse to rotate the selected objects in real time:


If you hold SHIFT key while rotating, the rotation angle will be constrained to 45′ degrees.
Note: See the blue dot handle in the middle object? This is the rotatation center – you can click and drag it wherever you want to make object rotate around whatever point you want.

Use the SHIFT key  to rotate the green square 45 degrees, like in the below sketch:


To see it all in action, check out this video:

Copying Objects

As with any other feature, there are many ways to copy objects:

Using Copy Paste In Illustrator

As in any other program, you can select and object, COPY it (Edit Menu > Copy,  or CTRL+C on Windows or CMD+C on a Mac), and then PASTE IT (Edit Menu > Paste, or CTRL+V on Windows or CMD+V on a Mac).  This will result in an object being copied, and the new object will be placed with some offset.

If you want to paste the object in the same place as original object, use Edit Menu > Paste in Place.

Copy Using Selection Tool

You can use the Selection tool to create copies of an object. Activate Selection tool (V) and select a blue rectangle. Then click on it and drag to move it around, but keep ALT key pressed. When you manipulate objects while ALT key is pressed, you will make a copy of them:


Please note that ALT key to copy works with any transformation operation: move, rotate or scale.

Align Objects

By now we have a composition of one yellow circle, one (rotated) green square and two blue rectangles (the one you just copied). Select the 3 objects as in this sketch, and click on Align link in the Control bar (at the top), to bring the Align panel. If you have a high resolution screen, it is very possible that you already have the Align icons in the Control bar itself so no need to open Align panel panel.

Using Align Tool

In order to select multiple objects, you can either click and drag a window to select everything inside as in AutoCAD, or you can pick the object one by one with SHIFT key pressed:


Now let’s try each of the  Align Objects icon to see what they do.
Please after trying every of them, UNDO (CTRL+Z or CMD+Z on Mac) so you could go one step back and try another alignment:


We see that each of these alignments will align the objects between themselves but also to Artboard itself.

This is a default behavior in Illustrator,  but what would we do if we simply wanted to align the green square and yellow circle with the blue rectangle, WITHOUT moving blue rectangle?

We need to establish blue rectangle as a Key Object, and here’s how to do that.
With the 3 objects still selected, simply click on a blue rectangle again, and it will become a Key Object, used as a reference for alignment (key object is marked by additional blue outline):


If we try to use Align tool again, here’s what we’d get. Please note that now the blue rectangle doesn’t move because it’s a key object, and other objects align to it:


This technique applies also to vertical alignment in a very same way.

Using Smart Guides

Smart guides is a very powerful feature of Illustrator that let us move objects (or points within objects) with great accuracy in respect to another objects. For example we can drag one object manually to be perfectly aligned with another.

To turn Smart Guides on, go to View Menu > Smart Guides (or press CTRL+U on Windows or CMD+U on a Mac). Please note that they are turned on by default, and in fact you have already seen them (those green lines with some text).
Now we’ll see how to use them.

Turn the Smart Guides on, if they are not already on.

Make sure nothing is selected.

Now move your mouse near the corner of the blue rectangle, as in the image. Note how the rectangle outline gets highlighted and there is an “Anchor” written on the top of everything. If you don’t see it, that’s probably because you didn’t turned Smart Guides on.


While “anchor” text is still being displayed, now click your mouse and drag towards the left point of the green square ( points are called “Anchors” in Illustrator). Blue rectangle will automatically be selected and start moving with your mouse, using the highlighted anchor point as a reference point for movement.
Now when you move your mouse close to the left anchor of the green square, you will see another smart guide, telling you “Intersect”:


If you now release the mouse button, the blue rectangle will be position so that its anchor points is located at exactly the same spot as green square’s anchor point:


You can use Smart Guides in other ways to align objects to their anchors (points), centers, edges, etc…
For example, try moving the yellow circle in such way that its center aligns with another anchor of green square:


As a reminder of actions:

Now as an exercise, try using Smart Guides to create this composition (you will also need to copy the blue rectangle a few more times):


If you find this difficult, here is a video of how to do it. You will see that sometimes is not easy dragging the objects accurately onto another anchor point, so in several cases I needed to repeat the operation two times:

Next Tutorial

Illustrator #3: Editing Shapes
Learn a wide range of techniques to to draw and edit shapes.


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