Since Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based drawing environment, each Illustrator drawing consists of independent elements or objects. Much of the process of creating a drawing consists of transforming objects, either to customise them or to derive other objects. In this article, we will examine some of the key techniques used when carry out such transformations.
First of all transformations can be carried out in three different way: using the selection or free transform tool, using the transform tools (scale, rotate, shear and reflect) or using the options in the Transform sub-menu of the Object menu. Using the selection or free transform tools is very much like transforming vector and other objects in most non-specialist programs such as Microsoft Word or PowerPoint.
Moving objects is one of the simplest forms of transformation. To move an object with the pointer or free transform tool, simply position the cursor over the object, click and hold down the mouse button and drag the object to a new position. If you hold down the Shift key as you do so, you will constrain the movement of the object to the horizontal, vertical or diagonal plane.
Another technique is to select the object and then use the cursor keys on your keyboard to move it up, down, left or right. The amount of movement is dictated by one of the settings in your preferences. To change this, choose Preferences from the Edit menu (Windows) or choose Illustrator from the Apple menu (Macintosh). In the general category, enter a setting for “Keyboard Increment”. (The default setting is 0.3528 mm.)
When moving elements via the keyboard to move an object, you can increase the amount of movement by a factor of ten by holding down the Shift key in conjunction with any of the cursor keys. Also, bear in mind that keys repeat; so if you keep a cursor key down, the object will move continuously. You don’t have to press the key repeatedly.
Illustrator also offers a more precise way of moving an object, using the menu command Object-Transform-Move. This displays a dialogue in which you can enter the precise distance that you would like the object to move. There are four settings: horizontal, vertical, distance and angle. Any of the four can be modified and the other three will be automatically updated. For example, if you enter 10 for horizontal and 10 for vertical, Illustrator will automatically enter 45 degrees for the angle and 14.1421 for the distance. If you then enter 10 for the distance, Illustrator will change both the horizontal and vertical settings to 7.0711; and so forth. The Move dialog also contains a preview option, so that you can verify that the object will end up where you want it to as well a Copy button allowing you to duplicate and offset the original object.
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