Illustrator is all about paths. And so, appropriately, there are all kinds of ways to select and edit paths in Illustrator. You can select an entire path and reshape, rescale, rotate, skew, or distort it, and so on. Or, you can select a path segment—the section of the path between two anchors—select just some path segments, or select a set of anchors.
You can also group more than one path and edit the group as you would an individual object. Selecting objects within groups has always been a bit sticky in Illustrator, but CS4 has a group isolation feature that makes this process easier.
Illustrator CS4 also allows you to align anchors. This means, for example, that you can vertically align a group of selected anchors so they are all on a horizontal plane.
In this chapter, I'll show you how to use all these selection and editing techniques. I'll also provide a basic overview for how to use Illustrator's powerful Pathfinder tools, which combine and divide combinations of paths in just about every conceivable way.
#31 Selecting Path Segments and Paths
Illustrator paths are made up of anchors with path segments connecting them. You can select and edit an entire path when you want to copy, move, or resize the path. You can select either an anchor or a path segment to reshape an object.
You can select path segments by clicking on (or within three pixels of) the segment with the Direct Selection tool.
After you select a path segment, you can reshape an object by moving that segment (Figure 31).
Figure 31 Moving a selected path to reshape a rectangle with the Direct Selection tool.
The Selection tool is used for selecting entire paths and groups of objects. With the Direct Selection tool you can select individual anchor points, path segments, or entire objects. To select an object or group with the Selection tool, just click on the path. If the object has a fill, you can click on that as well.
The Group Selection tool in the Direction Selection tearoff appears as a white arrow with a plus sign. One click with the Group Selection tool selects an object, clicking again selects a group that the original object is part of, clicking a third time selects a larger group that the selected group is part of, and so on.
You can add objects to or remove objects from a selection set by holding down the Shift key as you click with the Selection tool. This works with path segments or anchors selected with the Direct Selection tool as well.
#32 Defining, Selecting, and Isolating Groups
Because Illustrator documents can become overloaded with paths, it is often useful to group objects. Groups can be resized and rotated. You can edit the stroke and fill of groups. For example, if 30 objects are grouped and you change the fill color of the group, the fill color of every object within the group changes.
To group objects, select them using the Selection or Lasso tool and choose Object > Group. You can nest groups by combining several groups into another group. To ungroup objects, select the group and choose Object > Ungroup.
Selecting and editing elements within a group has always been something of a hassle. Illustrator now makes that process a little more intuitive. With a group selected, click the Isolate Selected Group tool in the Control panel or double-click on the group in the artboard to select it.
With a group isolated, you are prevented from editing any other elements on the page, but you can select any element within the group the way you normally would using the various selection tools.
The "breadcrumbs" beneath the Illustrator tab bar indicate the level of isolation, and you can "back up" through the isolation process by selecting a broader grouping from the set of breadcrumbs (Figure 32).
Figure 32 Isolating a group within a group—the two <Group> breadcrumbs allow backward navigation to a larger group.
You can back out of an isolation mode step by step by using breadcrumbs, or you can immediately leave isolation mode by double-clicking outside the group or by pressing the Escape key.
#33 Selecting, Editing, and Aligning Anchors
You can select an anchor point and move it to reshape an object. For example, you can turn a circle into an oval by selecting an anchor point and dragging it (Figure 33a).
Figure 33a Moving a selected anchor.
To select an anchor point, move the Direct Selection tool over a path. As you do, the anchors will become visible (Figure 33b).
Figure 33b Identifying anchors in a path with the Direct Selection tool.
To select a single anchor, click on it. To select multiple anchors, you can:
- Draw a marquee with the Direct Selection tool.
- Shift-click to select more than one anchor.
- Draw a marquee with the Lasso tool around the anchors (hold down the Shift key to draw additional Lasso tool marquees).
You can align anchors within a path. So, for example, if you've drawn a waveform and you want all the tops of the waves to align vertically, you can do that.
To align anchors, first select a set of (at least two) anchors. With the anchors selected, align them by using the alignment tools in the Control panel or by using a similar set of alignment tools in the Align panel.
Horizontal and vertical alignment lines up all selected anchors, either horizontally or vertically. Distribution creates even spacing between anchors. By default, anchors align along the bounding box—the rectangle that defines the selected group of anchors. So, for example, if you choose to align anchors vertical align top, they align along the top of the bounding box (even with the top selected anchor) (Figure 33c).
Figure 33c Aligning selected anchors vertical top using the Align panel.
#34 Selecting Similar Objects
Illustrator CS4 lets you choose from a list of same objects that you can quickly select. For example, if you want to select all objects that, for instance, have the same fill and stroke as a selected object, choose Select > Same > Fill & Stroke (Figure 34a).
Figure 34a Selecting objects with the same fill and stroke.
In addition to selecting all objects with the same stroke and fill, you can select objects with the same blending mode, fill color, opacity, stroke color, and stroke weight. There are other, more esoteric attributes that you can use to filter selections with as well.
You can also use the Object submenus (Select > Object) to select all of a variety of objects. One of the most useful options on this menu is Stray Points. This feature provides you with the ability to select (and then delete) stray anchors. It is easy to create stray anchors unintentionally—for instance, when you click with the Pen tool and don't end up creating a path. Stray anchors unnecessarily increase file size and your print area. Detect them by choosing Select > Object > Stray Points (Figure 34b).
Figure 34b Detecting stray points.
Another selection technique is the Magic Wand tool. It is used to select objects whose fill colors are very similar to the RGB color settings of the fill color of the clicked on object (Figure 34c).
Figure 34c Selecting like-colored objects with the Magic Wand tool.
You can tweak how carefully the Magic Wand tool discriminates between shades of fill colors, stroke colors, or stroke weight by opening the little-used Magic Wand panel (from the Window menu). Or, you can open the panel by double-clicking the tool in the toolbar.
#35 Editing with the Bounding Box
You can quickly and easily resize, reshape, and rotate any object (or group of objects) using that object's bounding box. If the bounding box is not displayed, you can make it visible by choosing View > Show Bounding Box. With the bounding box turned on, a rectangular frame appears around selected objects, displaying four corner handles and four side handles (Figure 35a).
Figure 35a Displaying a bounding box for a selected object.
You can quickly rescale any selected object by dragging on a bounding box handle. Resizing an object with the bounding box expands or contracts the object using the selected handle (Figure 35b).
Figure 35b Resizing an object with the bounding box.
Hold down the Shift key as you rescale to maintain the original height-to-width ratio. Hold down the Option/Alt key as you resize using a bounding box to make the center point instead of a bounding box handle serve as the anchor.
Moving the Selection tool near an anchor in a bounding box turns the Selection tool into a rotation tool. Hold down the Shift key as you rotate to constrain rotation to 45-degree angle increments (Figure 35c).
Figure 35c Rotating a star using the bounding box.
There are many ways to duplicate objects in Illustrator. The simplest is to select an object (or objects), hold down the Option/Alt key, and click and drag. When you release your mouse button, you place a copy of the selected paths on your artboard (Figure 36).
Figure 36 Copying with the Option/Alt key.
You can also copy and paste selected objects by choosing Edit > Copy from the menu. Three paste options are available from the menu. In addition to the regular Edit > Paste, you can also paste in front or in back.
Illustrator allows you to manage stacking order as you paste. Edit > Paste in Front stacks pasted objects on top of other objects, and Edit > Paste in Back stacks pasted objects below other objects.
You can use the Copy and Paste commands to transfer objects in and out of Illustrator.
The quick-and-dirty way to rescale any object is to select it, view the bounding box, and rescale (resize) using the Selection tool. To do that, first select the object. If the bounding box is not displayed, choose View > Show Bounding Box (for details, see #35, "Editing with the Bounding Box").
The Scale tool has a couple of advantages over sizing freehand with a bounding box or the Free Transform tool. The Scale tool allows you to resize to an exact percentage. For instance, you can resize an object to 200 percent, doubling the size of the original object exactly.
Resizing an object using the Scale tool interactively is hardly intuitive. Instead of clicking and dragging on an anchor or on a path, you click and drag anywhere on the artboard. It takes some practice (Figure 37a).
Figure 37a Rescaling with the interactive Scale tool.
If you hold down the Shift key as you resize with the Scale tool, you can click and drag at about a 45-degree angle from a corner handle to maintain the height-to-width ratio of the original drawing. If you hold down the Shift key and drag up or down, you will only change the height. Hold down the Shift key and drag sideways to change only the width of the selected object.
By default, when you resize a selected object with the Scale tool, the center of the object is used as the point from which the object is enlarged or compressed. You can change that point by clicking within a selected object with the Scale tool. Then, when you resize the object, the newly selected point is the pivot and hub from which the object is resized, as shown in Figure 37b.
Figure 37b Resizing from a selected pivot anchor.
The Scale dialog allows you to rescale an object digitally (defining exact percentages for horizontal and vertical resizing). It also allows you to define how stroke thickness and pattern sizing are affected by scaling.
If you rescale strokes (and effects), the stroke (or effect) changes in accordance with the rescaled object. If you maintain the original stroke thickness when you rescale, the relationship between the stroke thickness and the object changes (Figure 37c).
Figure 37c Rescaling while maintaining the same stroke size.
Similarly, when you rescale with the Scale dialog, you can maintain a pattern fill at its original size, or you can rescale it in sync with the resized object. In addition, you can elect to apply scaling only to a pattern fill with interesting results: With this technique, you stretch or shrink only a fill pattern while the object containing the pattern remains unchanged (Figure 37d).
Figure 37d Rescaling a pattern while maintaining the same object size.
Here's a recap/summary of the process of resizing with the Scale dialog:
- Select the object(s) to be rescaled.
- Double-click the Scale tool. The Scale dialog appears. Enter a value in the Scale area of the dialog to resize both height and width to a uniform percentage. Or, to rescale without maintaining the same height-to-width ratio, enter separate values in the Horizontal and Vertical boxes in the Non-Uniform section of the dialog.
- Select the Preview check box to see the object interactively resize on the artboard as you change values.
- Select the Scale Strokes & Effects check box if you want to proportionally resize strokes and effects.
- If you have an object with a pattern fill, you can select the Objects check box to resize objects. You'll almost always want to select this option; otherwise, the object won't resize.
- Select the Patterns check box to proportionally resize patterns within a shape. When your object is correctly resized, click OK.
You can quickly rotate any selected object interactively by viewing the object bounding box and rotating with the Selection tool. If you want to activate a bounding box around an object that is part of a group, select that object with the Group Selection tool, and then click the Selection tool. The box will appear around the single object, not the whole group.
With the bounding box displayed, hover near a corner or side point of an object's bounding box (with the Selection tool). As you do, the Selection tool cursor turns into a double-headed, curved arrow. Click and drag clockwise or counterclockwise to rotate the selected object (Figure 38a).
Figure 38a Rotating a selected object.
The Rotate tool rotates objects with more precision and control than you get by simply using the Selection tool. To rotate a selected object precisely using the dialog, double-click the Rotate tool. The Rotate dialog appears. Enter a value in the Angle area of the Rotate dialog to set the degree of rotation. The Copy button in the Rotate dialog allows you to create a second, rotated version of your selected object while leaving the original unchanged.
Select the Preview check box to view changes on the artboard as you make them in the dialog before you click OK (Figure 38b).
Figure 38b Rotating with the Rotate dialog.
The most powerful and fun application of the Rotate tool is to rotate objects using a selected point as the rotation pivot. To do that:
- Select the object (or objects) to be rotated.
- Click the Rotate tool.
- Click anywhere on the artboard to define the rotation pivot point.
- Click and drag anywhere in the document to rotate the object around the selected point (Figure 38c).
Figure 38c Rotating around a selected pivot anchor.
#39 Shearing (Skewing)
Shearing (or skewing—they're the same thing) is a hard process to describe in words, but it's something you'll often want to apply to a shape. In general, skewing distorts the relationship between opposite sides of an object. A simple example would be converting a rectangle into a parallelogram with 30-degree angles instead of right (90-degree) angles. You can do this by selecting a path segment and moving it with the Shear tool (Figure 39a).
Figure 39a Shearing a rectangle into a parallelogram.
When you shear (skew), the affected object distorts around the center point of the object. To skew around a selected point instead, first click with the Shear tool to set a fixed point. The selected point (anywhere on the artboard) remains fixed while the rest of the object shears (Figure 39b).
Figure 39b Shearing with a fixed point.
#40 Distorting with Envelopes
A quick, easy, and fun way to edit paths is to place an object in an envelope. Visualize an elephant stuffed into a trapezoid. Ouch! It may be better to visualize something more humane and less painful. The point is you can distort any object to fit into an outline created by a second object. That second object is the envelope.
Choose Object > Envelope Distort to access three types of distortion. Use Make with Warp to apply preset warps. Meshes are grids with editable anchors that define how colors merge and blend within the mesh.
To use your own, custom-designed envelope, select two objects with the object that will be the envelope on top of the object to be distorted. Then choose Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Top Object (Figure 40).
Figure 40 An envelope and an enveloped object.
#41 Using Pathfinders
Combining and splitting paths in Illustrator is managed by the ten tools in the Pathfinder panel. These tools combine or divide two or more intersecting paths. The tools in the Pathfinder panel are essentially shortcuts to processes you could accomplish equally well, but with much more hassle, by selecting and deleting anchor points.
For example, you could cut a circle out of the corner of a square by creating new anchors on the square and deleting the path segments between those new anchors. A quicker and easier way is to use the Divide pathfinder tool. Open the Pathfinder panel by selecting Window > Pathfinder.
The ten Pathfinder tools are displayed (Figure 41a).
Figure 41a The Pathfinder tools.
The Pathfinder panel has two rows: the Shape Modes and the Pathfinders. The Shape Mode tools, which have been given new, simpler names in Illustrator CS4, generate new shapes from intersecting shapes:
- Unite combines selected objects into a single shape.
- Minus Front deletes the top shape from the bottom shape.
- Intersect removes everything but overlapping areas of selected shapes.
- Exclude deletes shared areas of two overlapping selected objects.
The tools in the second row of the Pathfinder panel are used to combine and cut intersecting paths. The Divide pathfinder is perhaps the most widely used and most useful. You can use it to cut one object out of another, as you would use a cookie cutter to cut dough. To divide two objects, place one on top of the other.
With the two objects selected, click the Divide tool in the Pathfinder panel. After you divide the objects, you can ungroup them and separate them (Figure 41b).
Figure 41b Using a rectangle to cut out a piece of the circle with the Divide tool.
While the Divide tool is probably the most effective and useful, you'll find the other bottom-row pathfinders helpful as well:
- Divide splits selected objects into individual objects created by intersecting paths.
- Trim deletes the covered portion of the bottom shape.
- Merge is similar to the Trim tool, but it merges contiguous shapes that have the same color fill and removes stroke attributes.
- Crop uses the top object like a cookie cutter to cut away parts of the bottom object that do not fit within it.
- Outline converts fills to outlines; the color of the fill becomes the color of the outline stroke.
- Minus Back uses the bottom object as a cookie cutter to strip away intersecting areas from the front object.