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Object Transformation in Adobe CS5 Illustrator

The Rotate, Reflect, Scale, and Shear tools in Adobe Creative Suite 5 (Adobe CS5) Illustrator all use the same basic steps to perform transformations. Here are five ways to transform an object: one for an arbitrary transformation and four others for exact transformations based on a numeric amount you enter.

Arbitrary transformation method

Because this transformation method is arbitrary, you’re eyeballing the transformation of an object — in other words, you don’t have an exact percentage or angle in mind, and you want to freely transform the object until it looks right. Just follow these steps:

  1. Select an object and then choose a Transform tool (Rotate, Reflect, Scale, or Shear).

  2. Click the artboard once.

    Be careful where you click because the click determines the point of reference, or axis point, for the transformation. The click put the axis point above the right ear. The image is rotated on the axis created at that point.

    The first mouse click creates the axis point.
    The first mouse click creates the axis point.
  3. Drag in one smooth movement.

    Just drag until you create the transformation you want.

Hold down the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) key when dragging to clone a newly transformed item while keeping the original object intact. This trick is especially helpful when you’re using the Reflect tool.

Exact transformation methods

In the methods in this section, you're shown how to perform transformations using specific numeric information:

Exact transformation method 1 — using the tool’s dialog box:

  1. Select an object and then choose the Rotate, Reflect, Scale, or Shear tool.

  2. Double-click the Transform tool in the Tools panel.

    A dialog box specific to your chosen tool appears. In this example, the Rotate tool was selected and then double-clicked to open the Rotate dialog box.

    Double-click a Transform tool to open its dialog box.
    Double-click a Transform tool to open its dialog box.
  3. Type an angle, a scaled amount, or a percentage in the appropriate text field.

  4. Select the Preview check box to see the effect of the transformation before you click OK; click the Copy button instead of OK to keep the original object intact and transform a copy.

Exact transformation method 2 — using the reference point:

  1. Select an object and then choose the Rotate, Reflect, Scale, or Shear tool.

  2. Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac) wherever you want to place the reference point.

  3. In the appropriate Transform tool dialog box that appears, enter values and click OK or click the Copy button to apply the transformation.

    This method is the best one to use if you need to rotate an object an exact amount on a defined axis.

Exact transformation method 3 — using the Transform menu:

  1. Select an object and then choose a transform option from the Object→Transform menu.

    The appropriate transform dialog box appears.

  2. Enter some values and click OK or the Copy button.

Exact transformation method 4 — using the Transform panel:

  1. Select an object and choose Window→Transform to access the Transform panel.

  2. Set your options.

Though using the Transform panel is probably the easiest way to go, it doesn’t give you the option of specifying an exact reference point (by clicking your mouse) or other options that apply to the individual Transform tools.

Enter values on the Transform panel.
Enter values on the Transform panel.
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