How Using the Direct Selection Tool Helps You Make Infographics

By Justin Beegel, MBA, The Infographic World Team

The Direct Selection tool in Adobe Illustrator, the second tool down on the Tools palette, is a great asset for creating infographics. Some folks call it the “empty arrow” (in comparison with the black-filled Selection arrow).

Whereas you use Selection to select an object or group of objects, you use Direct Selection to select individual handles or points on a vector drawing or Pen drawing in Illustrator and edit them. You can work with any object that is a vector or AI Pen-drawn shape.

Try this. Start by creating a simple shape:

  1. Activate the Shapes tool (the eighth icon down on the Tools palette, that looks like a basic rectangle with a little shading in the SE corner).

  2. From the menu of shapes that opens, choose something simple, like a basic rectangle (opt for the Rectangle tool) and then click the workspace.

Now you can use Direct Selection to manipulate the shape:

  1. Activate the Direct Selection tool (press A for a shortcut).

  2. Click and hold any anchor point and then drag it.

    If you select the upper-left anchor of a rectangle and drag it toward the center, you get a trapezoid. For fun, do the same with the upper-right anchor point: Select it and move it to the same place as the first point. That gives you a triangle.

    If you hold down Shift while doing these movements, it will constrain them to parallel, vertical, or 45-degree movements.

    The direct selection tool has a really useful “marquee” feature that allows you to draw a box around a portion of your work and then drag or move everything that’s inside the box.

You can also use the Direct Selection tool to move only selected lines between two points. Just click any line in a shape, holding and dragging.