Work with Selections in Illustrator CC - dummies

By Jennifer Smith

Check out the basics of working with selections in Adobe Illustrator CC: Make a selection, work with anchor points and the marquee, make multiple selections, and of course, save your work. After you gain an understanding about the basics of selections, you’ll probably be eager to try some techniques.

Smart guides, turned on by default in Illustrator CC, can help you make accurate selections. These guides are visible as you’re drawing. They display names such as anchor point and path, and they highlight paths when you’re lined up with endpoints or center points.

You can come to love these helpful aids, but if you don’t want to see them, simply choose View→Smart Guides or press the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+U (Windows) or Cmd+U (Mac) to toggle the smart guides off and on.

Selecting an anchor point

When you have a selection to work with (see the numbered list), you can deselect all active anchor points and then make just one anchor point active. Follow these steps:

  1. Choose Select→Deselect to make sure the object isn’t selected.

  2. Select the Direct Selection tool (the white arrow) from the Tools panel.

  3. Click one anchor point.

    Only one anchor point (the one you clicked) is solid, and the others are hollow, as shown in this figure.


  4. Click and drag that solid anchor point with the Direct Selection tool.

    Only that solid anchor point moves.

Note that an anchor point enlarges when you cross over it with the Direct Selection tool. This enlargement is a big break for people who typically have to squint to see where the anchor points are positioned.

Using a marquee to select an object

Sometimes you can more easily surround the object you want to select by dragging the mouse to create a marquee. Follow these steps to select an object by creating a marquee:

  1. Choose the Selection tool.

  2. Click outside the object and drag over a small part of it, as shown in this figure.

    The entire object becomes selected.


You can also select only one anchor point in an object by using the marquee method:

  1. Choose Select→Deselect to make sure the object isn’t selected, and then choose the Direct Selection tool.

  2. Click outside a corner of the object and drag over only the anchor point you want to select.

    Notice that only that anchor point is active, which can be a sight-saver when you’re trying to select individual points. (See this figure.)


You can use this method to cross over just the two top points or side anchor points to activate multiple anchor points as well.

Selecting multiple objects

If you have multiple items on a page, you can select them by using one of these methods:

  • Select one object or anchor point, and then hold down the Shift key and click another object or anchor point. Depending on which selection tool you’re using, you select either all anchor points on an object (Selection tool) or additional anchor points only (Direct Selection tool).

    You can use the Shift key to deactivate an object as well. Shift+click a selected object to deselect it.

  • Choose Select→All or press Ctrl+A (Windows) or Cmd+A (Mac).

  • Use the marquee selection technique and drag outside and over the objects. When you use this technique with the Selection tool, all anchor points in the objects are selected; when using the Direct Selection tool, only the points you drag over are selected.

Saving a selection

Spending way too much time trying to make your selections? Illustrator comes to the rescue with the Save Selection feature. After you have a selection that you may need again, choose Select→Save Selection and name the selection. The selection now appears at the bottom of the Select menu. To change the name or delete the saved selection, choose Select→Edit Selection. This selection is saved with the document.