Transform Tools in Adobe CS5 Illustrator - dummies

By Jennifer Smith, Christopher Smith, Fred Gerantabee

The most popular Transform tools in Adobe Creative Suite 5 (Adobe CS5) Illustrator — Reflect, Scale, Shear, Reshape and Free Transform — are easy to use and quickly alter your illustration.

The Reflect tool

Nothing is symmetrical, right? Maybe not, but objects not created symmetrically in Illustrator can look off-kilter. Using the Reflect tool, you can reflect an object to create an exact mirrored shape of it; just follow these steps:

  1. Open a new document in Illustrator and type some text or create an object.

    If you want to reflect text, make sure that you use at least 60-point type so that you can easily see it.

  2. Select the Reflect tool (hidden under the Rotate tool) and click the object; if you’re using text, click in the middle of the text baseline.

    This step sets the reference point for the reflection.

  3. Alt+Shift+drag (Windows) or Option+Shift+drag (Mac) and release when the object or text is reflecting itself.

    This step not only clones the reflected object or text but also snaps it to 45-degree angles.

    The completed reflection.
    The completed reflection.

The Scale tool

Using the Scale tool, you can scale an object proportionally or non-uniformly. Most people like to be scaled non-uniformly — maybe a little taller, a little thinner — but on with the topic. Follow these steps to see the Scale tool in action:

  1. Create a shape and give it no fill and a 5-point black stroke.

    For this example, we created a circle.

  2. Select the shape and double-click the Scale tool.

    The Scale dialog box appears.

  3. Type a number in the Scale text field (in the Uniform section) and click the Copy button.

    We entered 125 in the Scale text field to increase the size of the object by 125 percent.

  4. Press Ctrl+D (Windows) or Command+D (Mac) to repeat the transformation as many times as you want.

    Every time you press Ctrl+D (Windows) or Command+D (Mac), the shape is copied and sized by the percentage you entered in the Scale text field. This trick, especially handy with circles, creates an instant bull’s-eye!

To experiment with the Scale tool, create different shapes in Step 1 and enter different values in Step 3. Remember that if you type 50% in the Scale text field, the object is made smaller; surpass 100 percent — say, to 150 percent — to make the object larger. Leaving the Scale text field at 100 percent has no effect on the object.

The Shear tool

The Shear tool lets you shear an object by selecting an axis and dragging to set a shear angle.

Create perspective with the Shear tool.
Create perspective with the Shear tool.

Use the Shear tool in combination with the Rotate tool to give an object perspective.

The Reshape tool

The Reshape tool lets you select anchor points and sections of paths and adjust them in one direction. You determine that direction by dragging an anchor point with the Reshape tool selected.

The Reshape tool works differently from the other Transform tools. To use it, follow these steps:

  1. Select just the anchor points on the paths that you want to reshape. Deselect any points that you want to remain in place.

  2. Select the Reshape tool (hidden under the Scale tool) and position the cursor over the anchor point you want to modify; click the anchor point.

    If you click a path segment, a highlighted anchor point with a square around it is added to the path.

  3. Shift-click more anchor points or path segments to act as selection points.

    You can highlight an unlimited number of anchor points or path segments.

  4. Drag the highlighted anchor points to adjust the path.

The Free Transform tool

You use the Free Transform tool in much the same way as you use the bounding box. This tool is necessary only if you choose View→Hide Bounding Box but want free transform capabilities.