Chapter Eleven

Moving and Transforming Objects

At the beginning of this tutorial we touched on moving and transforming objects using the selection tool. In this section we are going to expand on the subject and learn how to use other tools and options to mirror, shear and randomise rotation and scale of objects. We will also look at the align options and learn how to use this useful tool.

The Shear Tool

Draw a shape, select it using the Selection Tool and select the Shear Tool from the toolbar on the left.

If you then click and drag you can create a “Shear” effect. Holding down the shift button while you click and drag snaps the shape to the x or y axis.

Centre of "Mirror Plane"

The Reflect Tool

Draw a new shape, select it using the Selection Tool and select the Reflect Tool from the toolbar on the left by clicking and holding down on the Rotation Tool and selecting the Reflect Tool from the rollout.

To use the tool simply click once where you want the centre of the “mirror plane” to be and then click and drag to mirror the selected object. If you hold down the shift button the mirror snaps to increments of 45 degrees. Holding down the alt button enables you to make a copy of your original shape, rather than changing the shape itself. 

Alternatively, if you double click on the Reflect Tool in the toolbar (Or alt-click anywhere on the artboard) an options dialogue pops up, enabling you to manually input the angles you want the mirror to be at and view a preview before accepting the changes. It also enables you to make a copy of your original shape, like holding down the alt button.

Transform Each

The “Transform Each” function enables you to transform multiple objects at once. This can be uniform or random, and you can set the parameters to whatever you want.

Draw a shape, and then copy and paste it in a horizontal line with equal spacing a few times. Illustrator should show you automatically where to place the objects using pink guides as shown in the image on the right.

After you have drawn a series of shapes select them all and  select “Object - Transform - Transform Each” from the Menu Bar at the top of the screen.

The options dialogue that then pops up gives you a range of options, from changing the scale of the selected objects to changing their location and rotation.

For this example, select the “Random” button and the “Preview” button, as circled in the image to the right.

You can then move the sliders to change the scale, move your objects and rotate your objects, and see how they are affected before selecting the “OK” button. If you’d rather create a copy of the original objects, leaving the originals as they were, simply select “Copy” instead of OK.

Repeat Transformation

If you select an object and then double click on the Selection Tool in the Tool Bar you can easily create a copy of the original object at a set distance from the first one.

To do this, create a shape on your art board.

Select the shape using the Selection Tool.

Double click on the Selection Tool button on the tool bar.

In the dialogue box that pops up, enter a distance into the Horizontal box. Keep the angle at 0 degrees and to complete press the “Copy” button, not the “OK” button.

A second, identical object should then appear at the given distance from the original.

To repeat this function press Ctrl+D and another, identical object will appear at the distance set from the SECOND object. You can repeat this for as many objects as you need to be equally spaced.

Altering the settings can produce the same results at any angle and any distance.

Align and Distribute

Distribute can re-align objects you have drawn to give them equal spacing.

Draw 5 equal squares anywhere on your artboard, like in the image to the right. Use the Shift Key to while you are drawing the shapes to create sides of equal length, and to make sure the shapes are all identical use  “CTRL-C” and “CTRL-V” to copy and paste the shapes.

First, we need to make them so that they are all horizontally aligned. Select all your shapes using the Selection Tool.

Open the Align Palette from the Floating Palette and click on the “Align Horizontal” button, as circled in the image on the right.

Your squares should all move to be in a horizontal line but remain unequally spaced, as in the image below.

With your shapes still selected, go back to the Align Palette and select the “Horizontal Distribute Centre” button. This will rearrange your shapes so that they are equally spaced from  the centre of each shape

There are a range of other options available, for example, Horizontal Distribute Left and Right and the same options to align and distribute vertically.

Horizontally Distribute Centre
Horizontally Distribute Right
Horizontally Distribute Left

Once you have selected this the box to the left becomes editable, and you can enter a distance into it.


This distance specifies the size of the gap between each of your shapes.

After you have entered the distance you wish your objects to be separated by, select the “Horizontal Distribute Space” button and your shapes will be spaced equally.

The “Distribute Spacing” option allows you to specify the distance you want between the edges of your shapes.

Draw 5 or six different sized circles, like in the demonstration above, and align them horizontally.

Whilst they are all selected, select the “Align To:” button and select the “Align to Key Object” option.

Horizontal distribute spacing

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