March 8, 2006

Object Alignment Tips

I can't even begin to tell you how often I get the following request:

"Hey Mordy, is there a way to align objects in Illustrator where all the objects don't move? I want to align my objects to a specific object (so that one of them stays still). Other programs like Corel Draw and FreeHand can do this, and I'm surprised you can't do it in Illustrator"

This is actually a setting that has been inside Illustrator since version 9, but since there's no indication in the user interface, people are unaware of its existence.

To align multiple objects to a specific object, use the Selection tool to select all of the objects that you want to align. Then, click on the object that you want to remain in place. Then click on the desired align button (either in the Align palette or the Control palette). This action of clicking on an object that you want to remain motionless is referred to as "defining a key object"

While we're on the subject of the Align palette, let's talk about a few other options as well.

The Align palette, sadly, doesn't work on individual anchor points within an object. You can only align whole objects, not parts of them.

From the Align palette's palette menu, you can choose Align to Artboard, which will allow you align your objects to the artboard instead of to eachother.

From that same palette menu, you can choose Use Preview Bounds, and you can find out what that setting does here.

Again, from the palette menu, you can choose Show Options, which will reveal a new section at the bottom of the palette called Distribute Spacing. While the Distribute Objects functions will evenly distribute the centers or edges of objects evenly, they have no control over the amount of space that appears BETWEEN those objects. The Distribute Spacing setting is a gem that allows you to distribute objects by specifying an amount of space that should appear between objects. For example, if you want all of your objects to appear with exactly one inch of space between them, set the value in the Distribute Spacing setting to 1" and then click the desired horizontal or vertical spacing button.

In fact, many times I will use the Distribute Spacing with a setting of 0 -- which will automatically "kiss fit" my objects.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot Mordy! This ones helpful for someone like me who's hooked with Corel for several years and is now trying Illustrator. The concept for aligning objects in Corel and Illustrator is indeed different.

Go-Logowear said...

Thanks for the tip on aligning...I've never been able to figure that one out. Unrelated question...how did you set up those great dropdown menus in your sidebar? I'd love to set somthing similar up for my site.

Newmango said...

One real improvement needed for both Align and Distribute is for it to be smart enough to use the preview of clipping groups to align/distribute to the edges of what's visible (ie., the edge of the clipping path).

Mordy Golding said...

oh, I forgot to add that the align palette will align grouped objects as well (but not multiple elements within a single group)... the align palette looks at a group as if it were a single object (so you can't align it to itself).

go-logowear: you want me to reveal ALL of my secrets?!?!? a friend of mine maintains a blog called codescripter where she shares all of these nice little secrets...

Go-Logowear said...

Mordy - thanks for the direction...now to go exploring. I'll tell your friend you sent me...

Kristian Rasmussen said...

Hi Mordy,

"This is actually a setting that has been inside Illustrator since version 9, but since there's no indication in the user interface, people are unaware of its existence."

This feature is well documented but, as you note, unintuitive. Further, it is complicated by difficult accessibility if the object Bounding Box is shown.

As this feature is widely used, its enhancement should be a priority... Why not let there be a small icon that adds to the palette when we are supposed to click a reference object that goes away when the reference has been set?

Also, the Distribute Spacing options are very useful, but unintuitive. You must go to the flyout menu to bring them up which is a bit redundant keeping in mind that most other palette functions now reside in the control palette.

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