August 27, 2007

Technique: Scaling Area Text

I often get questions with regards to scaling text. For example, some users are looking to scale their text frames, but find that the text within the frame becomes scaled as well. Much like in InDesign, the user is looking to simply resize the frame, allowing the text within to simply reflow. The reason why I get questions about this stems from the fact that it often seems that sometimes it DOES work as the user wants it to, while other times, it doesn't -- which leads to frustration and other acts of computer violence.

The first thing to understand is that Illustrator has two types of text objects -- one called Point Type and one called Area Type. Point Type is used most often for random text objects that appear in your document and aren't bound by any shape or frame. Area Type is used for larger blocks of text where lines flow from one line to the next and are encompassed within a shape or a frame (just a note here -- I'm using the term "frame" here only because it's a familiar term for InDesign users, but Illustrator really has no concept of a frame at all).

Normally, it's pretty easy to make a distinction between Point and Area Type simply by looking at it when it is selected. Point Type (lower left) shows a single point on the first line and other lines are underlined. Note that the line endings shown here are manual, using hard or soft returns. Area Type (lower right) also appears underlined, but is also enclosed within a shape that contains small boxes on the upper left and lower right sides (those boxes are called "ports" and we'll talk about them in detail in a moment). The text within the Area Type object shown below has no specified line breaks -- the text simply reflows on its own to fit within its frame.



However, when you have the Bounding Box option turned on (View > Show Bounding Box), and you use the Selection tool to select your text object, both Point Type and Area Type appear nearly alike when selected.



The trick is, you have to pay attention to the ports -- those are the boxes we spoke about before. It's really the only way to differentiate a Point Type object from an Area Type object. The bounding box gives the Point Type an appearance that makes it look like Area Type.



These ports are used with Area Text to help manage "threads" of text, or text that is linked from one frame to another. It works just like InDesign, and different icons in the in or out ports will indicate functionality.



Now that you know how to identify the two kinds of Type objects, we can understand how to scale them and get the results we expect.

Point Type has no frame or shape that holds it. Therefore, scaling Point Type will always result in the text becoming distorted -- after all, you are scaling the text.



However, if you use the Selection tool to scale an Area Type object, the object itself will scale, but the text within the object will NOT scale, and will simply reflow to fit within the new shape.



As a nice little feature, you'll even notice that while you're scaling an Area Type object, Illustrator will preview live how the text will reflow (InDesign can do that if you click, hold for a second or two, and then start dragging).

However, if you're like me, you'll also want to use the Transform panel (or the Control panel) to resize Area Type frames numerically, to fit a specific dimension. But in doing so, you'll notice that the text within the Area Type object will also becomes scaled. Is there no way to scale an Area Type frame numerically without scaling the text within it?

There are two ways:

1. Double click on the Area Type object to select all the text. Copy. Apply your scale numerically, then select all, and paste. Silly, right? That's why there's option 2...

2. Use the Direct Selection tool to select JUST the side of the frame (see figure below). Now when you apply a numerical scale via the Transform or Control panel the scale will apply to the frame and the text within will reflow as expected.

25 comments:

Gary Spedding, Ph.D. said...

Thanking you.

Anonymous said...

is this applicable to cs2? Just cant seem to get it work. :)

Mordy Golding said...

The information in this post should apply equally to Illustrator CS, CS2 and CS3.

AG Nick said...

Thanks for spelling this out. It used to confuse me a lot in the past.

Related to this, and hopefully of interest to others, is Nathaniel's free Illustrator script page (which includes scripts from others) which contains two tools: Make Point Type and Make Area Type. These simply allow you to switch between text types.

You can find these scripts at:

www.humboldt.edu/%7Envk2/scripts/

There are other great scripts on that page which are worth investigation.

Hope this is of use,

Nick

David said...

By using the Free transform tool "E", resizing is realyl easy.

col said...

Thanks very much, scaling has been bugging me for years!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mordy - I knew most already but had couldn't figure out how to scale the 'frame' of Area Text. Even after reading your post it wasn't quite clear - because in my case when selecting the 'frame' with the black arrow I didn't get the scaling handles.. then I remembered turning off the bounding box (View/Show Bounding Box or Ctrl+Shift+B) for easier dragging and dropping with having Object Selection by Path on.

After turning the bounding box On again I actually got the scaling handles and could finally scale them again :)

Just thought to post it for the other people that might work with the bounding box off.

__

@ David: like you say you can use Free Transform to scale the Area Type box AND the type but not when you only want to scale the Area of the Type (referenced here as 'frame')

Dave G said...

Still having some issues with this. I know the difference between area and point text, and I have a series of text in grid boxes. When I try to scale (various ways) the type ALWAYS goes OUT of the boxes it's lined up in. The ONLY way I can get this scaling to work, is to outline the type before scaling - then it works properly.. but of course, then I can't edit the type. This has been an issue for me for months but only now have I gotten to the point of frustration and I can't seem to find an answer. Anyone think they can help out?

Anonymous said...

Is there any way to centre text within an area text box? In Indesign, this would be the text frame option but this does not seem to exist. In this case, we are looking to auto generate signage and have set up variables but unfortunately can't centre the text within the text area so that regardless of the number of lines of text of the signage, it is centred in the same area. Thoughts?

Mordy Golding said...

Unlike ID, Illustrator does not have a vertical alignment setting. In all honesty, considering how easy it is to set up a Data Merge in InDesign (and how difficult it is in AI), you're probably better off doing your task in ID.

Xavier said...

You save my day with the trick about resizing text area through the transform panel. Thanks a lot.

Ted King said...

Using the direct selection tool works in CS4. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

thanks.
I needed that. Just couldn't move on until I understood why the text kept scaling instead of wrapping.

rachel said...

Hello, I am new to your site, i have illustrator cs3 and my bounding box has stopped working over the last few weeks, Therefore if i draw a text box for example i have to draw a new one to change its size. It is a nightmare and i was hoping you would be able to help.

ANY HELP IS WELCOME!

Thanks

rachel said...

FIXED!

THANKS!

Mordy Golding said...

@rachel. Try choosing View > Show Bounding Box (Command-Shift-B, Ctrl-Shift-B)

rachel said...

Thanks Mordy,

I quit, it and moved the pref folder and it seemed to work.

Thanks for the mail!

ungeziefer said...

So is there a way to change/convert from one to the other? Or do you just have to cut the text, delete the box, create a new text object and paste the text? Not a big deal but seems like there should be a simpler/quicker way...

Anonymous said...

about: Ctrl+Shift+B I had overset text and redbox+ was showing up it took me several hundred clicks almost like an ape to figure out what to do to scale the text frame and show the rest of the text without distortion.I am software dev and have to admit this is very very poor usability that software developer and architects in Adobe should address. incredibly unfriendly! No user should suffer this much and use ctr+shift+B to do a very basic function of scaling a textframe.

Arley said...

Thanks. Very useful article.

Anonymous said...

Mind numbing to say the least! There is nothing intuitive about this. I may as well be in PowerPoint. Yes I'm a convert from FreeHand and must say that most of Illustrator makes logical sense, the rest makes you want to pull your hair out.

This type thing is one of them. Does not need to be so complicated.

Yes, I can speak from experience as I have worked in both programs.

These problems show themselves.

Axo said...

I know this thread is old, but thankfully for someone like me just learning, it is still out here!

The "Free transform control 'E'" comment did exactly what I needed and in 4 words. I just hit E and scaled my Area Text to the size I needed.

Thanks for this post and for that comment, David!

javier said...

for me "turn on the bonding box" advise did the trick!

thanks guys!

javier said...

for me "turn on the bonding box" advise did the trick!

thanks guys!

Anonymous said...

Few years in delay, but still helps a lot :) Thank you!!