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In Illustrator CS5 Essential Training, author Mordy Golding explains the core concepts and techniques that apply to any workflow in Illustrator, whether designing for print, the web, or assets for other applications. This course includes a detailed explanation of the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of the Illustrator drawing tools. Also demonstrated are techniques for combining and cleaning up paths, organizing paths into groups and layers, text editing, working with color, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.
We know that in Illustrator, I can turn on rulers and then drag out a whole bunch of guides to help me align my artwork. However, there is some really powerful and useful align commands that you can apply inside of Illustrator without requiring the use of guides at all. You'll notice that whenever you have multiple objects selected, in this case I'll click on these two objects right here, Illustrator inside the Control panel will display many different icons here, which allow you to perform various alignment commands. For example, I can look at these buttons right here, which allow me to align to Top, Middle or Bottom.
However, before I do that I need to tell Illustrator exactly what I want to align these objects to. If you take a look at this icon right here, you can see that, by default, Illustrator here has something called Align to Artboard. That means if I go ahead now and I perform any kind of alignments, these objects will align themselves to the artboard itself. So if I choose Align to Top over here, notice they'll both snap to the top of my artboard. If I choose Bottom, they'll go to the bottom of my artboard. I am going to press Undo two times right here to go back where it was before, and I am now going to change this option to Align to Selection.
Now I have both of these objects selected. If I chose Align to Top, Illustrator will find the object that's already at the highest level, and it will bring up any other object to match it. So if I choose Align to Top now, I get this result. I am going to press Undo for a moment, because if I align to the bottom Illustrator now moves the other object because this object was already towards the bottom of the selection. Of course, I can apply this across many objects. So if I select all of these elements right here, I can choose to align them to their centers, very easily.
Now you notice, by the way, that all the icons that were originally here kind of shifted now to this part of the Control panel. That happens because the Control panel itself is context-sensitive, and it will often make room for features that have things that you might want to apply. However, many times it might just be easier to open up the Align panel directly. You can do that by going to the Window menu and then choosing Align. Now if we go back to this icon over here for a moment, we do see there is one other option here. It's called Align to Key Object. But I'll tell you that I never choose that option because there is a way to get that behavior without having to come to this setting.
I am going to leave everything right now set to Align to Selection, and I am going to deselect my artwork. Let's go ahead and move a few of these around. I am going to move this one down here, this one up right up over here, and I now want to align these objects all according to their tops. So I am going to select all of this artwork, and I know that if I now choose to align everything to the top over here, since this object right now is already at the top, all of the other objects are going to move up to match it. Let me press Undo for a second. Let's say I really like where this object is right now, and I want all my objects to be aligned according to their tops, but I want them to all match the top of this object right here.
So what I can go is once I've made my selection, I'm going to use my regular Selection tool here, and I don't have my hand in the Shift key. I am just going to click ones on this object. Notice how now a thicker blue border now appears around this piece of art. That means I've just identified this object as a key object. In fact, if you look at the icon right now in the Control panel, you'll see a little icon of the key because Illustrator now automatically activated that setting for me. So I didn't have to do it myself.
Now that I have defined this object as a key object, I can perform the Align command and everything now correctly aligned itself to that one key object. I am going to press Undo for a moment here because I just want you to realize that it's very easy to redefine this key object as you need to. If I select all my artwork, and I click on this object because I want it to be the key object, but now I realize you know what, now I want this one to be the key object. Just simply click on it, and that will now redefine this object as the key object and when I choose to Align Objects, it aligns directly to that key object.
It's important to realize that when you're using the Align Objects commands, Illustrator treats groups as if they were individual objects. So if you have some artwork like in this case here, where I want to align these objects that are really made up of many objects inside of it, I need to first define them each as groups, and then the align commands will see each group as if they were one single object. Otherwise, Illustrator would try to actually align all of these objects that appear inside of this artwork.
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