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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 Illustrator's 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.
For the most part, Illustrator lets you select objects by clicking anywhere on that object, either on the path itself or its fill if it has one. This makes it really easy to make selections. However, sometimes those selections are made too easily and you don't get what you are looking for. For example, if I use my Direct Selection tool, you'll see that I can select the leaf just by clicking anywhere inside its fill. The same thing applies for the circles in the flowers or the flower itself. However if we go into Outline mode for a moment, you'll find that you cannot select artwork by clicking anywhere on the inside of the object.
You would need to actually click on the path itself to make that selection. Since I am using the Direct Selection tool, I am only selecting the individual anchor points. I would have to hold down my Option key to get the Group Selection tool to click, to actually select the entire object here. While it may seem primitive at first, when working with very complex artwork it could be very valuable to come here into Outline mode and make these selections. For example, this flower over here has lots of detail inside of it. If I were to hold down my Command and Spacebar keys to zoom in on this flower, I can easily click on these paths to make selections and clearly see the structure of that artwork, which may be more difficult to do if I were in Preview mode.
So I'll zoom back over here to where I was before and I'll show you that there are some preferences that you can set for making selection inside Illustrator. I'll open up my Preference panel by hitting Command+K and then in the popup menu here I'll switch to Selection & Anchor Display. First take a look over here towards the bottom, where it says Anchor Point and Handle Display. Just to make things a little bit easier to see on your screen, you can choose to have the anchor points displayed at different sizes or handles with different shapes. I'll leave it set to the default settings for now. But there is also an option that highlights anchor points whenever you mouse over them.
This just makes it easier for you to find those anchor points when you're viewing your artwork in Preview mode. Of course if you're in Outline mode, you'll see the anchor points right away. However for selection behaviors, take a look over here at some of the settings in the top. First of all there is something called the tolerance. By default it's set to 3 pixels. That means that whenever I click on a shape, as long as my cursor is within 3 pixels of that shape, it will select that shape. If I have lots of artwork in a small area, sometimes at a tolerance with a value of three, could mean it's too easy for me to accidentally select the wrong object.
So you might choose to reduce that tolerance level to something little bit lower. But just know that means you have to be really precise about where you're clicking your cursor. However the setting that I really want to point out though is this one here called Object Selection by Path Only. By default this setting is turned off. This is what allows us to click on the interior of an object to select the entire object when I'm in Preview mode. However watch what happens when I turned this setting on. Now I am going to click OK. I am using my Direct Selection tool. I'm now going to click in the middle of this object right now and notice that nothing is becoming selected.
That's because with that Preference setting turned on, the only way for me to make a selection is to actually click on the physical path itself. Basically it gives me the same functionality as if I were inside of Outline mode. It means I need to click on an object's path in order to select it, not its fill. Especially when working with very complex artwork, you may prefer to work in this way, because you won't accidentally select an object just by clicking on the fill area. You'd have to deliberately click on the path to know that's the object that you are trying to select. As with almost anything we do inside Illustrator, there is no right or wrong.
It's really your own preference, which is why Adobe puts it into the Preference dialog box. I am going to go back into Preferences though and turn that setting off, because I actually prefer working with the setting turned off so that I can select objects by clicking on their fills, not necessarily their paths. I'll point out one other thing though. If I switch now the Preferences to display the Type Preferences, you'll see that the text also has the ability to be selected only by clicking on the path. We will go into detail about how to create type in Illustrator in another chapter.
But I wanted you to know that there are many different settings for how you can select objects inside of Illustrator. More importantly you can control all these settings so that they work just the way that you expect them to.
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