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Selecting, grouping, and isolating

From: Up and Running with Illustrator

Video: Selecting, grouping, and isolating

In this exercise, I'm going to show you how to select group and isolate objects inside Illustrator. These are three essential skills for getting work done inside the program. I've opened a file called Woodymobile .ai found inside the Exercise Files folder, so name for this sign that features a station wagon with the word woody underneath it. And I'm going to go ahead and zoom in a click here. Now Illustrator provides two selection tools right here at the top of the toolbox. Officially, they go by the names Selection tool and Direct Selection tool.

Selecting, grouping, and isolating

In this exercise, I'm going to show you how to select group and isolate objects inside Illustrator. These are three essential skills for getting work done inside the program. I've opened a file called Woodymobile .ai found inside the Exercise Files folder, so name for this sign that features a station wagon with the word woody underneath it. And I'm going to go ahead and zoom in a click here. Now Illustrator provides two selection tools right here at the top of the toolbox. Officially, they go by the names Selection tool and Direct Selection tool.

However, I prefer to call them what they are which is the Black Arrow tool and the White Arrow tool. And you'll see that there's some additional purpose behind this naming convention. Now the Black Arrow tool, or if you prefer a Selection tool, allows you to select whole objects at a time, the really big stuff, whereas the White Arrow or Direct Selection tool allows you to select the elements inside of those objects, and I'll demonstrate how that works. But first, I want you to get a sense of the keyboard shortcuts because you might find yourself flipping back and forth between these tools quite frequently.

The keyboard shortcut for the White Arrow tool is A for Arrow, so that totally makes sense. The keyboard shortcut for the Black Arrow tool is V. Now where does that come from? Well, the letter V is essentially an upside down version of the letter A without the cross. So in other words, very much as the letter A looks like an arrow pointing upward, the letter V looks like an arrow pointing downward, and that's how you can keep track. All right! Armed with a Black Arrow tool, I'm going to go ahead and click on one of these paths inside the station wagon and notice that I select all the paths.

Even though it's obvious that these are several path outlines, I've managed to select them all at the same time, and that's because they are a group. How do I know they're a group? Especially given that there are many ways to combine objects inside of Illustrator, group being basically the simplest because all you're doing is placing many objects together in a container. Well, I know that's what I've selected because I can see the word Group over here on the left-hand side of the Control panel. So the Control panel is always listing the structure of the selected object.

Well, let's say what I want to do is I want to take this group right here along with the text and the objects that make up the sign in the background, and I want to group them all together so I can move them as one. Well, I'd go ahead and marquee those objects and you just have to partially marquee things with the Black Arrow tool in order to select them. Take care not to marquee anything that isn't part of the woody sign. That goes ahead and selects all those objects. If I check out the Control panel, I can see that it says Mixed Objects meaning that I have many different kinds of objects selected.

I'll now go to the Object menu and choose the Group command, and notice now I have a single group selected. If I click off the paths, I'll deselect them; if I click anywhere on any of these paths, I'll select them all. And notice if I start dragging one of these path outlines around, I'll move them all as one. All right! I'm going to undo that movement. Now just because you've managed to group a bunch of objects together doesn't mean that you give up access to the independent objects, you can still get to them using the White Arrow tool.

So I'm going to go ahead and grab that Direct Selection tool, click off the paths to deselect them, and then I'll click on this outer path let's say in order to make it active. Not only have I selected a path inside of a group, but I can also see the independent so-called anchor points that make up this path outline, and I can modify those points as well. So I could go ahead and grab this anchor point right there and drag it to a different location if I want to change the shape of the path. I don't happen to want to do that, but I want you to see that it is possible; I'll undo that modification.

You can also select up the hierarchy, so in other words, you start with a very small thing selected, and then you select larger things. And you do that using the White Arrow tool by Alt or Option+Clicking, so check this out. I'll start without the Alt or Option key down, I'll just go ahead and click on one of the paths that makes up this car here. So we're selecting inside the group, not only that we're seeing independent anchor points and segments and so on, the segments are the little lines that connect each one of the anchor points together.

Now if I want to select this entire path as opposed to just bits and pieces of it, like so, I'll go ahead and undo that modification, then I would Alt+Click or Option+Click. And notice as soon as I press the Alt or Option key, I see a little Plus sign next to my cursor. It doesn't mean that I'm going to add to the selection, rather it means I'm going to select up the hierarchy. So as soon as I Alt+Click or Option+Click in the path outline, I select the entire thing, like so. All right! I'll go ahead and undo that modification.

If I Alt+Click or Option+Click again, I'll select the entire group, so I'm selecting to the next level of hierarchy. And if I Alt or Option+Click a third time, I'll select the larger group that I just got done creating a moment ago. So check this out; I'll start this process again, I want you to see what's up here. I'm going to click on the hood, notice that I'm seeing up here in the Control panel then an anchor point is active. I'll Alt+Click or Option+Click on that hood, and then the Control panel is showing me that a path is selected.

I'll Alt+Click or Option+Click a second time, and then I'm seeing that a group is selected, the group that contains all the car paths. And then I'll Alt or Option+Click a third time and it'll tell me a group is still selected, this happens to be the larger group that includes the sign in the background and the woody text as well. All right! One more way to access the contents of a group or other larger object is to enter the Isolation mode. And I'm telling you about the Isolation mode for two reasons. First of all, it's a very useful feature.

Secondly, if you accidentally encounter it, it can be extremely confusing to the point that I've seen people actually quit Illustrator because they can't figure out how to escape the Isolation mode. I'll show you how to get in and safely get out. Here's how it works. We'll go ahead and switch to the Black Arrow tool, and then double-click, actually I'm going to zoom out for a second here so that we can see. Notice that all of the objects around the woody sign are available to me, so I can click on any one of these objects to select them, if I so desire.

However, if I double-click on this woody sign, any portion of it, then all those objects around the sign become dimmed and they're no longer accessible. As you can see, I can marquee them, I can drag them, I can click on them; doesn't matter, I can't get to them, I can only get to the objects inside of this group. Another way that you know you're in the Isolation mode is you see this gray bar at the top of the screen below the Ruler, and it tells you that you're working inside of a group that happens to be located on layer 1.

Now what that means is I can access the various objects inside the group with the Black Arrow tool. So I don't have to switch to the White Arrow tool, I can just start dragging objects around as much as I like. Now the car is still grouped together of course. So if I wanted to access the specific path outlines inside that car, I'd have to isolate it. I'll press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac a couple of times in order to undo those movements. And then I'll double-click on any one of the paths inside of the car, and now I can just get to the paths inside the car, like so.

And I can't get to the rest of the sign, for example, I can't get to that text below the car. And notice now I'm isolated to a group inside of a larger group inside of layer 1. All right! I'm going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac a couple of times to undo those latest movements. Now for what I consider to be the best tip in this movie. How do you escape the Isolation mode? Well, one way is to click on this Green Arrow, notice the one that says Back one level.

And that will take you one step back inside the Isolation mode. If you want to get all the way out, then you just press the Escape key and that will take you completely out of the Isolation mode and restore your access to the rest of the illustration. And that's how you go about selecting, grouping, and isolating objects here inside Illustrator.

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Up and Running with Illustrator

26 video lessons · 20120 viewers

Deke McClelland
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