Join Justin Seeley for an in-depth discussion in this video Setting your selection preferences, part of Illustrator CS6 Essential Training.
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Before we get started with actually making selections inside of Illustrator, I think it's important that we explore the basic selection preferences to get a better understanding of how selections are being made and how they work so that we can customize Illustrator to make our selection process as easy as possible. The first thing I'm going to do is show you how basic selections work inside of Illustrator. If you want to select something with the Selection tool, all you have to do is click on an object, like so, to make it selected. You'll notice that once it's selected, there is a bounding box that goes all the way around it which represents the controls you have over that object.
You can then use this bounding box to control the scale and rotation and all types of other things that are associated with this particular object. However, when we're in the normal Preview Mode like what you're seeing here, it's very easy to select an object just by pointing and clicking on it. But if we were to enter Outline Mode by pressing Command+Y or Ctrl+Y on our keyboard, you'll see that the selection process is actually very different. Let me zoom in on this same piece of artwork and I'll grab the Selection tool. If I click right in the center as I did before, I cannot select this object because I actually have to find the path in order to make that selection.
So depending on which Preview Mode you're in, it may be a little bit difficult to make selections, or you may find that this is actually a better way of making selections because it forces you to be precise on what you're wanting to select. If so, I'm going to show you how to tweak the preference settings to make it so that you have to click on the path each and every time. Now let's go take a look at some of the selection preference settings inside of Illustrator. In order to bring up my preferences, I'll simply hit Command+K or Ctrl+K on my keyboard and that will bring them right up. Once I have the Preferences open, I want to go to Selection & Anchor Display.
Once inside of the Selection & Anchor Display, you're going to see a lot of different things inside of here. Let's focus on the top section first. This is the Selection settings themselves. The first setting is Tolerance. This indicates how close to an object you have to be when you click in order to make that object selected. So in this case, the Tolerance is set to 3 pixels. So that means if I'm searching for an object on my artboard and I get within 3 pixels of it and I click, Illustrator is automatically going to select that object for me.
This is not as precise as some people like it to be, so you might want to back that down to 2 pixels or 1 pixel. Or if you're working on big chunks of artwork, you may want to beef that up to 5 or 6. The Tolerance is totally up to you, but just remember, taking it down makes it more precise, taking it up; you're going to make more loose selections. The second option is Object Selection by Path Only. This means with this turned on, if you're in normal Preview Mode, you cannot click directly in the middle of that object like I clicked on before.
So let's turn this on and hit OK. I'll exit Outline Mode by hitting Command+Y or Ctrl+Y on my keyboard and I'll click away to deselect this object. Remember, I've turned on that option where I have to click on the path in order to select the object. If I come here on this object and click in the middle, nothing happens. If I come to the side and find the path, I click on it and the object is once again selected. So again, this forces you to be very precise with your selections. So if you're dealing with small little pieces of artwork like I'm dealing with here, this might be a good option because it forces you to be precise and allows you to pick exactly the piece of artwork that you want.
If you want to turn this back off, simply go back in your Preferences, that's Command+K or Ctrl+K and then go to Selection & Anchor Display and then turn off Object Selection by Path Only. You can also choose to Snap to Point and Control Click to Select Objects Behind. This means that you will hold on the Ctrl key on your keyboard and then click an object which is behind another object in order to select it. Otherwise you're going to have to use something called Isolation Mode to get objects that lie behind other objects. Let's move down now to the second part of this dialog box, the Anchor Point and Handle Display.
This is a total personal choice but it's really handy. For instance, the anchor points; you can determine how big those anchor points are and you can also determine how big the handle points are and what they look like. So if you like your anchor points to be a little larger, you can pick this option to the right. If you like them to be smaller, you can pick this option to the left. The control handles are the same way. These are the handles that come off of an anchor point which allow you to control curves and corners. If you'd like for these control handles to be a little bit larger, then I'm going to pick the one in the middle, or if you like for them to be sort of an open circle and easier to see, you can the one in the far right.
Again, this is totally up to you and I'll leave it to you to make your own choice. You can also choose whether or not you Highlight anchors on mouse over. When you're dealing with complex artwork, sometimes it can be hard to determine exactly where the anchor points are. Turning on Highlight anchors on mouse over will automatically make the anchor point highlight momentarily when you hover over it to let you know that there's an anchor point there. This is extremely helpful and I always recommend leaving this checked on. However, if you find it a little bit distracting while you're working, you may want to turn it off. Again, totally up to you, but I recommend keeping it on.
You can also show the handles when multiple anchor points are selected. By default, inside of Illustrator when you have multiple anchor points selected that you'd like to modify, the control handles aren't being displayed for each anchor point. However, you can turn this on and then you select multiple anchor points and you'll see the control handles for each one. If you'd like to see that, you can check this box. If not, you can leave it unchecked. Once you've set up all your preferences the way you like them in here, you can simply hit OK and Illustrator automatically commits to those changes. No restart necessary. So now that you've seen how to control your selection preferences in Illustrator, you can begin to explore them on your own and determine just how you like them.
Once you've developed your preferences, just pop back into the Selection Preference dialog box and make the change. You'll be glad you did because making precise selections in Illustrator is going to go a long way for helping you improve your workflow.
- Understanding vector graphics
- Creating and setting up files for print or web destinations
- Selecting and transforming objects on the page
- Creating spot colors
- Applying fills, strokes, and gradients to artwork
- Adjusting appearances and effects
- Working with anchor points and paths
- Drawing with the Pen tool
- Creating text
- Managing layers
- Creating and using symbols
- Printing, saving, and exporting artwork