Join Mordy Golding for an in-depth discussion in this video Using the basic selection tools, part of Illustrator CS5 Essential Training.
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There are a lot of great tools inside of Illustrator to be creative with. Pen tools, Paintbrush tools, a variety of shape tools. However, the most important tools inside of Illustrator are the Selection tools. In fact on a day to day basis you'll find that use of Selection tools far more than any other toolsinside of Illustrator. The Selection tools are all grouped over here at the top of your Tools panel and for good reason. They are up here because of how often they are used. Before we learn how to draw inside of Illustrator it's really important to get an understanding of how the Selection tools work inside of Illustrator and the reason for that is because the Selection tool is your way to tell Illustrator what it is that you're trying to do. For example if you wanted to change the color of some of the leaves in this document how would Illustrator know which of those leaves you want work with? By selecting some of them, in other words making a choice and letting Illustrator know these are the ones that I want to change, Illustrator can help you accomplish a task.
But it's not just working with colors. It's everything you do inside of Illustrator. Copy and paste, moving things around, reshaping or resizing artwork. It all boils down to making your selection first. Now Illustrator has three main Selection tools. They actually appear in your tools panel as just two arrows, a black arrow and a white arrow. The official names are the Selection tool and the Direct Selection tool but there is a third one hidden behind the Direct Selection tool. If you click and you hold your mouse button down you'll see there is something there called the Group Selection tool.
It's the white arrow with a little plus sign that appears next to it. In this movie, we are going to go over using these three different tools. Let's start first with the regular selection tool, the black arrow. There are two ways that you can make a selection. The first is actually just click on any object doing so selects the artwork. The other way to make a selection is to click and drag and create a marquee. Anything within this little dotted border become selected when you release the mouse. Now artwork inside of Illustrator can be made up of one object or several objects that are grouped together.
The black arrow or the Selection tool selects entire groups or entire objects. For example, if I click over here all these elements become selected because they're all grouped together. We're going to learn more about groups and how they're structured in another chapter. But in this particular document each of these are also grouped together. You can click on an object and drag to move the entire group as a whole. Let me press Undo and come back to the shape over here. Let's say I just wanted to adjust the position of one of these leaves. By using the Selection tool I select the entire group so everything moves together.
I'll press Undo and I'll now switch to the Direct Selection tool, the white arrow. Notice now that when I click on this leaf just this one leaf is now selected. Now I can move it and the entire group doesn't move; just this one leaf does. I'll press Command+Z to undo that action because I'll show you that the Direct Selection tool also allows you to select individual anchor points on a path or an object. For example right now this leaf has three anchor points. One here, one here and one here. If I were to click on just this one anchor point right now you can see that this anchor point is now selected, but these are hollow, indicating that they're not selected. That means if I now click and drag on this anchor point just this anchor point moves not the other ones that are here.
So you can see that you'll use the Selection tool, the black arrow, to select entire objects or entire groups. However if you want to select just individual anchor points or individual objects within a group you would use the white arrow or the Direct Selection tool. Let me press Undo and now let's see what the Group Selection tool does. I am going to come over here to the Tools panel, click and hold my mouse button down, and choose the Group Selection tool. Now in Illustrator when we create groups we have the ability to have something called a nested group. That means that you'll one group and then inside of that group is another group and then inside of that group is yet another group. For example if I take a look at this artwork right over here, I know that all of this is a group together. However within the overall group this bottom part where it says Seeds is one group and these leaves and flowers are a second group.
Within this top group the leaves and the flowers are in two separate groups and each of the flowers themselves are a separate group as well. When you understand how the Group Selection tool works you can also understand how valuable it would be to structure your artwork in an efficient way. The Group Selection tool will allow you to make selections based on the structures inside of that group. Let's take a quick look. If I take my Group Selection tool and I position it over this leaf right here and I click once this selects, this entire object. However if I click again it selects the other objects that are grouped with that leaf.
Notice right now that all the leaves are selected. Watch what happens when I click yet again on this leaf. It now selects the next higher group. If I click now even one more time this part gets selected as well. So we understand what these Selection tools do, but let me share with you a few pointers on how to use these tools in a more efficient manner. First of all, it's rare that experienced Illustrator users actually choose the Group Selection tool directly from the Tools panel. I'll go back to the Direct Selection tool and you'll find when I'm using this tool if I hold down the Option key on my keyboard. I'm on a Mac now but if I were on a PC I'd hold down the Alt key.
You can see that my tool temporarily changes to the Group Selection tool. Therefore changing between those two tools are not necessary. I can do so directly from the keyboard. So I can use the white arrow for example to click on just the edge of a path to select a few anchor points. I can click on the center of the path to select the entire object and I can hold down my Option key and click to select entire groups. In this case, I'm selecting individual parts of my group and then with each click selecting more and more of my group. But if I use my regular Selection tool, the black arrow, I can actually go in reverse.
Let me show you what I mean. I am going to deselect everything but just clicking on any area here, and I am going to click on the Selection tool itself and I'll select my group with one click. What I'll do now though is I am going to double-click. When you double-click on a group that group becomes isolated. See how now how everything else inside of Illustrator has been dimmed back and is instantly locked? I can longer select these elements. Even this part which was part of a group of four is now selectable when I click on it but it's separate from this group. Now that I'm basically inside of this group I have two groups that I can see.
If I want to go deeper into this group I'll double-click now in this group. Notice now I cannot select this element right here. This part has been isolated. Now if I want to work strictly on just one of these leaves, I'll double click again. Notice now that all the leaves are now isolated and if I only want to work on just this one leaf I'll double-click on this one and now everything else is completely locked and unable to be selected. If you take a look at the top of my screen I have a gray bar that identifies exactly where I am in my artwork. You can see that right now I have a path, which is inside of a group which inside of another group which is inside of another group that's on Layer 1.
We'll learn more about document structure in another chapter but for now you can see how I can use the two arrow tools to kind of go in different directions. In this example here, with the white arrow I can start with the leaf and work my way up the entire group. And with the black arrow I can start with the entire group and work my way back down towards the leaf. It's not a question of which tool is better it's a question of what you need to do to accomplish a task at hand. To exit this isolation mode simply double click on an empty area on the artboard. For the most part the selections you'll be making every day inside of Illustrator will encompass the use of these arrow tools. However, there is also a keyboard shortcut, which I think you'll make great use of which is the Select All command.
While you can certainly find that here inside the Select menu by choosing Select > All, the keyboard shortcut to memorize is Command+A. This will allow you to quickly select everything. Or you can also choose this command called All on Active Artboard because if your document has multiple artboards you may just want to select all of the elements within this active artboard. Here is a reason of why that might be important. As we've already seen, you can use the black arrow to click on a group to select it. However, if you want to select two groups the way, that you would add to a selection is to hold down the Shift key on your keyboard and click on another object.
If you click on a second object while the Shift key is down, Illustrator adds that object to your selection. But it's important to realize that the Shift key doesn't mean add. The Shift key really acts as a toggle. In other words, I am still holding the Shift key down on my keyboard right now. If I were to click on this object, that would remove or drop that piece of art from my selection. So just to quickly review, if I wanted to make some selections on this artboard right now, say maybe I wanted to select this element this element down here and this element here, I could click on this one first, hold down the Shift key, click on this one, and then while still holding the Shift key down click on the third one.
Now all three of those are selected. If I know that I want to select multiple objects that are near to each other I could also use the Marquee method. For example, I can click and drag to select all of these elements. But as you can see if I click and drag along this, I get all the elements. I would have no way choose just this one and this one or this one. Finally pressing Command+A on my keyboard would select everything select so I could move everything at once.
- Setting up a new document based on the output destination
- Using rules, guides, and grids
- Making detailed selections
- Drawing and editing paths with the Pen and Pencil tools
- Creating compound vector shapes
- Understanding the difference between point and area text
- Applying live effects
- Creating color swatches
- Transforming artwork with Rotation, Scale, and Transform effects
- Placing images
- Working with masks
- Printing, saving, and exporting artwork