Selecting Objects  E-mail
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Written by Craig Watkins   

Here's a brief overview of Illustrator's different Selection Tools and how to use them.



Any object in Illustrator that you wish to manipulate or edit must first be selected. Only the object that you have selected will be edited.

Illustrator has four selection tools for you to use for different techniques:


This tool is the workhorse of the selection tools. This is the tool you will use to select entire objects for moving or editing. To select an entire object, if the object does not have a fill color, use the selection tool to click on the border (path) of the object. If the object does have a fill color assigned to it, simply click anywhere on the object.



When the object is selected, no matter what the shape of the object, it should be surrounded by a BOUNDING BOX. It will appear as if someone drew a box around your object and there will be eight small boxes (or handles) surrounding the object. Four on the corners, and four on the sides.






If you do not see the BOUNDING BOX when you select your object, it needs to be turned on for the purposes of this tutorial. To turn on the BOUNDING BOX feature go to your menu and select VIEW>SHOW BOUNDING BOX.






The BOUNDING BOX can be a bit cumbersome at first. In fact, I used Illustrator for a year or two before I finally realized it’s value. I always turned it off if I was working on a computer where the user used the BOUNDING BOX! The biggest value of the BOUNDING BOX will become apparent to you when you need to scale or reshape objects.


TIP: To deselect an object when using any of the selection tools, find an area of your artboard that is empty and click!



The DIRECT SELECTION TOOL is used to select individual parts of an object. You can select individual points or segments (the path between the points) with the DIRECT SELECTION TOOL. There are two ways to select with the DIRECT SELECTION TOOL. One way is to click and drag over a specific area of your object.






Any paths or points that fall within you “drag area” will be selected. (Remember: solid points mean they are selected!)



TIP: You can also select multiple objects with the selection tools by having your drag area encompass multiple objects.


If possible, drag from the outside of your object to the inside. If your object has a fill color and you attempt to start your drag on the inside of the object, the entire object will be selected and will move with your drag. If the object does not have a fill color and is a stroked path, you can begin from the outside or inside.


The second way to use the DIRECT SELECTION TOOL is to click on a specific segment or point on the path of your object.






TIP: If you select a specific point and manipulate it and then wish to select another point to work on, simply click on the point you wish to switch to and the new point will be selected.

The GROUP SELECTION TOOL is located in the hidden tools menu of the DIRECT SELECTION TOOL. This tool is used primarily to select a specific object when you have GROUPED OBJECTS. “Grouped objects” are multiple objects that behave as one object because the user has grouped them using the GROUP command. (OBJECT > GROUP) What this means is that if objects are “grouped”, and you use the selection tool to try and select a specific object in the group, all of the objects in the group will be selected. (Ex. 1) If you try to move only one of the objects, all of the objects in that group will move with it. The group selection tool allows you to choose one (or multiple) objects in the group and move it (them) independently of the other objects in the group. (Ex. 2)




Ex. 2



To select multiple objects in a group, but not the entire group, select each object you wish to manipulate one at a time with the group selection tool while holding down the SHIFT key.


If you wish to scale or reshape one object in a group but not affect the other objects in the group, first select the object with the GROUP SELECTION TOOL. With the object still selected, switch to your SELECTION TOOL and your BOUNDING BOX will appear on the selected object only and you can manipulate the object independently of the rest of the group.






When you are finished manipulating the object(s) in a group, click in an empty space in your artboard. You can now select the entire group with the selection tool.

Illustrator is equipped with a LASSO TOOL and DIRECT SELECTION LASSO TOOL and they work on the same principles as the SELECTION TOOL and DIRECT SELECTION TOOL. After selecting the tool, draw a free-form “lasso” over what you want to select. The LASSO TOOL will select entire objects and the DIRECT SELECTION LASSO TOOL will select segments and points.

I have never found a need to use the LASSO TOOLS in my work, and I debated about including them here, but they are available to be used also. Give them a try at least once, you may be more comfortable using them than the other selection tools. I don’t feel that they give you as much control as the three other selection tools.

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