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Using the Transformation Tools

Illustrator contains specific tools for performing scale, rotation, reflection (mirroring), and shearing (skewing). These tools allow you to perform transformation with precision and with more power than the bounding box or even the Control panel can provide.

The Scale, Rotate, Reflect, and Shear tools all work in the same way. I'll discuss the Rotate tool here, but the same techniques apply to the other tools.

To rotate an object, select it and then click the Rotate tool or press R. A crosshair icon appears at the center of the selection, indicating the origin point (see Figure 4). To perform a rotation, position the mouse pointer a fair distance away from the origin point, and click-and-drag in a circular motion. You don't have to click the object itself to perform the rotation; in fact, if you click too close to the origin point, controlling rotation is difficult. The farther away you move your pointer from the origin point before dragging, the more leverage and control you have (see Figure 5).

Figure 4

Figure 4 The crosshair cursor indicates the precise location of the transformation origin point.

Figure 5

Figure 5 When using the Rotate tool, clicking away from the origin point gives you better control for rotating the selection.

While dragging with the Rotate tool, hold down the Shift key to constrain the rotation to 45-degree increments, press the Option (Windows: Alt) key to create a copy, or press the tilde (~) key if your object is filled with a pattern and you want to rotate just the pattern.

The transformation tools give you powerful control over the exact placement of the origin point. For example, if you select an object and then switch to the Rotate tool, you'll see the origin point, as discussed earlier. At that time, you can click once anywhere on your screen to redefine that point elsewhere. If you then click-and-drag, Illustrator uses the repositioned origin point for the rotation. Or you can simply click-and-drag the origin point itself to any location on your screen.

The ability to reposition the origin point arbitrarily means that you can specify an origin point that's outside the boundaries of your object. When using the Transform panel, by contrast, you can only choose from one of the nine preset options using the nine-point proxy.

You can also specify transformations numerically with the Scale, Rotate, Reflect, or Shear tool by making a selection and then double-clicking the desired tool. One advantage of opening the dialog box for a specific transformation tool is that when you enter a value, that same value appears again the next time you open the dialog box. Additionally, the dialog boxes for each transformation tool record the last transformation you performed with that tool. For example, if you use the Scale tool to resize an object manually, you can open the Scale dialog box to see the exact percentage to which you scaled the object.

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