Quick Tip–Aligning to Specific Objects
Contributed by Terry Hemphill, Illustrator Marketing Manager
The Align tools in Illustrator are core tools for most every customer, and while using these tools is straightforward, there is functionality there that’s not so obvious.
For example, have you every wanted to make everything align around a single object or group?
It’s simple, but I didn’t know this trick when I joined the Illustrator team, and I’ve worked with Illustrator for years. Being shown how to do this this was one of those “ah-ha!” moments, so I want to pass the hint along.
By default, Illustrator uses the Bounding Box of your selected objects when aligning objects. In the screenshot below, you’ll see the outline of the Bounding Box of the four selected objects.
Selecting Horizontal Align Left from the align controls in the Control panel or the Align panel aligns all the objects to the left edge of the Bounding Box, as shown below.
But what if you want you Illustrator to align everything, say, to the left edge of a specific object?It’s easy. After you select the group of objects to be aligned, click once on the object you want to be the Key Object, the object you want to use to control the alignment of the other selected objects. That’s just a single, simple click, not a Shift-ClickIn Illustrator CS4, you’ll get visual feedback that shows you the key object selected. In the screenshot below, you see a heavy outline around the object that received that final, single click, indicating that it is the selected object that controls the alignment of the other objects (it’s inside the red rectangle).This key object capability has been in Illustrator since version 9. You just don’t get the visual feedback as with CS4, but the fuctionality is there.In the screenshot below, you’ll see the results of aligning the everything horizontally to the left edge of the selected key object.What’s more, you can also make a Guide the key object. The process is exactly the same as with objects.First, make sure that you’ve Guides unlocked: from the Illustrator main menu, go to View>Guides and make sure that Lock Guides is unchecked.Next, select the objects you want to align, along with the Guide you want to use as the key object, then select the Guide one more time to make it the key object. In Illustrator CS4, the Guide chosen as the key object will be highlighted as shown in the screenshot below, but this capability exists in older Illustrator versions as well. You just don’t get the visual feedback.And the final result is shown below, after selecting Vertical Align Top. There is additional capability for aligning and distributing objects in Illustrator in CS3 and CS4. To find our more, check out this video. Also the Illustrator Community Help pages provide more depth on this subject.I’m sure there are details I’ve missed; let me know if you’ve questions or comments.