In this post, I explain the ways that objects are selected in Illustrator. Then I list the behavior of transforms on selected points and handles. There are three selection tools; Selection, Direct Selection and Lasso. In Illustrator, only anchor points and handles are selected. When you select an object with the selection tool, effectively you have selected all of the points within that object. This seemingly subtle difference helps explain one of Illustrators selection behaviors. When an object is selected with the selection tool and when all points are selected with the direct selection tool or lasso tool, point controls are removed from the control panel. It seems that Illustrator considers both conditions to be the same. As far as I can determine, there is only one case when Illustrator allows the selection of handles. When a path segment is selected with the direct selection tool or the lasso tool Illustrator selects the handles corresponding to that segment. The path itself is not selected.
Selection Tool Behavior:
- It always selects all points in an object.
- It may select multiple objects.
- Dragging the selected object does not change its shape (all points move together).
- You may select objects by clicking on or dragging over any part of the object (point or path).
Direct Selection Tool
- It selects points by clicking on them or dragging over them.
- It may select points in one or many objects.
- If all points on an object are selected Illustrator treats it as Selected not Direct Selected.
- Anchor point controls are removed from the Control Panel (they are inaccessible).
- Clicking or dragging over a path segment on the path selects the handles to that path segment.
- Dragging the selected segment changes the length of the handles corresponding to that segment.
- The effect is as though an imaginary smooth point in the middle of the segment is moved.
- This is the only time I know that Illustrator selects handles.
- Selection is done by dragging; clicking on points does not select them.
- Lasso may be used to select some or all of the points in an object.
- It selects points in one or many objects.
- Lasso cannot be used to move selections.
- Lasso cannot be used to edit handles.
- It is very handy for selecting multiple points in tight spots.
- I often use it when I need to select or de-select points inside a star.
- It is handy for jobs such as selecting opposite corners of a rectangle.
Transform Behavior with Point Selections:
Path Segment Selected (segment handles selected)
- Rotate affects the handle positions of the selected segment. A 180° rotation angle flips both handles around their respective points without changing their length.
- Reflect; the effect is similar to rotate but not identical.
- Shear has no effect.
- Move acts on path segments when direct selected. The effect is as though an imaginary smooth point in the middle of the segment is moved the amount and direction entered. No points are added to the path.
- Scale re-sizes the lengths of the handles corresponding to the selected segment.
Multiple Points Selected
- Rotate pivots the points the specified angle around a location in the center of the selected points.
- Reflect flips point positions based on the reflection angle.
- Shear moves the selected points and affects handle position.
- Move repositions all selected points together. They move the same amount in the same direction.
- Scale re-sizes the distance between the points, referenced from a location in the center of all selected points. Select only the inner or outer points on a star and scale them. If a scale of zero is chosen all points move to the center of the star. If a negative value is entered, the points cross over the center of the star to the opposite side. Very nice designs can be made this way.
One Point Selected
- Rotate pivots the handles around the point. A 20° rotation pivots both handles 20° using the point as the pivot center. Both handles are rotated by the same angle. You cannot rotate a single handle.
- Reflect flips handle position based on the reflection angle. This is useful for creating a loop in a path.
- Shear has no effect.
- Move repositions the point the distance and direction entered.
- Scale re-sizes the length of the handles of the selected point. Both handles are scaled the same percentage. You cannot scale a single handle.