Illustrator Trick #7: Aligning to objects

Aligning to objects

Here is a very quick tip to align shapes to an object. For this example, I want to align the 2 red crosses with the white button without moving the white button. To do this, select the 3 objects and click the white button again. This will set the white button as the object to align to when you align horizontally and vertically.

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21 thoughts on “Illustrator Trick #7: Aligning to objects”

  1. How will I center-align the middle cross keeping the square and the right most cross at their present location?

  2. Hi Kisan,

    Select the 3 objects, then go to Align Palette and choose Horizontal Distribute space. Make sure Auto is selected. The middle red cross will align to the center of the other 2 objects.

  3. If you use version 10 and have stay put plug-in your whole alignment world changes instantly!
    It is awesome (but no current version). I use version ten to do the alignment stuff.
    Find Stay Put. You will love it.
    Anybody back me up on this…?


  4. My problem is with Illustrator’s tendency to try to auto-align everything when I’m moving it around with the mouse or resizing it. I only want to move my object a fraction of a hair over with my mouse (the arrow keys make it jump too far) but when I try to move it, it tries to auto-align itself with some other object on my canvas so instead of getting that nice alignment I want, it jumps out of my control. I’ve tried moving it with all the different buttons held down (Shift, Option, Command, etc, but nothing seems to work)…

  5. PC user here, at a sign company. In our sign software (Gerber Composer) and in CorelDRAW, “align and distribute” works by clicking the object you want to move, shift+click the object you want to center to, and voila, it works. In Adobe Illustrator, both objects move toward each other. Most frustrating. And the answers here aren’t helping. Do you really need a separate plug-in to do such a basic thing? [I hate Illustrator with a firey white hot passion.]

  6. Re: Original article. It says what it sets out to do and it tells you how to do it with minimum fuss or needless bother. 10/10 It doesn’t promise a full insight into aligning.

    By default if you just select some objects you will have align to selection as the method for aligning.

    If you then click an object belonging to the selection it will use align to object (that last object clicked, denoted by a thicker bounding box outline will be the “key” object).

    Grouping of objects for post alignment for further alignment with other elements offers yet more versatility with some ingenuity. (Don’t forget that align to artboard can be chosen as the align method from the bottom right of the align tool panel and that pre aligned then grouped objects will not realign inside the group, the whole group will align)

    When using direct select tool you can align anchors in a similar way to a key anchor etc.

    When aligning to anchors you should always manually shift click the anchor to align to last. If the anchor you want to align to is already selected you will need to deselect then select it, both times with shift click. This must also be done if you just did an undo after a key anchor align, although the selected anchors are the same after the undo, it seems which was key previously is forgotten.

    I have yet to find a way of aligning an object to a key anchor however, even when selecting an object then direct selecting an anchor on another object.

    Illustrator may be different to some other programs but it is a necessity born of it’s massive array of powerful features, even with the alt shift ctrl button

  7. p.s.

    1. align to anchors will not work if one or more of the objects have all their anchors selected.

    2. Align to selection is the initial default, if you switch to align to artboard then you will still align to art board after making a selection, untill you change this back.
    You will however always align to object if you click the object in your current selection.

    3. The default key object is the one on the highest sublayer of the highest layer.

    p.p.s. james in las vegas: selecting the key object to align to with an extra click and then being free to shift click to select further objects to align to the key makes perfect sense to me.

    More sense than using the add to selection short-cut for determining the key object anyway.

  8. p.s. Craig bond, turn off smart guides and all “snap to..” stuff in view menu if you dont want marginal adjustments to snap though personally i set prefferences, keyboard increment to really really small and do my marginal adjustments with arrow keys and keep the smart guides on most of the time.

  9. Thanks, anonymouscat…I’ve looked through the options countless times and somehow missed the keyboard increment option. I like your suggestion of keeping smart guides on and setting minor adjustments on for the keyboard increments.

    @Jamie in Las Vegas… You can align to one object without having it move. After selecting all the objects you want to align, click one more time on the object you don’t want to move. You will notice increased highlighting on that object. Aligning will not cause all the objects to move toward each other in this case, but will align with the one you’ve selected.

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