Adobe Illustrator’s transform function allows designers to scale, duplicate and rotate objects or graphics. As we will illustrate in this blog post, scaling, duplication and rotation provide incredibly robust design functionality.

We’ll create a good basic graphic that allows designers to illustrate the functionality of the transform tool. Let’s get started and see if you can guess what we’re making.

Step One: The Base Image

Create a graphic like the image below. The image below is a distorted rectangle, a hexagon and some pen tool scribbles.

adobe illustrator drawing

Step Two: Transform Tool for Scaling and Duplication

This is where the transform tool comes into play. Select the distorted hexagon with the direct select tool so that the hexagon is now in isolation mode. In isolation mode go to EFFECT > DISTORT & TRANSFORM and select TRANSFORM to open the Transform Effect box. With the Transform Effect box open, fill in the scale, move, copies and reference point settings. The settings you choose might differ from the settings used for this example so play around with the numbers and see which settings look best. Below is a screen shot of the settings used with this illustration.

adobe illustrator duplication effect settings for adobe illustrator exercise

Step Three: Grouping and Rotating on an Axis

The transform tool will duplicate a group of graphics. So go ahead and group the hexagon, stem (distorted rectangle) and pen tool scribbles by selecting all three objects and then selecting OBJECT > GROUP. With the objects grouped, select the grouping with the selection tool and once again go to EFFECT > DISTORT & TRANSFORM and select TRANSFORM to open the Transform Effect box. The Transform Effect box will display the default settings since the transform effect is applied to a new group of objects. The settings you choose for this step should match the settings displayed below. With the settings in place, select “OK” and you’ll notice the object reflects along the x-axis.

Adobe Illustrator reflection effect Adobe Illustrator transform tool reflection function settings

Step Four. Grouping and Rotation on a Center Point

This is where the object takes form…and it’s a SNOWFLAKE! Using the transform tool a second time on the same group of objects go to EFFECT > DISTORT & TRANSFORM and select TRANSFORM to open the Transform Effect box. Note: It may seem tedious to reapply a second transformation to the same grouping but it is to apply a separate transformation effect to the group because it will create the wrong rotation effect without individual transformation settings. If you get a warming message, click continue. The settings you choose for this step should match the settings displayed below. You’ll notice the object rotates 6 additional times around a center point.

Adobe Illustrator direct selection effect, rotation function Adobe Illustrator rotate an object transform tool settings

Step Five: Direct Selection to Tweak Image

Using the direct selection tool, you can change the entire look and feel of any aspect of the snowflake. See how the final snowflake dramatically differs from the completed snowflake in step four. It is for this reason that using a single object grouping makes such a big difference in a design that uses rotation and duplication. If the objects were manually duplicated and rotated they would not link together and Illustrator would read those object groupings as separate objects. A change to one would not force a change in the others – something I like to call the Kaleidoscope Effect.

Adobe Illustrator transform tool

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