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Aligning and Combining Shapes

Lesson 10 from: Adobe Illustrator Creative Cloud: Essentials for Creating Projects

Brian Wood

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Lesson Info

10. Aligning and Combining Shapes

Next Lesson: Pen Tool


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


What is Adobe Illustrator?


Explore the Interface


Create and Save New Documents


Zoom and Navigate


Working with Artboards


Introduction to Layers


Rulers and Guides


Shapes and Drawing


Aligning and Combining Shapes


Pen Tool


Manipulating Stroke and Fill


Creating and Editing with Color


Painting with Gradients


Getting Started with Patterns


Adding Text To Your Document


Formatting Text


Strokes and Variable Strokes in Adobe Illustrator


Rotating Objects in Adobe Illustrator


Effects and the Appearance Panel in Adobe Illustrator


Adding Photo Images in Adobe Illustrator


Working with Linked Content in Adobe Illustrator


Packaging your Project for Handoff in Adobe Illustrator


Best Formats to Save Your Files


Select Like a Pro: Layers, Groups, & Other Unique Tools


Edit Paths Like a Pro in Adobe Illustrator


Editing Paths: Pen Tool in Adobe Illustrator


Creating & Applying Brushes to Artwork in Adobe Illustrator


Editing Paths: Knife & Scissor Tool in Adobe Illustrator


Editing Paths: Join Tool in Adobe Illustrator


Editing Paths: Isolation Mode in Adobe® Illustrator®


Pen Tool Shortcuts in Adobe Illustrator


Other Drawing Tools & Methods in Adobe Illustrator


Transforming Techniques in Adobe Illustrator


Shortcut to Reflecting Artwork in Adobe Illustrator


Get to Know Your Appearance Panel in Adobe Illustrator


Exploring Effects in Adobe Illustrator


Work Smarter with Graphic Styles in Adobe Illustrator


Color Inspiration in Adobe Illustrator


Type Effects in Adobe Illustrator


Masking Your Artwork in Adobe Illustrator


Using Creative® Cloud® Libraries in Adobe® Illustrator®


Capture Artwork with Creative Cloud Apps & Adobe Illustrator


Tracing Raster Images in Adobe Illustrator


Blending Artwork in Adobe Illustrator


Using Symbols in Adobe Illustrator


Using a Perspective Grid in Adobe Illustrator


Crash Recovery in Adobe Illustrator


GPU Performance in Adobe Illustrator


Curvature Tool in Adobe Illustrator


App Integration in Adobe Illustrator


Creative Cloud Libraries in Adobe Illustrator App


Shaper Tool in Adobe Illustrator


Smart Guides in Adobe Illustrator


Text Enhancements in Adobe Illustrator


SVG Export in Adobe Illustrator


Lesson Info

Aligning and Combining Shapes

Now, we've got our shapes, next thing we're gonna do, we're doing a little transforming, a little bit of arranging, kinda that type of thing. I want to go in now, and I want to actually start to work with aligning and some different things like that as well, 'cause this is pretty important. We're also gonna go in and we're gonna start to do things like edit and combine shapes, do a little combining as well, okay? So what I want to do first is this, we're gonna go in and kind of align these a little bit, just so they make a little more sense. What I'd like you to do, is I'd like you to click on, let's say, the body down here, go ahead and click on that body shape, just click inside of it. Now, we haven't talked about color or anything like that yet, and there is, of course, this is all black, white, whatever, we're gonna do a lot of it in a little while, don't worry. With that selected, what I'd like to do, I'd like the robot to be centered on the Artboard, okay, like right in the cente...

r. If you take a look up top, and of course I don't see mine up here, there we go, how many of you actually see this little icon right here? You gotta look for it a little bit. This is called a Align to Selection, okay? Now, if you work in here a lot, you can use this, okay? This is a fast way to get to what are called the Alignment Methods. We can also use the Align Panel which can be a little bit easier to get to, okay? So that's what we're gonna do, we're gonna open up the Align Panel. I want you to go under Window, the Align Panel's not out here by default, so, come under Window, and you're gonna see Align, go ahead and choose that, and you should see, oh, it was already in the Transform Group there, it's still there, there it is right there. Now the Align Panel is a way for us to align objects to each other, align to the actual Artboard itself, align points to each other, do all kindsa stuff. If you look in there, there are a ton of methods in here for working. Here's a little tip for you, let me zoom in so you can see this. Do you see the little teeny double arrow to the left of the word Align there? It is teeny, okay? Why don't you click on that? Did it hide everything? Click again, this little arrow. I'm trying to make it look like this, you guys. You might have to click a few times, but keep clicking on it until it looks like that. That little double arrow actually does it so it'll actually show more or hide more, okay, so we can see more things that we can do. There are tons of different alignment methods we can use. We're gonna keep it kind of simple. If you come out here you're gonna see we have Align to Center, all kinds of stuff, but the first thing you need to do in Illustrator before you align something, you need to tell it what to align to, okay, that's like the first thing you do. Look lower right down here, you're gonna see this little icon. That's the same thing we saw in the Control Panel. Click on that, and you're gonna see we have, Align to Selection, Align to Key Object, and Align to Artboard. I want to Align to the Artboard, that's the whole thing. So go ahead and choose Align to Artboard. Now, any shape we select, and we use any of these alignment methods, it's gonna align it to that Artboard. So let's come in to, let's say, Horizontal Align Center, and let's click on that. Did that work for everybody? Okay, so it should put right in the enter there. Now what I wanna do is I wanna align it to the bottom of the Artboard, 'cause sometimes you want something to be on the edge of the Artboard, for instance. So you're gonna see that we have, it's just another alignment method in the panel, Vertical Align Bottom, okay? Go ahead and click on that one. There we go, nice. Now, what I'd like to do, is I'd like to take the robot head and we're gonna do kinda the same thing here, okay? But, I wanna do all the shapes together. 'Cause we already have the ears where they need to be, and everything set. If you go to each individual shape and you say Align to Center of the Artboard, it's not gonna work, 'cause all the ears are gonna move to the center, the head's gonna move to the center, et cetera. So what we need to do in this case, we need to do something called Group the artwork together. Grouping is important, it's something we're gonna do a lot of. I wanna select both ears and that shape in the head, okay? Here's an easy way to do it. Just drag across them, okay now watch, if you want to, just watch. Starting somewhere up here, for instance, or anywhere, it doesn't matter, click and drag, with the Selection Tool, and if you touch shapes, you can select whatever gets touched, okay? So why don't you try that? Just go ahead and drag across the shapes to get it selected. Now you're gonna find if you have very complex artwork or more complex artwork, and you've got tons of stuff behind this, and all things like that, that's not gonna work so well, okay? I'll show you other methods later on. Alright we're gonna take that head and we're gonna make it a single head, so we're gonna group it together. So with all those objects selected, come under Object and you're gonna see Group, go ahead and group 'em. Now grouping in Illustrator, to me it's huge. It's so important because, later on when you go to select things, move things, align them, if you don't have things grouped, you're gonna pull your hair out, okay, you really are. With this object grouped together, what I wanna do now is I wanna actually align it to the neck, this is kinda weird, but I wanna align the head to the neck, okay? Now, right now, if we align anything using Align Panel, what's it gonna align to ? It's gonna align to the Artboard, right? Okay, so here's what we're gonna do. I want you to select the neck as well. Now, here's another method, we're gonna hold down the shift key. If you wanna select multiple objects, you can hold the shift key down and click on whatever you wanna select, okay? So hold down the shift key, and click on the neck object, right there, the neck shape, that'll select that too. Now, we're gonna do something called Align to a Key Object, okay? This is a little further in, but it's important, I want to align to the neck, so what we can do is, we can actually, now, click back on the object that we want everything else to align to, okay? Let go of everything, let go of all your keys, come back to the neck, and click inside of it. You just set that as what everything else is going to align to. That is now called the Key Object. It's just temporary and it's a way for us to work here, okay? Come back the the Align Panel, and you'll see we have Horizontal Align Center, click on that, and take a look. It's gonna move the head to match the neck, align to the neck, okay? There are so many ways to do alignments in here, and those two alignment methods are what I use all the time. I use align to something, just Key Object, and align to the Artboard, okay? Alright, now we've got those together, now I wanna take, and you guys, there's other ways to align, we could have done this a little faster, a little different, okay, I know, but I wanna take those two objects and group them together. So let's got to Object Group, this is kinda wacky, but we're grouping a group with another object, you can go as crazy as you want with these groups, so group 'em together. Yes, Jim? Mind if I throw out a quick question? Sure. Okay, that would be great, thanks Brian. One of the folks out there would like to know, is there a keyboard command for switching between the different alignment options? The different alignment options? Are we here in the Align Panel? Yeah. Not that I'm aware of. Okay. And if anybody knows it please tell me, 'cause, that would save me time. I know alignments in text they've got things like that, but for the actual alignments in the panel, not that I'm aware of. Okay, thank you. Alright so, we've got those two selected, now here's what I want you to do. Click away from it, somewhere where there's no artwork to deselect. Go back and click on the neck if you don't mind. What got selected? Everything, right? We grouped it all together, groups act like a single object now, okay? So we can do things to them. Now what we can do, we can take that group, and we can align it to the center of the Artboard, or do something different, okay? So, let's do that, I'm gonna test you right now, okay? We're gonna align this to the center of the Artboard. So the first thing you need to do in the Align Panel over there is set it to Align to Artboard. So, come over here to Align To, hold down, make sure Align to Artboard is selected, and then we're gonna do the Horizontal Align Center to Artboard here, and then we're go. I know, we could've done that so much faster, but I wanted to show you the different methods for aligning, 'cause it's super important, okay? Alright. Okay, tell you what, what we're gonna do is now we're gonna take the head and the neck and we're gonna drag it down a little bit, 'cause this looks like crazy guy with the big neck here. So I wanna drag it straight down, So if you drag an object, Smart Guides will help you keep it aligned, these lines'll show up. So if I click and drag, why don't you try that, click and drag, go straight down, you're gonna see it's gonna try and help you align. Now, is it kinda hard to keep it, are these lines showing up everywhere and all kinds of wacky stuff going on? Okay, this is where Smart Guides do a little bit of a fail, okay? As you're dragging an object, don't let go yet, hold down the shift key. The shift key will keep it straight as you drag it. Shift key's your friend, you're gonna use it for a lot of things, okay? If I hold the shift key right now, it's gonna make sure that it stays aligned, let go of your mouse first, then the shift key. I know it seems like we've been probably using a lot of keyboard commands, but we've only had two so far which is, I'm trying to keep it to a minimum, but these are crucial, these are key, okay? Alright, so we've got a robot, that's great, why don't you click off? The next thing we're gonna do is, we're gonna do a little bit, and actually, look at the robot now, what happened? The neck came in front of the body. Did you guys have that happen? When you guys arrange objects, this is awesome, this happens all the time, and you group them together, it takes the object you group with another set of objects, and brings it to the same level, essentially. So it brought it in front of the body. So we need to fix that. So, click on the head, we're gonna use the Arrange commands again, and send it behind, let's send it to the back. So come up to Object, Arrange, Send to Back. Alright, then click away, and you got it. Alright, now, we're gonna kind of finish up a little bit of the robot here, by adding a few little things, too, combining shapes, doing different things like that. What I'd like to do is, I'd like to actually go in, and I'd like to take the ears of the robot, and I'd to actually merge them with the head. I wanna make that like one big shape, okay? You're gonna find with Illustrator that you take simple shapes a lot of times, and merge them together to make like one big super shape. Which is great, 'cause that way you can get something else or something new. There's a lot of ways to do this, one of the simple ways to do this is use what's called a Shape Builder Tool. I love this tool. If you come over on the left over here, you're gonna see that we have a tool called Shape Builder. Now, the key to this tool, don't select it yet, but the key to this tool, it's right there, is that we have to select the artwork we want to effect first, okay, it's a good thing, so you don't mess other stuff up. So, why don't you do this, I didn't select it yet, I'm still on the black arrow, click on the head to select it. We've got a bunch of stuff selected there, that's okay, don't worry. Come back over and select the Shape Builder Tool. And in the past when we worked with, now you're gonna see this, did everybody see that message that showed up there? It's cajoling you into using the Shaper Tool, don't listen to it right now. So we got this tool, now, what this tool does that I love, is this is a way for us to combine, and also punch shapes out of each other. So you could take two circles, one on top of the other, and say, let's take the smaller one, and punch out of the other one, and you make a hole in the bigger circle. So you can use this tool to do that. You can also take the three shapes for the head, and combine them into one shape. Now this is permanent, okay? There are other methods for doing this, and one of the other methods is using what's called Pathfinders, we're gonna talk about those tomorrow, they're a little further along, but we'll use those. Just watch me up here for a second, okay? The idea behind this is you're actually gonna draw across the shapes you wanna combine. There's several ways to work with it, but watch. Can you guys see that? Whatever's got a little hash mark in it is gonna be combined into one. I'm gonna let go, why don't you try that? (coughs) Excuse me. It's pretty crazy, this is an awesome, you guys this is so cool, this makes it easy to combine shapes, it really does. Now, you'll notice that that little neck shaped thing there is now kinda by itself, it also splits shapes up that were selected. We need to combine that with the head too. So, I'm gonna start up here probably, like, I usually start away from the shapes, just to be safe, and I'll just click and drag, and you'll notice I can go anywhere, I can say, "Hey let's combine all these." And come straight down here, whenever the red line goes around everything, and you see the checkerboard, let go. It just combined those together, that's pretty neat. Okay, now the other thing we can do, we can go in and start to create this and work with this a little bit here. We're gonna create a couple more simple shapes, and get them out here, okay? So what I'd like you to do is come back up to the Rectangle Tool up here, click on the Rectangle Tool, and we're gonna draw a little mouth for the robot, and we're gonna take two shapes and we're gonna take one and kind of cut it out of the other one, okay? So what I'd like you to do, now it's getting a little crazy, we've got more shapes out here. I want you to start right about here by the ear, and we're gonna draw a rectangle. So click and drag to draw a rectangle, something like that, and let go. It's gonna go on top, because it's arranging on top, right? Now, I'm gonna create another rectangle, we're gonna cut out a little smiley face kinda thing, kinda weird, I know. But I want you to create another rectangle, just watch up here for a second, create another rectangle like this, right on top of it and let go. Okay? (coughs) Alright, now, I wanna select both of those shapes, and what we're gonna do is we're gonna take this shape right here, smaller shape, and we're gonna basically cut it out of the larger shape to make a little smiley type face, okay? We need to select both rectangles. Go over to the selection tool, we are gonna have to use the shift-click method to do this, 'cause if we drag across it's gonna grab everything, so, one of them's already selected, I'm gonna hold down the shift key and click on the other one to select it, okay. Now we can use that Shape Builder Tool to cut out some shapes, so just watch up here for one second. I'm gonna go to the Shape Builder Tool, I'm gonna come out here and what we're gonna do is this, instead of just combining them, I'm gonna hold down the Option Key and I'm gonna see a little minus sign. That means whatever I draw across, it's gonna remove. So I'm gonna drag across, with the Option Key held down, remove these, let go of the mouse, then the Option Key, and we've got ourselves a little jaw. So why don't you give that a try, I'll undo it. So, Option, alt on Windows, drag down, let go of the mouse, let go of the key, and you've got the shape.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Project Files Part 1
Project Files Part 2

Ratings and Reviews


I am a pretty computer literate person but an Ai beginner i.e. I am completely new to the Creative Cloud/Adobe Illustrator. (This is also the first time I've used CreativeLive.) I think this course it is fantastic. The pace is good as is the content which progressed logically and covers all the basics you'd hope it would. The course is 2 full days' worth of material but it is broken down into segments so you can revisit or skip through as you need to. The presenter is really personable and easy to watch (even for me, a Londoner!). I would also say I think it is pretty good value for money -- I am currently enrolled on a part time course, basically doing the same sort of stuff, and I have to say this is better and a bit cheaper! I definitely recommend it to you!


A brilliantly designed course. it's almost magic. It's everything you hope for in a follow-along software class. Brian Wood has engineered it so that you start on a project that just needs basics, and then you move on to more & more complicated projects, and almost without realizing it you've learned Illustrator. This doesn't just happen -- Wood has clearly put a LOT of effort into creating this course. Here's one trivial example: he doesn't overload you with a lot of keyboard shortcuts right at the beginning -- you start with the actions themselves, using the (admittedly tedious but easy) pulldown menus, and then after you're comfortable with what you're doing, he'll throw in the shortcut. It may seem obvious, but so many instructors feel they have to give you an extensive foundation of definitions, shortcuts, interfaces, etc., before you ever do anything. Good stuff to know, but you'll never remember it. Wood has you up and working almost immediately. And he's a joy to listen to, at a perfect pace. Highly recommended.

Philippe LIENARD

Top course. Very well explained, clear, good examples, pleasant teacher. I like it and recommend it. One suggestion, it would be nice to have a detailed table of content of the course in the material. For instance, it took me quite a while to find back the part of the course where how to make a gear was explained.

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