Select objects

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To organize and lay out your artwork, you use tools for selecting, positioning, and stacking objects precisely. You can measure and align objects; group objects so that they are treated as a single unit; and selectively isolate, lock, or hide objects.

Selection options and preferences

Options for selecting objects

Before you can modify an object, you must distinguish it from the objects around it. You do that by selecting the object. Once you’ve selected an object, or a part of an object, you can edit it.

Illustrator provides the following selection methods and tools:

Layers panel

Lets you quickly and precisely select individual or multiple objects. You can select a single object (even if it’s in a group), all objects within a layer, and entire groups.

Selection tool

  Lets you select objects and groups by clicking or dragging over them. You can also select groups within groups and objects within groups.

Group Selection tool

Lets you select an object within a group, a single group within multiple groups, or a set of groups within the artwork. Each additional click adds all objects from the next group in the hierarchy.

Perspective Selection tool

Lets you bring objects and text in perspective, switch active planes, move objects in perspective, and move objects in perpendicular direction.

Lasso tool

Lets you select objects, anchor points, or path segments by dragging around all or part of the object.

Magic Wand tool

Lets you select objects of the same color, stroke weight, stroke color, opacity, or blending mode by clicking the object.

Live Paint Selection tool

Lets you select faces (areas enclosed by paths) and edges (portions of paths between intersections) of Live Paint groups.

Selection commands

(located in the Select menu) Let you quickly select or deselect all objects, and select objects based on their position relative to other objects. You can select all objects of a specific type or that share specific attributes, and save or load selections. You can also select all objects in the active artboard.

Specify selection preferences

Selecting paths and points in complex images can be challenging. Using the Selection and Anchor Display preferences, you can specify the tolerance for pixel selection and choose other options that can make selection easier for a particular document.

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences > Selection & Anchor Display (Windows) or Illustrator > Preferences > Selection & Anchor Display (macOS).

  2. Specify any of the following Selection options:

    Tolerance

    Specifies the pixel range for selecting anchor points. Higher values increase the width of the area around an anchor point that you can click to select it.

    Object Selection By Path Only

    Specifies whether you can select a filled object by clicking anywhere in the object or whether you have to click a path.

    Snap To Point

    Snaps objects to anchor points and guides. Specify the distance between the object and anchor point or guide when the snap occurs.

Isolate artwork for editing

Isolation mode isolates objects so that you can easily select and edit particular objects or parts of objects. You can isolate any of the following: layers, sublayers, groups, symbols, clipping masks, compound paths, gradient meshes, and paths.

In Isolation mode, you can delete, replace, and add new art relative to the isolated art. When you exit isolation mode, replaced or new art is added at the same location as the original isolated art. Isolation mode automatically locks all other objects so that only the objects in isolation mode are affected by the edits you make— you don’t must worry about what layer an object is on, nor do you must manually lock or hide the objects you don’t want affected by your edits.

Note:

When you edit a symbol’s definition, the symbol appears in isolation mode. (See Edit or redefine a symbol.)

Isolate Artwork
Isolating the butterfly group

When isolation mode is active, the isolated object appears in full color, while the rest of the artwork appears grayed out. The isolated object’s name and location (sometimes referred to as bread crumbs) appears in the isolation mode border, and the Layers panel displays only the artwork in the isolated sublayer or group. When you exit isolation mode, the other layers and groups reappear in the Layers panel.

You can view isolated objects in outline mode or preview mode.

See the video Use isolation mode to isolate artwork for editing.

Isolate a path, object, or group

  1. Do one of the following:

    • Double-click the path or group using the Selection tool.

    • Select the group, object, or path and click the Isolate Selected Object button  in the Control panel.

    • Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (macOS) the group and click Isolate Selected Group.

    • Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (macOS) the path and click Isolate Selected Path.

    • Select the group, object, or path in the Layers panel and choose Enter Isolation Mode from the Layers panel menu or click the Isolate Selected Object button in the Control panel.

Isolate a path inside a group

  1. Select the path by using the Direct-Selection tool or by targeting it in the Layers panel.

  2. Click the Isolate Selected Object button  in the Control panel.

Isolate a layer or sublayer

  1. Select the layer or sublayer in the Layers panel, and click Enter Isolation Mode from the Layers panel menu.

Exit isolation mode

  1. Do one of the following:

    • Press Esc.

    • Click Exit Isolation Mode  one or more times (if you’ve isolated a sublayer, one click takes you back a level, two clicks exits isolation mode).

    • Click anywhere in the isolation mode bar.

    • Click Exit Isolation Mode  in the Control panel.

    • Using the Selection tool, double-click outside of the isolated group.

    • Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (macOS) and click Exit Isolation Mode.

Select behind objects

In Illustrator, you can select objects that lie underneath other objects using Ctrl+click (Windows) or Command+click (macOS). The pointer changes to Select Behind on the first Ctrl+click (Windows) or Command+click (macOS). On subsequent usage of Ctrl+click (Windows) or Command+click (macOS), the selection iterates through the objects directly underneath the pointer position.

Select the next object in the stacking order

You can select an object above or below a selected object in the stacking order. These commands do not work when in isolation mode.

  1. To select the nearest object above or below the selected object, click Select > Next Object Above, or Select > Next Object Below.

Select objects using the Layers panel

  1. In the Layers panel, locate the object you want to select. You may have to click a toggle arrow to expand a layer or group, or scroll up or down in the panel to locate the object.

  2. Do any of the following:

    • To select individual objects, click in the object’s selection column (between the target button and the scroll bar). Shift-click to add or to remove objects from the selection.

    • To select all artwork in a layer or group, click in the layer’s or group’s selection column.

    • To select all artwork in a layer based on the currently selected artwork, click Select > Object > All On Same Layers.

      Selection color boxes appear next to each selected item in the panel.

Select an object with the Selection, Lasso, or Magic Wand tool

Select objects with the Selection tool

  1. Select the Selection tool .

  2. Do either of the following:

    • Click an object.

    • Drag a marquee around part or all of one or more objects.

  3. To add or remove objects from the selection, hold down Shift and click or drag around the objects you want to add or remove.

    Tip: When the Selection tool is over a deselected object or group, it changes to . When it is over a selected object or group, the tool changes to  . When it is over an anchor point on a deselected object, a hollow square appears next to the arrow .

    Selecting objects
    Dragging over objects to select them

Select objects with the Lasso tool

  1. Select the Lasso tool .

  2. Drag around or across the objects.

Select objects with the Magic Wand tool

Use the Magic Wand tool to select all objects in a document with the same or similar fill attributes (such as color and pattern).

You can customize the Magic Wand tool to select objects based on stroke weight, stroke color, opacity, or blending mode. You can also change the tolerances used by the Magic Wand tool to identify similar objects.

Select objects based on fill color with the Magic Wand tool

  1. Select the Magic Wand tool .

  2. Do one of the following:

    • To create a selection, click the object containing the attributes you want to select. All objects with the same attributes that were clicked are selected.

    • To add to the current selection, press Shift and click another object containing the attributes you want to add. All objects with the same attributes that were clicked are also selected.

    • To subtract from the current selection, press Alt (Windows) or Option (macOS) and click the object containing the attributes you want to subtract. All objects with the same attributes are removed from the selection.

Customize the Magic Wand tool

  1. Do one of the following to open the Magic Wand panel:

    • Double-click the Magic Wand tool in the tool panel.

    • Select Window > Magic Wand.

  2. To select objects according to their fill color, select Fill Color, and then enter a Tolerance value from 0 through 255 pixels for RGB or 0 and 100 pixels for CMYK.

    Low tolerance values select objects that are similar to the object you click; higher tolerance values select objects with a broader range of the selected property.

  3. Choose Show Stroke Options from the Magic Wand panel menu, and do any of the following:

    • To select objects according to their stroke color, select Stroke Color, and then enter a Tolerance value from 0 through 255 pixels for RGB or 0 and 100 pixels for CMYK.

    • To select objects according to their stroke weight, select Stroke Weight, and then enter a Tolerance value from 0 through 1000 points.

  4. Click Show Transparency Options from the Magic Wand panel menu and do any of the following:

    • To select objects according to their transparency or blending mode, select Opacity, and then enter a Tolerance value from 0 through 100%.

    • To select objects according to their blending mode, select Blending Mode.

Select filled objects

The Object Selection By Path Only preference determines whether you can select a filled object by clicking anywhere within the object’s area with the Selection or Direct Selection tools, or whether you must click a path segment or anchor point with these tools. By default, this preference is off. Sometimes, you may want to turn on the preference—for example, when you work with overlapping filled objects and you want to easily select underlying objects.

Note:

The Object Selection By Path Only preference is not applicable when selecting unfilled objects or when viewing artwork as outlines. In these cases, you can never select an object by clicking inside the object’s path. (See View artwork as outlines.)

With Object Selection By Path Only deselected, clicking inside the object and dragging selects and moves an object.
With Object Selection By Path Only deselected, clicking inside the object and dragging selects and moves an object.

With Object Selection By Path Only selected, dragging with the Direct Selection tool selects points and segments within a marquee.
With Object Selection By Path Only selected, dragging with the Direct Selection tool selects points and segments within a marquee.

  1. Click Edit > Preferences > Selection & Anchor Display (Windows) or Illustrator > Preferences > Selection & Anchor Display (macOS), and select Object Selection By Path Only.

Select groups and objects in a group

Once objects are grouped, selecting any part of the group with the Selection tool or the Lasso tool selects the entire group. If you are unsure whether an object is a part of a group, select it with the Selection tool.

The Direct-Selection tool and Lasso tool let you select a single path or object that is part of one group or several groups. If you have groups of objects within other groups, you can select the next group in the grouping hierarchy by using the Group-Selection tool. Each successive click adds another subset of grouped objects to the selection.

Select one or more groups with the Selection tool

  1. Click the Selection tool .

  2. Do one of the following to any object that’s within the group:

    • Click the object.

    • Drag around part or all of the object.

  3. To add or remove a group to the selection, hold down Shift while clicking the group to add or remove.

Select objects and groups within groups with the Selection tool

  1. Select the Selection tool .

  2. Double-click a group. The group appears in isolation mode.

  3. Do any of the following:

    • Double-click to select further down into the group structure.

      Tip: Double-clicking is a handy way to select objects (as opposed to faces and edges) within a Live Paint group.

    • Click to select an object within the selected group.

    • Draw to add an object to the selected group.

  4. Double-click outside the group to deselect the group.

Select a single object within a group

  1. Do one of the following:

    • Select the Group Selection tool , and click the object.

    • Select the Lasso tool , and drag around or across the object’s path.

    • Select the Direct Selection tool , and click within the object, or drag a marquee around part or all of the object’s path.

  2. To add or remove an object or group to or from the selection (with any selection tool), hold down Shift and select the object to add or remove.

Select objects and groups with the Group Selection tool

  1. Select the Group Selection tool , and click an object that’s within the group you want to select. The object is selected.

  2. To select the object’s parent group, click the same object again.

  3. Click the same object again to select more groups that are grouped with the selected group until you have selected everything you want to include in your selection.

    Group selection
    The first click with the Group Selection tool selects an object in a group (left); the second click selects the object’s group (right).

    Group selection
    The third click adds the next group to the selection (left); the fourth click adds the third group (right).

Select faces and edges in a Live Paint group

You select faces and edges of a Live Paint tool using the Live Paint Selection tool. If you want to select the entire Live Paint group, simply click it with the Selection tool.

  1. Select the Live Paint Selection tool .

  2. Move the tool over the Live Paint group until the face or edge you want to select is highlighted. (When the Live Paint Selection tool is over an edge, the tool changes to .)

  3. Do any of the following:

    • Click to select the highlighted face or edge.

    • Drag a marquee around multiple faces or edges. Any face or edge that is fully or partially enclosed by the marquee is included in the selection.

    • Double-click a face or edge to select all connected faces/edges of the same color (flood select).

    • Triple-click a face or edge to select all faces/edges of the same color (select same).

      Tip: If you have difficulty selecting a small face or edge, magnify the view or set the Live Paint Selection tool options to select only fills or strokes.

  4. To add or remove faces and edges from the selection, hold down Shift and click the faces/edges you want to add or remove.

Live Paint Selection tool options

You access the Live Paint selection tool options by double-clicking the tool in the tool panel.

Select Fills

Selects the faces (the area within edges) of Live Paint groups.

Select Strokes

Selects the edges of Live Paint groups.

Color

Sets the color for the highlight. You can choose a color from the menu or click the paint swatch to specify a custom color.

Width

Specifies how thick to make the selection highlight.

Select objects by characteristic

You can select objects based on various groupings, including by formatting attribute, by layer, or by kind, such as brush strokes or clipping masks.

  1. To select all objects in a file, click Select > All. (To deselect all objects, choose Select > Deselect.)

  2. To select all objects with the same attributes, select one with the attribute you want, click Select > Same, and then select an attribute from the list: Blending Mode, Fill & Stroke, Fill Color, Opacity, Stroke Color, Stroke Weight, Style, Symbol Instance, or Link Block Series.

    Link Block Series automatically selects threaded text boxes. You can select one of the text boxes and then use this command to select all the other text boxes linked to that one. For more information, see Threading text between objects.

    Note:

    You can also use the Magic Wand tool to select all objects with the same color, stroke weight, stroke color, opacity, or blending mode.

  3. To select all objects of a certain kind, deselect all artwork, click Select > Object, and then choose an object type (Brush Strokes, Clipping Masks, Stray Points, or Text Objects).

Select Same by text characteristics

You can now change the properties of all selected text boxes of a document at a time. You can select the text of multiple text objects based on the text characteristics like font size, text fill color, font style, font, and so on. 

Watch this 15-seconds video to learn how to change the font color of a text at multiple locations in a document at one go. 

To select all text objects with the same attribute, select a text, click Select > Same, and then choose an attribute from the list: 

  • Font Family
  • Font Family & Style
  • Font Family, Style & Size
  • Font Size
  • Text Fill Color
  • Text Stroke Color
  • Test Fill & Stroke Color

All the text boxes with similar attributes are selected. You can now change the font, size, and so on, from the Properties > Character panel. The changes are reflected in all the selected text boxes. 

You can create keyboard shortcuts or create actions for each of the Select > Same text tasks based on each attribute. 

Repeat, invert, or save a selection

Repeat or invert a selection

  • To repeat the last selection command used, choose Select > Reselect.

  • To select all deselected objects, and deselect all selected objects, choose Select > Inverse.

Save a selection

  1. Select one or more objects, and click Select > Save Selection.

  2. In the Save Selection dialog box, type a name in the Name text box, and click OK.

    You can reload a saved selection by choosing the selection name from the bottom of the Select menu. You can also delete or rename a selection by choosing Select > Edit Selection.

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