Transform Each – transforming multiple objects with greater control

Illustrator has a number of powerful functions nested away in its many sub-menus and if you aren’t the kind of person who naturally likes to have a snoop around you could be missing out.

Today I want to show you the Transform Each function, a powerful but often overlooked tool you should have in your armory.

Every time you move, scale, rotate, reflect or skew an object in Illustrator you are performing a Transform function on that object. For the most part these will be quick, freehand, moves and scales applied directly to objects in the document space but there are a couple of places to go to apply Transforms numerically.

transform each in illustrator

The Transform Panel can be accessed from the Control Panel across the top of  the screen (also available via Windows>Transform). Here we can position, size, scale etc all based on numeric values to apply transformations relative to the nine-point reference icon. This is a common feature in many Adobe applications.

transform and rotate

We also have a whole sub-menu for Transforming under the Object Menu (Object>Transform). Here we can apply Move, Rotate etc via a dialogue box specific to each function.

However, when we have multiple objects selected any transform functions are applied as if all the objects are grouped.

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If I apply a rotation to 2 separate squares both squares are transformed around a common reference point.

Here’s where Transform Each comes into play. (Object>Transform> Transform Each…).

Using Transform Each I can apply the same rotation but each individual object will transform around it’s own reference point – this can be applied to 2 objects or hundreds at a time.

transform each in illustrator

Although the dialogue box may seem a little daunting at first it’s actually very straightforward to use. The top 3 sections control the amount of scale, movement and rotation and the Options give additional control over how the transform is applied.

One function I particularly like is the Random option.

random option in illustrator transform

To give you an idea of how this can be used let’s imagine we need to create a Notice Board style graphic with a bunch of Post-It notes.

Instead of spending time laying these out in a haphazard fashion we can simply set out the shapes in a grid, select all and then go to Transform Each.

Now I’ll apply some values for horizontal and vertical move, and change the angle of rotation.

Finally, click the Random checkbox in the Options section.

applying random transformation in illustrator

By checking Random each object will be transformed by varying amounts so your movement and rotation values will be applied to each shape by a different ratio.

This can also be applied to more complex objects. We could try this same notice board idea using placed images styled to look like printed photographs. Just remember to group anything that needs to be transformed as a unit otherwise the Transform Each function will transform every individual element separately.

I hope you found this a useful introduction to one of the lesser-known Transform tools – don’t be afraid to dive and experiment!

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