Adobe Illustrator Tutorial: Rotate Tool Attributes

Rotating paths in CS-CS5 to Create a Toothed Gear Illustration

illustrator Tutorial Rotate Tool Attributes

Adobe Illustrator CS-CS5 Drawing Tool Tutorials

Free-Transform Tool | Rotate Tool | Paths & Pen Tool | Controlling Line Weights | Gradient Mesh

All Tutorial Text & Images - Copyright © 2011 KHI, Inc.

Illustrator's "Rotate" tool is used to rotate a selected path or series of paths in a standard 360° circle around a central "origin" point. The "Rotate" tool is located in Adobe Illustrator's main "Tool Palette." To activate this tool, click on its symbol in Illustrator's Tool Palette (Fig. 1) or use the keyboard shortcut "R" to access the "Rotate" tool. By double clicking the Rotate tool in Illustrator's tool palette you will bring up its dialogue box (Fig. 2). With the dialogue box you can specify a pre-defined angle of rotation (in this case, 90° is shown).

While using the Rotate tool the cursor is a simple cross (Fig. 1). There is also an "Origin" or center-point which will appear in the same color as the specified layer color (see "Layers" Palette).

This is different from the "Free Transform" tool, which can rotate and distort the shape of a path selection. To use this tool you would select a path, object, or grouping of objects by dragging your cursor over them while the "Selection Tool (V)" is active. When you do this a "Bounding Box" will appear around the selected objects. Once the bounding box appears, select the Rotate tool (R). Once you have selected the Rotate tool the Bounding Box will disappear and the selection will look like (Fig. 3). You can also Command>Drag the cursor over the paths while the Rotate tool is selected, thereby eliminating the need to change tools.

With your grouping of paths selected the Rotate tool can be used by dragging the Cursor in any direction (Fig. 3). You can constrain the angle of rotation in 45° increments by holding the Shift key while dragging the cursor. Note: The following hardware and software was used in this tutorial: Apple Mac Pro, a Wacom Intuos 6x8 drawing tablet and Adobe Illustrator CS-CS5 vector drawing software.

Adobe Illustrator Rotate Tool

Using Illustrator's "Rotate" Tool

Our subject matter for this tutorial will be a multi-toothed gear shown in Fig. 4. We will start out by creating a simple cross grid Fig. 5 on its own layer. The horizontal and vertical lines should be equal in length so that their center-points intersect. Lock this layer containing your grid. Next we will create a set of circles on a second layer using the "Ellipse Tool" (E). To create the circles we will click in the center point of our grid and while holding the Option > Shift keys we will drag the cursor outward (Fig. 6). This will constrain the Ellipse Tool to a perfect circle.

Technical Note: When you hold the Option and Shift keys simultaneously while the Ellipse tool is activated the cursor changes form a simple cross to a cross within a circle (Fig. 6).

Rotate Object in Illustrator

Once we have finished our series of three (1 inner and 2 outer) circles we will begin to construct the teeth (Fig. 7). Our gear will ultimately have 40 teeth; therefore each quarter will have ten teeth (or twenty divisions). Working within the two outer circles we will create one tooth set (Fig 7 in black). Select all 3 paths of the tooth and group them together using the Object>Group in the menu bar or the Command>Group keyboard commands.

Using the Selection tool (solid arrow) select the first tooth and using both the Command and Option keys (cursor becomes double arrow) hit the "Nudge" or "Arrow" key once to the left. This will "Copy and Paste" a duplicate of your selection. Use the "Nudge" or "Arrow" key again to move it back to the right, placing it directly over the original. Rotate the tooth, using the blue cross-grid center-point as the rotational axis. You will notice that when you select the tooth, the "Origin" point is not in the center on our blue cross-grid. Click on the Origin Point and drag it to the grid center. Repeat the Copy & Paste process until all ten teeth in the upper left quarter are complete (Fig. 8).

Next you will select all ten teeth and group them together. Copy and Paste as before. While this grouping is still selected, activate the Rotate tool. You will notice that the selection's "Origin" point is no longer in the center on our blue cross-grid. Again, click the origin point and drag it to the grid center. Rotate it downward while holding the Shift key to constrain it to a 45° move (Fig. 9). This will place the duplicate in the lower left corner completing half of the gear.

Technical Note: If you leave the Rotate tool active while you Copy & Paste with the method above, the "Origin" center point will stay in the same location. This will speed up the process.

Adobe Illustrator Rotate Tool Fig 7, 8, 9

The last step will be to select both sets of ten teeth and group them together using Command>G (Fig. 10). Using our Copy and Past method from before, duplicate the selection and re-position the Origin point to the center of the blue grid. Using the Shift key to constrain the rotation, rotate the selection 180° as shown in Fig. 11. The completed gear face is shown to the right in Fig. 12.

Illustrator Rotate Tool - Constrain Rotation

There will be a demonstration of the completion process for our gear illustration in an upcoming Illustrator Tutorial. Please continue checking the Illustration Tutorial section for future updates.

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