Guide to the Free Transform Tool in Adobe Illustrator

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Who doesn't want their designs to stand out? If you want to make your design unique, you have to go beyond the same old shapes. In such case, the Free Transform Tool is what you need. This tool allows you to manipulate your objects and shapes in many ways.

This tutorial will provide you with a proper guide to the Free Transform Tool.

What is the Free Transform Tool in Adobe Illustrator?

The Free Transform Tool is versatile and allows you to scale, rotate, and distort objects. It gives your design elements a different perspective. In a nutshell, the Free Transform Tool allows you to manipulate and modify the artwork.

Where to Find the Free Transform Tool

You can find the Free Transform Tool in the left toolbar. You can also use the shortcut key (E) to activate this tool. If you can't find it in the toolbar, you can quickly set up the tool by following the steps below.

Quick Set-Up of the Free Transform Tool

Go to the left toolbar and click on the hidden Edit Toolbar menu, represented by three dots. You'll see the Free Transform Tool under the Modify Option. Click and drag the Free Transform Tool to the toolbar and release the mouse button where you want it to be set up. Now you have the Free Transform Tool in the toolbar.

Features of the Free Transform Tool

The Free Transform Tool comes with several features to perform:

How to Use the Free Transform Tool

Using the free transform tool is quite easy. I'll be using this banana illustration from Vecteezy for the tutorial. You can download it if you'd like to follow along.

Step 1

Select the Selection Tool (keyboard shortcut V) from the left toolbar.

Step 2

Use the Selection Tool to select the object you want to transform.

Step 3

Select the Free Transform (E) Tool from the left toolbar. You'll notice some handles around the object. Click and drag the pointers to transform the object. Remember, dragging different handles will give you different results.

When you select the free transform tool, an extended menu will open, including other options for transforming your object.

  • Free Transform
  • Perspective Distort
  • Free Distort

Now, I'll elaborate on how each feature works in Illustrator.


This option enables you to resize an object. To scale an object, first select the object, then select the Free Transform. Take your mouse pointer and hover around any of the corners until you see a four-headed arrow icon. Now, click and drag it to resize as desired.

Two things to keep in mind when you're scaling:

  • If you want to resize it from the center, press and hold down the Alt key while scaling the object.
  • If you want to scale proportionally, press and hold down the Shift key while scaling the object.


To rotate an object, you need to take the cursor slightly outside the edge of the corner. You'll see your pointer change into a double arrow icon. Click and drag the corner handle in a circular motion (clockwise or counter-clockwise). Hold down the Shift key while rotating if you want to rotate in 45-degree increments.


To reflect or create a mirror effect, click on one of the side handles and drag it all the way across the object to the other side. If you want to add a slanted effect, you can hold down the Ctrl key while reflecting the object.

Shear or Skew

You need to use the side handle to shear your object. Hold down the Ctrl button and click and drag the side handle. Hold down the Shift key while shearing the object if you want to shear proportionally or constrain the movement. You can hold down the Alt key if you want to shear the object from the center.


Applying perspective adds a different viewpoint to your object. To apply this feature, grab a side handle and drag it while holding down the Ctrl+ Alt + Shift.


Drag any of the corner handles and hold down the Ctrl key as you continue to drag. This will distort the object.

How to Use Free Transform on Text

Using the free transform tool on text differs from using it on objects or images. If you apply free transform to plain text, it won't work. You'll need to prepare the text before applying the transform to it.

Step 1

Select the Selection Tool (V) from the left toolbar.

Step 2

Using the Selection Tool, select the text you want to transform.

Step 3

Go to the Type menu from the overhead toolbar and select Create Outline. You can also right-click on the text and select Create Outline from the right-click menu. Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut key Shift+ Ctrl + O to apply this to your text.

Note: Once you create an outline of the text, the text is no longer editable. Ensure you won't need to change the text before doing this.

Step 4

Now you can transform your text since you have created an outline. Select the text using the selection tool.

Step 5

Select the Free Transform tool (V) from the left toolbar and transform your text using any of the free transform features.

Free Transform is an excellent tool for creating outstanding designs by giving unique shapes and adding captivating visual appeal to your design. I hope this article serves as your ultimate guide on this fantastic tool.