Simplify using Transform Effect

One of the best time-saving tools in Illustrator is the Transform Effect. When we think back to the hours we’ve wasted over the years tediously copying and pasting objects, then modifying each one, we thank our lucky stars we found this Effect.

We’re going to draw some students tossing their mortarboards into the air. Here is our cap. Since it’s going to be flying in midair we’ve made the tassel ripple in the breeze:


We’ll select our shape then open the Transform Effect palette. It’s pretty nicely buried under ‘Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform Effect’. Here is what will come up:


You have a whole lot of options here. By playing with the scale (vertical and/or horizontal), the placement of the shape vertically or horizontally, how many copies of the shape you’d like to make, and the rotation, you can come up with an incredible array of effects.

Select the shape you’d like to play with and make sure to click on ‘Preview’ before you start playing so that you can see what’s going to happen:


Now, the possibilities here are almost limitless. What we’re looking for is a nice mix of rotation, size and spread so that the hats look tossed into the air at random. In the meantime we played with several combinations of numbers. Here are some examples of stuff we came up with to show you some of the options!:





Pretty mind boggling, hey? In the end, here is the effect we settled for, it looked the most random:


If you look at this in Outline view (Command-Y on Mac and Control-Y on PC), you’ll be surprised: The only shape visible will be your original object:


In order to convert those shapes back into an editable form you’ll need to go to ‘Object > Expand Appearance’:


Here’s the final version with some hands included:


© 2009 Jennifer Borton


One thought on “Simplify using Transform Effect

  1. Diane says:

    Awesome tip Jenn! I really need to start using this one more 🙂

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