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Reagan Ray is the lead designer and resident illustrator for Paravel.

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Mirroring Objects in Illustrator

January 30, 2014

Up until recently, drawing symmetrical shapes in Illustrator had been an straight-forward, but lengthy process. I would draw the left side of my shape, fine-tune it by mentally imagining how it looked once reflected along the x-axis, then make a copy, reflect it and align the two objects together to see how the shape looked as a whole. Sometimes I would end up with a result that matched my expectations, but often I would need to go back and re-adjust the original shape and repeat this copy/reflect/align process.

This was a tedious and inflexible method. What I wanted, was the ability to mirror my object and see it’s reflection immediately. And you can, by using the “Transform” effect.

The first step is to create a shape as your starting point. You don’t need to worry about making it perfect, you just need something to apply the effect to. With your shape selected, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform… which launches the Transform settings modal. Turn on “Preview” at the bottom left, set “Copies” to 1, choose the anchor point of the transform by clicking on one of the 9 points on the anchor icon (I used the middle-right anchor in my example) and finally select the axis you want to reflect off of (I used the “Reflect X” option as I want my shape to mirror horizontally). Now with this transform applied, you shape will always mirror, even as you adjust or add points to your shape.

For best results, make sure the far right points of your shape are aligned, so you have a straight edge to base the mirroring off of. You can select the far right points and use the align tools to make sure they’re in perfect alignment.

Leaving the Transform effect active means you can always go back and edit your shape. But if you want to “flatten” the shape and merge both sides, then select your shape and choose Object > Expand Appearance, which expands the mirrored shape into an editable vector shape. The last step is to again select your shape and choose “Unite” from the Pathfinder window.

The Transform Effect has a variety of other options you can explore, such as scaling, moving, rotating, and reflecting on multiple axis, so experiment for more unique mirroring effects!

Produced By

Phil Coffman

VP of Design & Founder of Method & Craft
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