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Using the Selection Tools In Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator’s five dynamic selection tools allow users to select objects in different ways and for different purposes. These five tools are:

  1. The Selection Tool
  2. Direct Selection Tool
  3. Group Selection Tool
  4. Magic Wand Tool
  5. Lasso Tool

Knowing how each tool works can help users work with full objects, partial objects, groups, parts of groups, objects with similar characteristics, or selected parts of multiple objects.

Selecting Vector Objects

Designers and artists use Adobe Illustrator to create dynamic vectors artwork. Vectors include anchor points, paths between anchor points that be straight or curved lines, text objects or containers, and objects created by effects.

Here’s how each selection tool works:

Selection Tool

The Selection Tool cursor is a solid black arrow. Use it to select an entire object. Click anywhere on an object with this tool and all the anchor points and lines (and fills if they are used) will be selected. All anchor points will be solid. The object can be manipulated as a whole.


Using a modifier key, multiple objects can be selected. Hold the Shift key and select more objects to manipulate them together.

Direct Selection Tool

The Direct Selection Tool cursor is an arrow with a hollow head. Click on an anchor or path of an object and only the immediate path and its adjacent anchor points are selected. However, clicking on a fill area will select the entire object. A selected anchor point is solid while all the object’s other anchor points are hollow. The selected line with its adjacent anchors points can be manipulated.

For modifiers, hold the Shift key to select multiple anchors and lines. Holding the Option key allows the Direct Selection Tool to work like the Selection Tool, selecting the entire object.

Group Selection Tool

Multiple objects, grouped together, act as one object. The Group Selection Tool, with a hollow arrow and plus sign cursor, selects single objects within groups of objects with single clicks. Each additional click selects the next level of grouped objects connected to the first object.

Additional clicks select additional levels of grouped objects if they exist. Users can work with parts of complex groups without un-grouping.

Magic Wand Tool

The Magic Wand Tool cursor is a magic wand. Click on an object, and additional objects with the same characteristics are also selected. Use this tool to select multiple objects without having to individually click items using the Selection Tool.

Users modify the tool’s capabilities by double-clicking on the tool icon, bringing up a palette with options to choose fills, stroke colors and/or weights. Choices can be selected individually or collectively giving users great flexibility to choose many objects with specific characteristics.

Lasso Tool

The Lasso Tool cursor is a lasso. This tool selects areas of objects in a freely drawn shape. A dotted line follows the cursor around the screen enclosing an area to include any anchor points and objects inside. This allows custom selection of a group of anchor points/objects in one move, instead of using Direct Selection Tool with a modifier key.

Modifier keys for the Lasso Tool allow for addition to or subtraction from an existing selection. Hold the Option key to draw around areas that are to be deselected from the selection. Hold the Shift key to draw around areas that are to be added to the selection.

These five selection tools allow users to select and manipulate artwork with all the powerful features found within Adobe Illustrator.



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