How to Angle Things in Illustrator

By Elizabeth Mott

Skewing angles this rectangular frame irregularly.
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Transforming objects in Adobe Illustrator so they appear angled -- like the difference between a rectangle and a parallelogram, which lacks the rectangle's uniform 90-degree corners -- applies a geometric distortion that some call skewing. When you need this effect to create graphics for a client or in-house publication, you can use the Direct Selection tool to activate specific anchor points and drag them with your pointing device to create the look you want. To save time and add precision, however, Illustrator's reshaping tools handle these kinds of transformations, including the Shear tool, which applies what Illustrator calls skewing.

Press "V" to activate the Selection tool. Click on an object to select it, "Shift"-click to add other items to your selection, or marquee around several items to select them in one pass.

Select the Shear tool, nested with the Scale tool in the Adobe Illustrator toolbox. Hold down the "Alt" key and adjust the position of the reference point to determine the origin of the transformation. If you're using the Illustrator Smart Guides feature, the reference point snaps to anchor points when you "Alt"-drag it onto them. By default, the reference point appears at the center of your selection. After you adjust the reference point, the Shear dialog box opens automatically.

Enter a shear angle between 359 and -359 degrees and set the axis using the radio buttons in the Shear dialog box. You can shear along the selection's horizontal or vertical axis or enter a number between 359 and -359 to determine the angle. Turn on the dialog box preview to evaluate the effect before you apply it.

Click on the "Copy" button to apply your transformation to a copy of your selection and leave the original objects undisturbed. Click on the "OK" button to transform your original objects.


Activate the "Patterns" check box in the Shear dialog box to shear patterned fills along with the objects that contain them. If you leave this feature unchecked and activate the "Objects" check box, your objects will shear but their pattern fills will remain in their normal orientations. If you check this feature and deactivate the "Objects" check box, your objects remain in their normal orientations but their patterns shear.

Enter a number in the Shear field of the Transform panel to shear a selection. Set the origin of the transformation using the reference point indicators on the Transform panel's proxy, which is the square pattern bounded by clickable dots at its corners, midpoints and center.

If you make your selection with the Direct Selection tool, you can shear parts of objects, restricting the transformation to the anchor points you marquee around or "Shift"-click.


Some combinations of shear axis and shear angle produce an error message indicating that Adobe Illustrator can't make the requested transformation. Adjust the angle value and try your transformation again.

Each time you select the Shear tool with an active selection or make a selection while you're using the Shear tool, the reference point of the transformation returns to the center point.

Information in this article applies to Adobe Illustrator CS6. It may differ slightly or significantly with other versions.