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This comes up a lot, so I'm wondering if there's a proper way to do this. Sometimes I want to create an object by placing two objects next to each other, for example, when drawing an arrow (or a snowman, or a stack of boxes or a shelf of books, etc):

Quick methods

As you can see, it's somewhat difficult to make these perfect, which I suppose isn't the worst thing in the world, but I'd much prefer to get it perfectly right. At the moment, the best way I can find to do it perfectly is to create a third object to use as a key object for the first two:

Long Method

This is obviously way more involved than I really want it to be, so I'm wondering if I'm missing some easy/obvious way to do a top-to-bottom alignment.

Edit: Sorry, Illustrator 6.0, Windows (7 or 8, though that probably doesn't matter).

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Can you please add which program and which version do you use? Operating system? –  Kurt Jul 28 '13 at 8:50
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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Do you mean, you want to get objects perfectly stacked so the top of one just touches the bottom of the next one?

If so, you can do this like this:

  • Select them all
  • In the align window, switch it to align to key object
  • Make sure the numbers box is set to 0
  • Hit the distribute objects vertically button in the bottom left of the panel

This puts everything in a stack based on the stacking order , where the distance between each object is the number in the box. If they're in the wrong order, re-arrange which objects are on top of each other.

This stacks any number of objects:

enter image description here


That said, if you're just making simple arrows, there's an easier way using the arrowheads options on the Stroke window. I think in versions earlier than CS6, arrowhead options were buried in the Effects menu somewhere. If you can't see these options, hit "Show options" in the flyout menu at the top right of the box (Adobe love hiding useful tools without leaving any clue that they are there):

enter image description here

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It can be done quite simply. (Shortcuts assume that you're using Windows, and that you're making an arrow pointing upwards.)

  1. Make sure commented guides (whatever they're called in English; default hotkey Ctrl+U) and point magnetism (same comment; default hotkey Alt+Ctrl+F7) are enabled. These options prevent me from having to fight to find the right option in menus and palettes in almost all cases, when it comes to placing objects.

  2. Select your line with the V (black arrow) tool.

  3. Press and hold Ctrl to temporarily switch to the white arrow tool. Click and hold the top point of your line.

  4. Still holding Ctrl and your left mouse button, drag your line's top point onto a bottom point of your triangle.

  5. While you hover the triangle's bottom point, it should become highlighted, and your line should stick to it. Release here.

  6. Your line is now perfectly aligned with the bottom of your triangle. But that's a rather odd arrow, because your objects aren't centered. You have two options for centering it:

    a) With your line still selected, do the same as before, but this time, pressing Ctrl after clicking (because if not, it might select the background object, your triangle). Move your line towards the center of the triangle. A line to the edge or center of your triangle may form. If not, try pressing Ctrl up and down. This method doesn't always work, depending on whether Illustrator judges the point you're aiming for a relevant one to trace a line to.

    b) Select both your line and your triangle and, using either the control bar (whatever it's called in English, that bar (by default) at the top of the window that gives contextual palette options depending on what you select) or the Alignment palette (English name unknown; default hotkey Shift+F7), use the appropriate button to vertically align your objects to the center.

Additional notes:

  • Actually, given Illustrator's visual glitch that makes it often display a gap between actually perfectly aligned objects, I prefer to make things overlap whenever practical.

  • Just in case you didn't know, the Stroke (Ctrl+F10) palette offers a rather handy option for arrows, depending on your version of Illustrator.

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