In Illustrator is there a way to precisely scale to a pivot point or "reference point" that is off the screen? I mean when you want to zoom in somewhere far away from where you set that point and then scale precisely to align something.

Here's what Adobe has to say:

To scale relative to a different reference point , click where you want the reference point to be in the document window, move the pointer away from the reference point, and then drag until the object is the desired size.

Well, I tried using this click-drag scaling method as well, but the level of precision is too low to be usable. It overshoots or undershoots the guide I'm aiming for.

The Scale tool's pop-up dialog isn't useful either. It only offers percentages. And moving/zooming are disabled while the dialog window is up, meaning I cannot navigate to the guide I need to see.

For these reasons, I need to be zoomed in on the guide, tweaking the measurements from the top Control Panel.

Some images to help illustrate what I mean:

▲ The circle marks where I would like the center of my scale transformation to be.

▲ Now zoomed in somewhere else, I am trying to get the black border of this bitmap image to align perfectly with the vector guide by scaling it.

▲ I nudge the numbers in the Control Panel until the image is perfectly aligned.

One would think all would be perfect, but then I look and my reference point has vanished!

It seems the scaling has been executed relative to one of these limited nine reference point choices instead of the reference point I specified.

There must be a way to scale precisely to a specific reference point in illustrator. Can somebody please enlighten me?

  • Are you able to just resize it using the numbers in the Transform Panel?
    – Welz
    Nov 16, 2018 at 2:53
  • 1
    The thing to remember about Illustrator is that it's primarily a drawing application, not a CAD application. With this in mind, precision is not really that wonderful at times. I wish it were better, but, well, one can only file so many bug reports.
    – Scott
    Nov 16, 2018 at 2:59
  • @WELZ No, the Transform Panel/Window produces the same result as the Control Panel, as it uses the nine-choice method.
    – Mentalist
    Nov 16, 2018 at 4:20
  • @Scott Thanks for the confirmation. Yeah, it's quite frustrating because I'm used to the precision of Blender (also not a CAD application) in which a pivot point can be made anywhere. It's where I usually start with a logo or font design (can make rigs for adjusting kerning and such), but eventually I need to go vector. In this case I was given an old bitmap logo that needs to have its proportions fixed and then be reconstructed in vector. I solved my Illustrator issue with brute force by scaling to 99.99% and re-checking repeatedly until it lined up with the guide, lol.
    – Mentalist
    Nov 16, 2018 at 4:45
  • @Mentalist blender is a CAD application so is illustrator by the way. Anyway ho wowuld you scale a botmap image form a point not on the corner of the object in blender. Problem is rather lack of snapping points in bitmaps than input devices as such
    – joojaa
    Nov 17, 2018 at 18:19

3 Answers 3


Scaling an image in Illustrator to let a part of the image have a certain width can be done using a Clipping Mask:

  • Make a rectangle which covers the part of the image you want to have a certain width (or height). (I'm not being very precise in the gif)

  • Select the image and the covering rectangle, right click and select Make Clipping Mask.

  • Place and scale the clipped image using guides.

  • Right click again and select Release Clipping Mask.

  • Deselect the image and hit delete to remove the mask.

This kind of scaling is, in my opinion, a bit simpler in InDesign where an image is always wrapped in a clipping mask called the Container Frame. You can simply crop the image, scale it and then Fit Frame to Content:

  • This is a great idea!
    – Welz
    Mar 22, 2020 at 14:53

I too have been frustrated by this problem. Here is what I do (somewhat of a workaround):

  • Draw a rectangle from the desired reference point to cover the object's current size,
  • Then another rectangle from the same reference point to the target size.
  • The sizes of the two rectangles are fed into the the formula: target size / current size
  • Multiply the result by 100 to get a percentage value
  • Option-click the object to be scaled at the reference point and, in the scale dialog box, enter the result of your calculation to 3 decimal places.

TLDR option + click to set transform origin and numerically scale from it

I understand the question to be:

how to scale objects in Illustrator using numeric input, whilst specifying an exact transform origin for the scaling


  1. select the artwork to scale
  2. select the scale tool
  3. hold option (or alt) and click the on the canvas to set transform origin and open the numeric input dialog
  4. enter some scale value, wola

I hope this saves some poor souls a precious few minutes, whenever I need to do this it takes a few minutes to find out how :) I use it to scale artwork from the corners in lockups all the time

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