You can drag to select the line, but actually “grabbing” it with the black arrow tool in order to drag-move it to a new location is nearly impossible - you just wind up missing its visible area and deselecting it or starting a new rectangular area selection. This is especially true when its center (handle), or any other anchor point, is off screen. When an anchor point is visible, you at least stand a chance to grab by it(s little colored square area which occupies some space on the screen) and initiate the drag operation.

It is very difficult to drag move a thin line without zooming in, in order to give it some “pixel width area” to have something to grab by with the black arrow.

Having its bounding box visible or not does not seem to help with this endeavor in any way.

I am often forced to zoom way in to give the thin line some screen width to grab by or using the Layers window to select it from there, both of which are a serious pain in a complex illustration.

This is even more frustrating when dealing with 0.25pt lines on a 4k 32-inch monitor at reasonable zoom levels.

There must be an easier way to drag move something that is very thin (and selected, if necessary)!

  • It's really hard. Try enabling the Smart Guide (Ctrl + U). It highlights the paths while the cursor is over the path.
    – LeoNas
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 18:34
  • @LeoNas, I almost always have Smart Guides and Preview Bounding Boxes turned on and only selectively turn them off in the event that they are in the way. Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 20:41
  • Smart guides highlight to help you select, but are of no use for drag initiation (going from memory here, so I may be wrong...). It is only once you start the actual drag that they once again enter the picture with alignment help. Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 20:58

3 Answers 3


"There must be an easier way to drag move something that is very thin" --- I could not possibly agree more. I waste so much time with click-drag, click, miss, click-drag, click, miss, click-drag, click, miss, click-drag, click... move.

However, unfortunately, Illustrator has suffered from this problem since at least version 8 (not CC8.. actual version 8 from the 80s/90s). Using the Preview Bounds in the Preferences can sometimes help. But for other reasons I find working with Preview Bounds on to be more trouble than it's worth.

I don't think there's a workaround other than using a lower screen resolution, which is a horrible alternative. People have been complaining to Adobe about this for over a decade.

The only possible alternative I've found is to use some of the AstuteGraphics.com plug ins ($$) which have selection options if they will work. For some reason AstuteGraphics has been able to make selection much easier than Adobe has. Or, use things like the transform panel to move objects or arrow key nudging -- which are all less than optimal solutions.

Another option.... I hate the bounding box.. never have it on. That might help. What I find I do most of the time, when this is becoming frustrating is, I tap the E key for the Free Transform Tool, then I can click-drag anywhere inside the Free Transform Bounding Box and move things.

  • Wow, this is hard to believe. It should be as easy as: Hold some combination of modifier keys to start dragging the selected objects. You would hold these modifiers down before starting the drag operation to signal your intent to drag what is selected with your mouse click (and not to deselect [or otherwise modify the selection]). Ioften resort to the arrow keys to nudge or the Enter key to move manually via the Move dialog box out of frustration. Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 20:45
  • Or, perhaps we need a tool that does translation (e.g., movement) but does not allow you to select/deselect. Then, you can press the Ctrl key to get your last used arrow if you need to modify the objects selected or perform some other arrow task. Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 20:49
  • @PowerDeveloper I don't disagree. See updated answer.. since seeing this question I was more cognitive of how I work when this happens and realized that I do tend to tap E after a few misses. This can become an issue though if you need smart guide snapping too... basically Adobe has ignored the issue for decades... you just have to find something that works for you or deal with the inaccuracy.
    – Scott
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 21:28
  • For what it's worth.. I personally think it's an easy fix for Adobe.. if an object is selected... and you click-drag.. the selected object should move. It shouldn't matter if you click the actual object or not.. if it's selected.. a click-drag which does not select anything else, moves the object. As soon as another object is selected in the click-drag, then move escapes leaving the original object where it was. Or, as you posted, a modifier... problem is all the modifiers are already taken for the most part.
    – Scott
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 21:52
  • Users have a very hard time with modifiers that only work in a specific sequence. The Free Transform tool is a good example.. all the perspective and distort options have always been there if you use modifiers in a specific sequence. But user never found that... so they added that annoying pop up tool window and it's ONLY purpose is to allow user to NOT use the modifiers. They could, I guess, do the same thing for the Selection Tool.. have a popup for "lock as active" or something.
    – Scott
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 22:01

You may be able to use View > Outline (Command/Control-Y) to go into outline mode and find a section of the line and select. I often toggle it on and off to make fine selections.

  • I bet this has the same issue of the line or path being too narrow to start the dragging operation with the black arrow cursor, causing you to deselect the object... Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 20:51

Depending on what Tool you have selected at the time, that's what is supposed to happen. The black arrow selects an object as a whole, the white arrow selects just one point (or line between two points) at a time.

If you just want to be able to scroll your mouse around the active Illustrator project without it effecting the lines/curves you've created, lock off the objects in question in the Layers window. This will prevent any interaction with the object, of course.

  • I don’t think you understand the issue. It is not one of selecting, it is one of moving by dragging the selected item when it is very small or thin. Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 20:38

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