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Is there a way to align an object to an anchor point without changing the shape of the object?

Let's say I wanted to align this triangle to a single anchor point on a complex shape like so:

enter image description here

I can align an anchor point, or multiple anchor points from the triangle to the anchor point on the complex shape like so, but this just stretches the anchor point:

enter image description here

But how would I align the triangle to this spot without changing it? Like so:

enter image description here

Or with just the edges of the object aligned, like so:

enter image description here

Is this possible?

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I think the reason your triangle is distorting is because you are grabbing it by the bounding box handle which will reshape your object.

This Alignment technique works with or without Smart Guides on-

  1. First off turn off the Bounding Box ( View> Hide Bounding Box)
  2. Go to View> Snap to Point and make sure it is checked
  3. Select the object you want to move with either the Selection Tool (Black Arrow) or alt/option select it with the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow) this will select the entire object.
  4. With the same selection tool grab the object from the anchor point you want to align with something and move it where desired. It will snap to another anchor point.

As far as the second part of your question- aligning an anchor point to an object's shape bounds- you will need to drag a guide from the rulers and manually align that to the object you want to align to. Then once again grab the object you want to move by the anchor point you want to align to and it will snap to the guide.

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  • Instead of turning bounds off you can just select the object and switch to direct selection tool then drag from point. The benefit here is that there is a hotkey to this. – joojaa Feb 2 at 5:40
  • Hmmm... very good point @Joojaa- I tend to use to Direct Selection Tool most of the time- and I like having the Bounding Box on for transform stuff- I just thought it was getting in the user's way in this particular instance. – Kyle Feb 2 at 6:43
  • It is, but turning it off can be done in 2 ways. By turning it off or by using a tool that never enables it in the first place. Same result. Other is less work. And only needs one button press and does not leave persistent changes. – joojaa Feb 2 at 6:46
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This has to be done manually. There's no automated method to align to any anchor point, only shape bounds.

Switch to Outline Mode, turn on Smart Guides, and manually align things.


Note you can align anchor point to anchor points if you select them with the Direct Selection Tool and you don't select all the anchors on a shape. But aligning anchors will change the shape pretty much all the time.

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  • Hmm...I can see it having to be done manually, but there's gotta be a better way. Smart guides are infuriating and accuracy is a problem. – Sam Sabin Feb 1 at 22:28
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    @SamSabin point snapping does not need smart guides. Anyway you are facing the fact that smart guides have too many options on for the work you do just go to prefs and rurn of the alignment guides. They are fantastic to layout work but once the snapping magnets increase it becomes unworkable to have them on. Snapping is never a i want it all thing you want some of them for certain things. – joojaa Feb 2 at 5:45
  • @joojaa Could you perhaps go into detail by what you mean by "manually" aligning? Perhaps it has to do with my settings, but whenever I try and align things manually I never end up getting things to align exactly. – Sam Sabin Feb 3 at 16:59
  • @SamSabin i never said manually. Just select the shape change to white arrow tool move cursor over the point you want to snap drag over other point untill pointer changes color. Done. But do make sure you dont have gridsnap or pixelsnap enabled (never enable pixelsnap for any reason) – joojaa Feb 3 at 17:42
  • @joojaa Hey sorry, I was trying to tag you and Scott but it won’t let me tag both. Scott said manually and I was referring to his answer, but hoping you could give insight as well – Sam Sabin Feb 3 at 17:53
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Very similar to Kyle's answer, but here's my method. Caveat: I may forget about settings and preferences that are default for me, and I'm using Ai CS6.

  1. Turn on Smart Guides: View > Smart Guides;
  2. Turn on Snap to Point: View > Snap to Point;
  3. Turn off the Bounding Box: View > Hide Bounding Box (all three these first options are switches; make sure you have them on the right setting);
  4. Use the Selection tool (V) and click on your triangle to select it and release your mouse button;
  5. Hover over the triangle's right anchor; your cursor should change shape and inlcude a little square dot below it; smart guides should display the word 'anchor';
  6. Click and hold to grab the entire object at that anchor and drag it towards the other shape;
  7. Drag the cursor to the bigger shape's anchor and hover over that anchor; your cursor should change to white rather than black;
  8. Release your mouse button.

To make things a bit easier, after step 6., you can press and hold Ctrl / Cmd to have Smart Guides display even more information when you are actually aligning the anchors. This is my preferred method, also because the snapping distance here is bigger: Illustrator is more likely to snap to the right point.

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