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I'm using Adobe Illustrator CC. How can I move a handle without pivoting it, so that I can change only the length of the handle, but not its angle?

I only found one way to do something similar, which is to drag the path between two anchors – but this moves the corresponding handles on both the anchors.

Is there a way to move (change the length of) just one handle without changing its angle?

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If you use the scale tool [S], it scales both handles proportionally, without an option to rotate them. Be careful not to move the focus (small cyan cross-hair circle) by clicking without dragging.

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  • You can also use [R] to rotate both handles without scaling them. – Matthew Sundberg May 19 '17 at 19:33
  • scale tool did exactly what I expected in CC 22.1. after using the 'a' tool to select the anchor, I pressed 's' and then was able to scale one side of a handle independently of the other without changing the angle – vinnyjames Nov 7 '18 at 18:17
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Illustrator does not provide anything beyond the Shift key. And what that really does is constrain the handle to 90° angles (or construction angles in the preferences) letting you lengthen it. If the handle is not at a 90° angle, there's nothing in Illustrator to allow you to retain the angle while lengthening it.

There are third parts plug ins which will shorten/lengthen Bezier handles without altering their length.

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  • Thanks, that's sad. Btw the Shift key constraints to 45° increments. The Constrain Angles setting in Preferences is not very useful (it seems odd, indeed). And the Construction Guides under Smart Guides is only helping with placement using smart guides, but doesn't do anything to Shift-move (which still snaps to 45° increments). – ADTC Dec 15 '13 at 3:48
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    astutegraphics.com/software/vectorscribe (CS4 or newer) and worker72a.com/pages/CS345.html (Mac pre-CS5) have plugins to do just what you want, but AI just doesn't have the ability inherently. – Scott Dec 15 '13 at 20:20
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Illustrator does not have any way of doing this directly implemented. However as @Scott mentioned there are third-party plugins that do implement this.

As a simple workaround when you want to change the length of just one Handle you can mark the current location of the handle relative to the anchor using either the line tool or two guides pulled out from the ruler.

For the workarounds ensure you have Smart Guides and Point Snapping enabled.

Line Method: Select the Line Tool and drag from the Handle you want to maintain to its associated Anchor. Then adjust the opposite Handle as you desire. When finished drag the first Handle back to its original position at the end of the Line you made earlier. With Point Snapping enabled the handle should snap to the Anchor at the end of the Line.

The advantage of this method is that if you need to move the Anchor as you make edits to the second Handle, you can easily move the Line with the Anchor and put the first Handle in the same spot relative to the Anchor after the move.

Guide Method: Drag a vertical or horizontal Guide out from the rulers at the edge of the screen and snap it to the Handle. Then re-select the Anchor so the Handle is again visible and drag a Guide out from the ruler perpendicular to the first, and snap it to the handle. After editing the other Handle, use the intersection of the two Guides to snap the first Handle back to its original position.

If you want to change the length of both handles, independent of each other or not, but maintain the same angle then use the Line Method. But after marking a Handle, deselect everything and click the Anchor while the Line Tool is still active. In the dialog that opens change the length of the Line but not the angle. Now when you drag the Handle it should snap to the Line and you can set the length of the Handle freely along that line.

In newer versions of Illustrator the Smart Guides have been augmented to include a "On Line" feature. Illustrator will snap an Anchor to an imaginary line with the same angle that extends that Anchor's associated Path segments.

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