I think that the easiest way for me to ask this question is by illustrating it.

So, as a simplified example, say I wanted to create a watch vector:

I have created the hands (which is a group of thee objects - an ellipse and two rounded rectangles) and the frame (simply a stroked ellipse):

enter image description here

Now I want to center the two, but if I use the normal align functions, my hands will obviously not be put in the right place, because the center of the entire group will be used, not the center of the ellipse within the group:

hands and frame not centred correctly

So I'm wondering if there is a way of centring the group according to an object in that group. At the moment, the only method I can think of is using rulers and snapping, which is fine when the image is as simple as this, but much harder when working with a more complicated image.

I would be surprised if there was a way of doing this within illustrator, so I am also asking if there are any scripts which would allow me to do this.

Thanks, and please say if my question is not clear enough.

  • 1
    You can draw a box around what you consider to be center. IF you make that box bigger than any other elements in the group it now aligns to that. But there is a infinite way to align so the align tool can only handle a infinitesimally small amount of that.
    – joojaa
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 18:41
  • @joojaa thanks, that has worked perfectly. Could you perhaps post it as an answer so that I can mark the question as answered? Also, I do not quite understand what you mean about the infinite ways to align - is that simply a flaw with the align tool? or with the method that you've described to me?
    – Jubs
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 19:51
  • there are many ways to define the center of an object, there are many ways to align side by side.
    – joojaa
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 19:58

3 Answers 3


In addition to Joooja's answer, here are two other methods.

Smart guides method:
Just the fastest ever, if you have a simple artwork. Just select the center of the big circle use move it to center point of small one.

smart guides

Key object method, for more complicated artworks:

  1. Click the Direct-Selection tool, hold down Shift, and select the two anchor points you want to align: center of big circle then center of small circle. The key object is blue outlined
  2. In the Align panel or Control panel, select "Align on key object"
  3. Align... that's it



You can draw a box that is bigger than you object around what you consider to be the center. Add it to your group and align.

You can now define whatever you like as the center.

enter image description here

Image 1: The center of gravity of a star (COG) is not at the center of its bounding box. But by grouping it with a box that's bigger than a star at the centered COG allows you to align like you want


Sometimes you need to align the grouped object without moving the other one. Then the solution is using the guides (guidelines) and snapping the grouped object onto them: Create 2 guides intersecting in the centre of the big circle (frame)

Move the grouped object (hands) using the central anchor point onto the intersection of the guides

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