Learning how to group and expand objects in Illustrator allows you to remove backgrounds from images, add color and effects to objects and so much more.
Grouping in Illustrator allows you to work on separate images like they are one (group them). If you are working on separate objects and want to move or work on them as one, then you can group them. Expanding allows you to break an object or objects up into separate pieces so that you can work on them separately.
How to Group and Expand Objects in Illustrator
Grouping and expanding objects in Illustrator is an important tool for creating graphics. This article will show you how to use both grouping and expanding in Illustrator.
Grouping and ungrouping objects in Illustrator
Grouping is important in Illustrator because it allows you to group objects that you want to keep together. You can group parts of things you are working on if you want to apply the same color or make them the same size or even move them. When you have separate objects, they will have separate transfer boxes around them and can be individually resized and moved.
To group objects in Illustrator select the objects to be grouped then go to the top menu and click Object then Group or press Ctrl + G.
You can also group objects by selecting them then right-clicking and choosing Group from the menu. This will only work on objects and not text unless you first convert the text to Outline.
When you group objects, they are stacked in order of how they were placed on the layer. That means they will be in the order of succession. This means the first objects placed will be behind the one that comes after and so on. In the image above, the letters were written the order they appear, you will notice that the letters that follow are on top. The last letter is above the letters that are before it.
If you select objects in different layers and then group them, the objects are grouped in the layer of the topmost selected object. Therefore, grouping may change the layering of objects, and their stacking order on a given layer. Groups appear as Group items in the Layers panel. You can use the Layers panel to move items in and out of groups.
Groups can also be nested, that is, they can be grouped within other objects or groups to form larger groups.
There may be cases where you want to ungroup objects. You may also use ungroup in cases where you expanded an object, and you want to be able to select each part separately.
To ungroup the objects, select then go to the top menu and press Object then Ungroup or select the object, right click then select Ungroup. Remember that when an object is expanded it starts acting like multiple objects.
Expanding objects in Illustrator
When you choose to expand an object, you turn its attributes into selectable objects. For example, if you expand a simple square that has a solid-color fill and a stroke, the fill and the stroke will become directly selectable and editable.
This is the object with the fill and stroke before it is expanded.
To expand the object, select the object then go to the top menu bar and select Object then Expand.
The Expand window will appear click Ok.
This is the object when it is expanded, you will see that the transform box appears around the color fill and the stroke.
You can move the fill color and the stroke separately by right-clicking on the object and then clicking Ungroup. You can see the color fill and the stroke is now two separate objects.
If you have appearance attributes applied to the object, the Expand option may be grayed out. In this case, you will have to first do Object then Expand appearance after that you then select Object then Expand.
Below are the different things that the Expand object options will do.
- Object: Expands complex objects, including live blends, envelopes, symbol sets, and flares.
- Fill: Expands fills.
- Stroke: Expands strokes.
- Gradient Mesh: Expands gradients to a single mesh object.
- Specify: Sets the tolerance for color values between color stops. Higher numbers help maintain a smooth color transition. Low numbers can create a more banded appearance.
If you hold Alt while you press Object and then Expand on an object with a gradient, Illustrator will expand the gradient using the last settings in the Expand option. If you had done Object then Expand on the object with the gradient, it would show the Expand menu. Holding Alt while you press Object then Expand will skip the Expand menu window and just use the last settings.
Object with gradient before expanding
This is the object with the gradient expanded notice the lines in the gradient are more distinct.
Why is an object not expanding in Illustrator?
An object may not expand if it is a compound path and not a single stroke. You can fix this by selecting the path or group of paths then going to Object then Compound path then release or press Alt+Shift+Ctrl+8. You can then right-click and ungroup so that each part is separate and can be manipulated separately.
How can multiple objects be resized at once in Illustrator?
You can resize multiple objects in Illustrator by selecting them then right-clicking and choosing group. You can then drag any handle to resize, and all will be resized at once. You can also resize multiple images by selecting them then going to Object then Transform then Scale. The Scale option will appear, choose a percent for Uniform or scale percent horizontally or vertically then press OK.