What is the Direct Selection Tool in Illustrator?

Below, we've shared how the Direct Selection tool Illustrator comes with is perfect for editing individual paths, path segments, and anchor points. You can also use it to isolate paths or objects inside a larger group. 

Adjusting Selection Preferences
Before using selection tools or performing any edits on your current Illustrator project, it's a good idea to check your selection preferences, so you can see how sensitive they are. To access these settings, select "Edit" > "Preferences" > "Selection & Anchor Display" (on Mac, it's "Illustrator" > "Preferences" > "Selection & Anchor Display"). Here are the main options to consider:

  • Tolerance: Grows or shrinks the pixel area for anchor points. A higher tolerance value will make it easier to select an anchor point, but if you make it too high, you may select the wrong anchor point by mistake. 
  • Object Selection by Path Only: If this setting is enabled, you'll only be able to select an object by clicking directly on a path. If it's disabled, you can click anywhere inside the object to select it. 
  • Snap To Point: This setting helps facilitate connections between paths and anchor points. When you move a path within a specified distance from an anchor point, Illustrator will take over and connect it to the point. Here, you can specify the distance where the "snap" happens. 

Isolating Paths in a Group
First, open your Illustrator project and choose the Direct Selection tool (it looks like a white mouse pointer) from the Tools panel. Then, you can click directly on a path in your canvas, or you can select the path within the Layers panel. Finally, go to the Control panel and click the "Isolate Selected Object" icon (it looks like four arrows pointing at a rectangle).

Selecting and Deselecting Objects in a Group
With the Direct Selection tool, Illustrator allows you to isolate any single object or path, even if it's already part of a group. Just choose the Direct Selection tool from the Tools panel, click inside the desired object, or click and drag around part of the object's path. If you click inside the object and nothing is selected, go back to the Selection & Anchor Display settings (see "Adjusting Selection Preferences" above) and disable the "Object Selection by Path Only" option. 

With any selection tool enabled, click at least 2 pixels away from your currently selected objects to deselect them. 

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