How to Resize Images in Illustrator

By Elizabeth Mott

When you create text and graphics in Adobe Illustrator, you can resize your artwork without making it look blurry or pixelated. That's because below the what-you-see-is-what-you-get level at which you draw and edit, Illustrator creates and manipulates your drawings and text using mathematical formulas that define where objects exist and how they appear. Illustrator offers six options you can use to scale any type of selection, giving you precise numeric or interactive control of resizing results.

Scale Dialog Box

The Scale tool includes a dialog box to enter scaling percentages. To access these options, press "S" to activate the tool and double-click its icon in the Tools panel. The Uniform section of the Scale dialog box resizes your selection proportionately. The Non-Uniform section separates the scaling percentages for width and height to support disproportionate operations. Activate the Preview check box to see the effects of any of these choices. To create a scaled duplicate of the artwork and leave the original unaltered, click the "Copy" button to complete the operation. You also can access the Scale dialog box from the "Object" menu's "Transform" submenu.

Scale Tool Interactivity

The Scale tool operates interactively when you drag a selected object or the artboard that surrounds it. With the Scale tool active, a cyan-colored reference point appears in the middle of a selection, showing you the origin of any scaling transformations you apply. Drag the reference point to another location on or outside the selection to change where a freehand scaling operation originates. Hold down the "Shift" key while you scale interactively to constrain the tool so it operates proportionately.

Free Transform Tool

The Free Transform tool combines the functions of the Scale, Rotate and Shear tools. To use it to scale an active selection, press "E" to switch to the tool and position your cursor on the artboard. When the cursor changes to an arc with arrowheads on each end, click and drag to use the Free Transform tool the same way you work with the Scale tool.

Selection Tool

By default, Adobe Illustrator displays a bounding box around any active selection. The box includes handles at each corner and at the midpoint of each side. Press "V" to activate the Selection Tool and position your cursor just outside the bounding box. When you see the arc with arrowheads on each end that signals scaling operations, click and drag to resize your artwork. If you don't see the bounding box when you use the Selection Tool, press "Shift-Ctrl-B" or open the "View" menu and choose "Show Bounding Box." Without the bounding box, the Selection tool doesn't include scaling options.

'Transform Each' Command

To transform each item in a multi-item selection individually, rather than scaling the selection as a whole, open the "Object" menu's "Transform" submenu and choose "Transform Each." The Transform Each dialog box gives you independent horizontal and vertical control of the scaling percentage you apply. Activate the "Random" check box to apply slightly different scaling percentages to individual objects within your selection without exceeding the percentages you enter.

Transform Panel

Enter a new width or height into the Transform panel to change the dimensions of an active selection. You also can use the Transform panel to scale using mathematical operations. Type an asterisk followed by a number after the existing measurement to multiply the dimension by the value you enter. Type a forward slash followed by a number to divide the measurement. Type a plus or minus sign followed by a numeric value to add or subtract a specific amount from the existing dimension. To create a scaled duplicate of the selection and leave the original artwork at its current size, press "Alt-Enter" to apply the change you make. To alter one dimension and change the other proportionately, press "Ctrl-Enter" when you scale, or activate the link icon next to the measurement fields. Press "Alt-Ctrl-Enter" to make a proportionately scaled duplicate of the original selection.

Scaling Strokes and Effects

The dialog boxes for Adobe Illustrator's Scale tool and Transform Each feature include a setting that scales strokes and effects along with text and graphics. For example, if you apply a 150-percent scaling factor to a path object with a 1-point stroke, the scaled result carries a 1.5-point stroke. You can set this option as a global preference in the General section of the application's preferences so it applies when you use tools and processes that don't offer it as a choice. If you turn off the feature in the Scale tool or Transform Each dialog box, you override the General preference. The impact of effect settings varies depending on the size of your artwork and the viewing percentage at which you examine your work.

Version Information

Information in this article applies to Adobe Illustrator CC 2014, Adobe Illustrator CC and Adobe Illustrator CS6. It may differ slightly or significantly with other versions or products.