Why use Align?
You might consider yourself pretty good in manually aligning stuff in Illustrator or Photoshop. You might get really really frustrated whenever you struggle to manually align different objects by using the arrow keys and the Undo 50 times. Well, sad news, inspite of what your mother told you, the computer is better at aligning things.
Aligning is also an important principle that it’s used everywhere in graphic and information design. It helps in organizing and grouping things and lets us perceive the information in a easier and faster way.
Align to what?
First of all there are two big notions in the align tool: Align to Selection and Align to Artboard. So, in English you can either align the objects among themselves or align them to your drawing area. So for what we’re doing in the following parts just Align to Selection.
You can also open the align tool from Window -> Align (Shift + F7)
A few examples
Now, I’ll show you a few examples on using the Align options and the way they affect your perception of the page. As you have seen there is also distribute in there, but there’s a separate tutorial for that one here.
So this is our initial picture which should be the first part of a mobile version of a website. Now, you can just use three rectangles instead of these buttons.
Now, it might not be as bad when you manually try to arrange them, but I chose to really mess them up in order to clearly see the effect of the Align tool.
Option 1 – Horizontal Align Left
It’s pretty simple, just select of three shapes, and press the Align Left Symbol, placed here below. You’ll realize that everything is aligned to the leftmost shape and it makes sense as it is align to left.
Option 2 – Horizontal Align Center
The next option is to align all of them in the center. So again, select all three shapes click the Align Center and chek out the result.
I think you got the idea, as the same thing applies for the Horizontal Align Right. Let’s go to align bottom, top and middle.
Option 3 – Vertical Align Top / Bottom
Now you can also choose to align them vertically as top or bottom. The same principles applie here, so I’ll just show the Top one. Select all the shapes and click Vertical Align Top, which will align all shapes to the topmost one.
Now, the result might look weird and useless and it actually is, but it might be useful when you have three separate columns that need to be aligned on the top. The exact same thing applied for Vertical Align Bottom, aligning selected shapes to the most bottom placed one.
Option 4 – Vertical Align Center (Last One)
This time we will align them again, center based, but vertically. The result will look a bit weird again, but it will really demonstrate the way align works. Same steps, select all shapes and click Vertical Align Center.
As you see, align can be really useful in many different ways, just remember that the selected shapes are going to be aligned based on the most left/right/ top or bottom placed one, depending on which Align method you’re using.