Where is the Free Transform Tool in Adobe Illustrator

The Free Transform tool allows you to manipulate objects and images. For example, you can distort, rotate, reflect, shear, or resize artwork using the Free Transform tool. 

I use it quite often to transform some existing graphics when I’m lazy to design my own from scratch but still want to give the stock vector a bit of personality. It’s a convenient tool to have it ready-to-use. 

Right, this tool is not shown in the toolbar by default, that’s why many of you are wondering where it is hiding. Depending on which Adobe Illustrator version you have, the user interface can look slightly different and there are several ways to find it. 

Want to know where it is and how to set it up? I got you.  

Where is the Free Transform Tool in Illustrator? 

Note: Screenshots are taken from the Illustrator CC Mac version. The Windows version may look slightly different. 

You can transform your object in several ways. If you simply want to scale or rotate, the basic Selection Tool (V) should work just fine. If you need to do more transformations to your object, then you’ll probably want to check out other options. 

The first step is to select the object you want to transform and then from the overhead menu, you have two options. 

If you are transforming text, don’t forget to outline text first.

1.  Object > Transform 

Choose how you’d like to transform your object: Move, Rotate, Reflect, Shear, or Scale. Once you click on any of these options, a popup window will show and you can enter the specifics of the settings. 

2. Effect > Distort & Transform > Free Distort 

Yes, Free Distort allows you to transform your object freely. When you click, a pop-up box will show.

Click on the bounding box corner anchor points to transform and hit OK

Another way to transform artwork is using the Transform panel. When you click on an object, the Transform panel should automatically show in Properties

Now, if you want to stick to the proper Free Transform tool, you have it set up in your toolbar. 

Quick Set-Up 

Want to have the Free Transform tool ready to use in your toolbar? Easy. Go ahead click the hidden Edit Toolbar at the bottom of the toolbar, find the Free Transform tool under the Modify option, and then drag it to the toolbar where you want it to be. 

Ready to use! Have fun with it. 


Still curious? See what other designers also asked about the Free Transform tool.

Why is the Free transform tool not showing in Illustrator? 

The Free Transform tool is not a default tool that you will find in the toolbar, but you can have access or set it up quickly. If you see the tool greyed out, that’s because your object is not selected. Click on the object you need to transform, and the tool will show available to use again. 

What’s the shortcut key to activate the Free Transform tool? 

With your object selected, you can hit keyboard shortcut E in Illustrator to use the Free Transform tool. The popup tool window will show you these options: Constrain, Free Transform, Perspective Distort, and Free Distort.

How to remove the Free Transform tool from the toolbar? 

Want to organize space in your toolbar for other more often used tools? You can remove the tool from the toolbar by dragging it back to the Edit Toolbar panel.  

Yay! You Found it! 

I would say the easiest way to find the Free Transform tool is using a keyboard shortcut. But if you want to distort the object, the Free Distort option is quite handy as well. 

Except for the scaling and rotating job that the bounding box and Selection tool can do, you’d need to use the Free Transform tool to manipulate artwork in other ways. 

What are you going to transform? 

About June Escalada
Graduated from Creative Advertising major, worked more than eight years as a graphic designer focusing in branding and Illustration. Yes, Adobe Illustrator is my best friend and I’m passionate about art and design.

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