What is the Direct Selection Tool in Adobe Illustrator and How to Use It

The Direct Selection Tool is one of the many selection tools in Adobe Illustrator that allows you to edit anchor points and paths within a group or clipping mask.

I have been using Adobe Illustrator since 2012, I’d say that the Direct Selection Tool is one of the most useful tools in Adobe Illustrator. For example, the Direction Selection Tool has always been helpful when I create everything from a logo to a layout.  

In this article, you will learn what the Direct Selection tool is and how to use it in Adobe Illustrator.  

Key Takeaways

  • The Direct Selection Tool can be used to select individual anchor points or drag segments.
  • The Direct Selection tool can be used to refine and perfect lines through the anchor points and handles.
  • The keyboard shortcut for the Direct Selection Tool is A.

Before getting started, let me clear some doubts.

A lot of beginners are confused about the difference between the Selection Tool and Direct Selection Tool in Adobe Illustrator. Just in case you’re not 100% sure about it, here’s a quick explanation.

Select Tool vs Direct Selection Tool: What’s the difference

The Selection Tool (keyboard shortcut V) in Adobe Illustrator is used to select and transform entire objects or groups. The Direct Selection Tool (keyboard shortcut A) allows you to edit objects precisely by selecting and manipulating individual anchor points and paths.

How to Use the Direct Selection Tool in Adobe Illustrator

The simplest way it is used is to select individual anchor points. If you want to select multiple individual anchor points, hold down the Shift key while you continue to click on the rest of the anchor points with your cursor. 

Note: The screenshots from this tutorial are taken from Adobe Illustrator CC Windows version. Mac or other versions can look different.

When you select an object using the Direct Selection Tool, it will show its path and anchor points. This means you can move an anchor point, adjust the handles to make different curves, etc. 

Now that the anchor point is selected, click and drag around the anchor point to move it. Similarly, you can click and drag the handles to adjust those as well. 

You can also click and drag the line of an object with the Direction Selection Tool and the handles will follow along. Click directly on the line or path that you want to move and drag it where you would like it to go.

You can also use the Direction Selection Tool to move an image or object around within a clipping mask. Have the Direction Selection Tool selected (keyboard shortcut A) and then click and drag the image/object to where you want it to be.


Here are a few quick answers to some of the most commonly asked questions related to how to use the Direct Selection Tool in Adobe Illustrator.

How to select all in Adobe Illustrator? 

If you want to select all objects in the same layer, you can go to the Layers panel and click on the double circles icon, this will select everything on the layer. Or you can use the keyboard shortcut Command/Ctrl + A to select everything on the artboard. 

How to deselect in Adobe Illustrator?

You can simply click on an empty space on the artboard to remove selections. If you want to deselect part of a selection, hold the Shift key and click on the object you want to deselect. To deselect all, you can use the keyboard shortcut Shift + Command/Ctrl + A

What is the difference between the Lasso tool and the Direct Selection Tool?

The Lasso tool lets you draw a circle shape to select individual anchor points, but there’s no way to manipulate from there. The Direct Selection tool lets you click and choose which anchor points you want and then manipulate them and their handles.

Final Thoughts

As I am creating, I often toggle between the Selection tool, the Direction Selection Tool, and the Pen Tool. Those three tools will help you efficiently create new vector artwork. The Direction Selection Tool is a key player because it allows you to select and manipulate anchor points and handles to adjust lines, objects, images, and more.

Have you tried the Direct Selection Tool in Illustrator? What did you create with it and was it for fun or work? Let me know in the comments below.

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