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 ready-to-use. 

Right, this tool is not shown in the toolbar by default if you’re using the basic toolbar, 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? 

If you’re using the advanced toolbar in Adobe Illustrator, you should see the Free Transform tool on your toolbar.

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

If you don’t see it for any reason, you can quickly set it up.

Free Transform Tool 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. 

How to Use the Transform Tools in Adobe Illustrator

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. 


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 by 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? 

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  • sab

    Thank you
    I wish you more success and happiness

    • June Escalada

      You’re welcome! Hope you find my tutorial helpful 🙂

  • Wyvanna

    Hi June,

    I am using Lisa Ai app on my iPad Pro for a creative art project. What I’m noticing is that the photos are pretty small pixel wise and the DPI is not 300 standards. So my question: Is it possible to increase the Pixel size as well as DPI generated from Lisa AI in the iPad Pro version of Adobe Illustrator? Let me know if you need further clarification.

    Thank you kindly for your assistance with this.

    Wyvanna 😊

    • June Escalada

      Hi Wyvanna,

      I have no experience with Lisa AI but I can take a look and see what I can do 🙂

  • KEN

    Hello June, thank you for this tutorial. I’m looking for the accompanying widget that comes with Free Transform that includes Perspective Distort and Free Distort. The free distort pop up menu doesn’t give you live updates which is really clunky. I’ve seen tutorials that show a widget (mini menu) where these two tools are right off the main toolbar menu. Have you seen or use those?


    • June Escalada

      Hi Ken,

      Yes, I’ve used all of the transform tools.
      What are you trying to resize?