Quick Tip: How to Use the Transform Panel as a Calculator with Adobe Illustrator

Tutorial Details
• Difficulty: Basix
• Estimated Completion Time: 10 minutes

I bet that you’ve been working in Adobe Illustrator and had to use a calculator for mathematically aligning elements and designs. Forget that,
with this Quick Tip you will learn how to use the Transform Panel as a calculator. This is a handy tip if you need to scale, position or move objects and elements with precision.

Introduction

I’ve discovered this fantastic feature by mistake. As in many projects that I’ve worked on before, I was using the calculator to work out size increments and divide shapes. I’m certain you know what I’m talking about.

While I was working, I found that I was going to the calculator application but for some reason, I couldn’t switch between Adobe Illustrator and Calculator. So, I tried the operation inside the Transform panel in Illustrator. Do you know what? It worked. In this tutorial you will learn how to use the Transform Panel in Illustrator as a calculator to perform basic math operations.

Step 1

The Transform Panel is a panel that I use in all my projects. It’s a very powerful tool to control the exact size of the shapes that we want in Illustrator. You can use it to design elements for a website that has a pre-determined size. You can see the transform panel in the example below. You can access the Transform panel going to Windows > Transform or with the Shortcut Shift + F8.

Step 2

Let’s use this technique to change the scale of a rectangle. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and left-click (option + click for Mac) anywhere on your artboard. Then insert the values to create a 600 x 600 px square.

Let’s do some basic calculations with the Transform Panel. First we are going to expand our square 200 px wide. Insert +200 after the object width in the Transform Panel. Then hit Enter. As you can see, the new width of our rectangle is 800px. Easy, right?

Step 3

Let’s assume that a 800px wide Rectangle is too much and what we really need is a quarter of the total width of the rectangle. With our new method, we don’t need to go to any application, just type /4 in the Transform Panel after the width value and then hit Enter.

Done. Now we have a shape that is a quarter of the width of the previous rectangle. As you can see, Adobe Illustrator did a good job because eight hundred divided by four is two hundred, exactly the width of our rectangle after the math operation.

Conclusion

Now you can close your calculator application when working with Adobe Illustrator. I’ve been using this method for a while and it has always worked pretty well. I’ve been testing several operations and bellow there is a list of other simple math operations.

• Subtract. Example: -100
• Divide. Example: /2
• Multiply: Example: *5
• Add using different units. Example: px+2cm
• Subtract using different units. Example: px-1cm

Tags: BasixTips
• Nathan

Little confused isn’t 800 / 3 = 266.666666666667?

• Jordan

Lmao, yea I was thinking the same thing. Great tip, just needs a quick revision!

• Enrico Martelli

Yeah, but I think that there’s a rounding set to the original significant digits.

• http://vectorise.net/logo/ vectorism

worth to mention, need to disable the ‘Constrain Width & Height Proportions’

nice tips that not most users knew.. thanks

• http://creativeduck.blogspot.com Mikey

lol Maths Fail…

Good tip though!

• Stephen

Just tried this in CorelDraw, works too! I’ve actually been wondering if it could do this but never actually tried.

• Ralph

Great! I have been using the trick since I started my job. I’ve been more involved on the finishing touches on building constructions. By this way also, you’ll get the same accuracy when importing/exporting AI file to CAD.

Thanks for sharing this to the community.

• http://www.tristarwebdesign.co.uk/ Ben Clarke

Who would of thought it! Im guessing the maths fail is deffinetly down to the fact you have to have a rounded number when working with pixels. I wonder if this works, working in centimeters or millimeters i shall go forth and have a look! Thanks for tip none the less!

• http://pica-ae.deviantart.com pica-ae

I love using that technique! I think it actually also works with % :)

• http://www.nfxdesign.com Laurence

Wow I had no idea I could do this. AWESOME QUICK TIP!

• Paul

Killer!
Here’s one you missed:
%

just use something like +200% or *50% or -20% with or with out proportional constraint.

This is one of the things that has always pissed me off about Illustrator. Turns out it was just lurking in the shadows the whole time.

Thanks for shedding some light!

• polygraphics

Nice tip!! Very useful! Thanks for sharing..

Merry Christmas to all.

• chung dempsey

useful!

• tim

nice article