In this series, I’m showing you how to use all the tools in the Transform panel. We’ve already covered the Align and Scale tabs. Today, we’ll learn about the 3rd tab — Rotate. You can rotate any image by selecting it and dragging the green rotation circle. But if you want to rotate it to a specific number of degrees, or even go back to no rotation, you do it in this tab.
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The first section in this tab is Rotate To. You’ll use this one to tell the software the exact number of degrees you want to turn the image to from its original horizontal (0°) angle. So, to turn it on its side you rotate it to 90°.
Unlike the tools in the Scale tab, with the tools in any part of this section you can’t keep clicking the same one for it to rotate again. That’s because you are defining a specific angle. If you want to turn it repeatedly by set amounts, you’ll use the lower section (which we’ll go over next).
As with most of the panels, there are several options for choosing the degree of rotation:
- Click on one of the pre-selected angles. The shape turns automatically. This is helpful because often we want to turn things to these 90° increments.
- Use the slider or arrow keys to rotate in 5° increments. The shape turns automatically with either one.
- Backspace out the current number and put in your own. You can go in increments as small as 1/10 of a degree. The shape changes either when you hit the ENTER key on your computer keyboard or click Apply.
There’s a really important reason to get to know this section. If you accidentally rotate a shape with that green circle at the top of the bounding box, you’ll want to know how to get it back to its original position. You do that by choosing 0° of rotation with any of the methods.
It’s also helpful to know the amount you’ve rotated any shape in case you want to rotate another shape by the same number of degrees. Just look in this section to figure it out.
Here, you can tell the software to turn the shape by an amount. There are again some standard pre-sets and those go both clockwise and counterclockwise.
Let’s look at how it’s different from Rotate To.
- When you use the slider key or arrows, it still goes in 5° increments but you have to click Apply to turn the shape.
- If you input your own number, you can either hit the ENTER key on your computer keyboard or click Apply.
- You can continue to click one of the presets or Apply again to keep rotating the shape by the same amount. This is a key difference.
- Notice that the slider is in the middle of the bar. That’s because you can use negative numbers to turn the shape counterclockwise.
When would you use this?
- Say you rotated a shape to 32.7° and want to turn it another 90°. You could add those 2 amounts and put that in Rotate To, but that’s too much work. Instead, just click the pre-set here.
- What if you did that, then realized what you really wanted was to turn it upside down from the 32.7°. You should have done 180° instead. You can click the 90° default again and the software will rotate the shape another 90°.
- Pretend you have a shape you want to rotate 1° at a time. You can put that in as your number, then keep clicking Apply until it’s in the right spot.
- You want to rotate your shape counterclockwise in 10° increments. All you do is put in -10° and keep clicking Apply. This is helpful when you want to put multiple shapes around a circle at a set spacing. Check out this post for how to do that with the movable center of rotation.
One little quirk
There is just one little thing that can be confusing if you don’t know a workaround. When you use the Rotate By section, then look back up at the Rotate To section, it’s going to initially show that the degree of rotation is 0. It’s not — it just doesn’t show up right away. Click off the shape and then back on it and you’ll see exactly how much your shape is rotated from its original. You might need to do this if, as suggested above, you want to rotate another shape by the same amount.
Rotating multiple shapes
Let’s say you have several shapes on your Design area and you want to rotate them all by the same amount. If you select them all at the same time and rotate them, they rotate as a set. In other words, each does not rotate on its own center but on the center of the set.
Here are 3 rectangles of varying sizes. I’ve turned on my center of rotation indicator so that you can see where the center of the set is.
If I rotate by 90° right now, here’s what I’ll get:
If, however, I select and rotate each shape individually by 90° I’d get this:
Each rectangle rotated around its own center rather than around the center of the set. You can still see that center of rotation on the smallest rectangle.
Which one you need to do depends on your particular design.
- To rotate them all to a set angle, do one, check the angle, select the next one, type that number in, and keep doing that for each shape.
- If you want to rotate them all by a set number of degrees, rotate one and click Apply. That number stays in the box, so you can then select the next one and apply it again. As long as you don’t close the panel, you can just keep clicking Apply. What do you do if you accidentally close the panel before you get them all rotated? Just select one that you have already done the rotation on, look at its angle in the Rotate To section, then you can input that number in the Rotate By section for the other shapes.
Isn’t that helpful information? I know it was a great day for me when I learned I didn’t have to try to guess if I’d rotated to exactly 90° on a shape — I could know for sure by using this panel. And I find it absolutely essential when I’ve rotated a shape accidentally and want to untwist it.
In Lesson 4 of this series, we’ll move on to the Move tab (see what I did there? LOL). I’ll show you how to move your shapes to a specific location on the page or by a set amount.
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