I’ve always thought that the align icons in Illustrator are a good visual…BUT my students tell me otherwise. Designers get confused by the icons and how to know which align to choose, yet it’s such an essential tool for fashion flats.
One of my students made this brilliant comparison: “It’s like the paragraph alignment in Word!” WOW! What an observation, and not something I had thought of before. So, think about it like aligning a body of text. The next time align is not working, maybe you’re not using the right one or your objects are already aligned.
(Oh – and if you’d rather watch than read, here’s a video tutorial on how to align objects in Illustrator.)
NOTE: The black line in the graphics below (next to the buttons) is not being aligned with them, it is a visual to show where the buttons move with each alignment.
If you want to align right, think about what happens when you align text right – it pushes everything to the far right.
If you want to align center, think about what happens when you align text center – it aligns everything to the center.
If you want to align left, think about what happens when you align text left – it pushes everything to the far left.
Make sure each of your buttons (or whatever objects you’re aligning) is grouped (each button should be a grouped object, not all of the buttons grouped together) so they’re treated as one object. The align top, center and bottom icons work the same way, just rotated 90°. Sometimes the best way to learn how to use this feature correctly is to play around with it until you start to understand when and why you are getting certain results (and don’t get too frustrated)!