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How to use ellipse live shapes tool in Illustrator tutorial

live shape and ellipse tool

How to use the live shapes / ellipse tool in Adobe Illustrator tutorial. Illustrator has a new live shape circle / ellipse tool. The live ellipse and circle shape tool is found in Illustrator CC 2017 2015.

  1. Ellipse tool in Illustrator toolbar (live shape) - select that tool (it is beneath the rectangle tool)

  2. Draw ellipse / circle

  3. Go to the right side of the circle

  4. Select little dot on the right

  5. Open the circle / ellipse to create additional options for the live design

The live ellipse tool is a powerful interactive tool that can be found in the Illustrator toolbar. The live circle can be updated at any point. The live circle can also be turned into a pie slice design which is also interactive and live. The live tool can be turned into a regular circle and ellipse vector shape. You can use the tool to create all kinds of arc designs. You can use the live ellipse shapes with appearances. This tutorial shows many details about how to use the new tool in Illustrator, how to turn it into a regular path, how to change the artwork and how to set the size of the ellipse / circles.

Basic Live shapes / Ellipse tool in Illustrator

live shapes illustrator ellipse tool

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The new 'live shape' status was added to Illustrator in CC 2017 / 2015.1. It is in the same slot as the ellipse tool in previous versions but it is now 'live'. The live ellipse / circle shape has some new features added such as the creation of arcs etc. To use the tool, go to the toolbar (or toolbox) panel and select the tool which is normally found beneath the rectangle tool.

  1. Select the ellipse tool in the Illustrator toolbar

  2. Drag and create on the artboard

  3. Set the fill and stroke etc

  4. Go to the transform panel

  5. Set ellipse properties

I would suggest also going to the window menu and selecting the transform panel which has all the key properties

Circle and live shapes with the ellipse tool

live shape ellipses in Illustrator

The first thing to notice after selecting the live shape ellipse tool and dragging the ellipse is that as you hit a circle shape, two cross hairs will appear and disappear as the size of the shape changes - they will appear if the width and height are equal. If you hold down the shift key, you can create a circle but the smart guides will not appear. Once you have the shape, you can then manipulate it either via the bounding box etc or via the transform panel.

  1. select ellipse tool / live shape ellipse tool

  2. go to the artboard

  3. draw ellipse

  4. hold shift key down

  5. size circle

  6. release mouse

Changing the ellipse height and width etc

ellipse properties for live shape in Illustrator

There are a two sets of fields for the height and width as well as the ellipse height and width, they are not equal but they can be set to the same but only when the angle is not involved. As soon as you change the angle, the settings will be different. You can change the width etc via the up and down controls on the keyboard as well as just typing in the value or using the bounding box or the side points (to size proportionally use the left and right and use the top and bottom ones to squeeze or stretch up and down. You can change the angle (but if this is a circle then you won't see any difference). If you set the shear then it will break the live feature. You can re-position the path by using the selection tool but you can also use the center point of the path with the tool selected. You can also use the constrain buttons to size the width and height proportionally (either as a circle or as an ellipse)


  1. Window menu

  2. transform

  3. go to the transform panel

  4. go to the ellipse properties on transform

  5. set ellipse width etc

  6. set the ellipse angle etc

Expand the live shape

expand shape for ellipse live shape

You may or may not love the live feature as the tool does end up adding additional options that can sometimes get in the way of positioning the artwork (such as in the rectangle and the radius which always seems to flash up and block re-sizing the path). You can expand the live artwork by going to the object menu and shape and expand and you can then also re-convert it back again via the same menu. Once you have the normal path then you can use the sliced path (if the pie slice was used) in numerous ways such as creating all kinds of abstract backgrounds (see an example below). You can also create all kinds of other artwork using live effects such as the transform with the path (example below)


  1. select the ellipse

  2. go to the object menu

  3. shape and expand shape


To do the reverse, select an expanded live shape and go to the shape and 'convert to shape' command

Appearance panel and the live shape and ellipse tool

live ellipse and transform

You can add all kinds of transformations and other effects to the artwork. Select and create a slice using the slice range 0 to 5 say and then go to the effects menu and transform commands and set the preview to ON (it is not sticky) and set the number of copies to 20 or 30 and then set the angle and rotation center as well as the move setting. You can use that to create a very quick burst / zoom effect. The transform effect will appear in the appearance panel. You can then change the setting by double clicking on the transform line. The image on the left was generated using a very small path (still editable) along with a distort / transform added with a number of copies and combined with a live drop shadow. The entire artwork is still live and can be changed at any point. You can also add additional transforms such as only setting the number of copies and the scaling to create interesting radial artworks. The artwork is still editable so you can create thin or thicker slices interactively as well as via the transform panel. You can also use other effects as well such as blurs and distortions and zigzags

  1. ellipse tool in the Illustrator toolbar

  2. window menu and transform

  3. go to the transform panel

  4. create a circle using red as the fill (as right)

  5. set the pie start to 0 and pie end to 10

  6. effect menu and distort and transform

  7. transform command

  8. preview ON

  9. set copies 10

  10. set angle to 20

  11. set the center of transform to top left

  12. click OK


As the live shapes / ellipse is a live shape then you can alter the angle etc and the change will be reflected in the transform as well

Final thoughts

The live ellipse tool is a nice addition to Illustrator and one I hope to see extended to the other tools such as polar grid etc as well as perhaps adding a ring feature / donut perhaps. Of course, there is a live arc feature simply by adding a stroke and no fill to the ellipse (as well as adding width profiles etc)

Other Illustrator Tutorials

1. enhance spirals in Illustrator tutorial

Sources and references

pie slices on wikipedia