The subselect tool and grouping

The Subselection Tool    The subselect tool

The Subselection tool is used to adjust straight segments by changing the angle or length of the segment or to adjust curved segments by changing the slope or direction of the curve. Use it on objects drawn with the Pen tool or on objects drawn with most other tools.

  1. Draw a rectangle. Any color, stroke or no stroke.
  2. Select the Subselection tool and click on the outer edge of the rectangle.
  3. Anchor points will appear on each corner.
  4. Click and drag the anchor points.

Original object
Moving the Tangent handle

  1. Draw an Oval. Any color, stroke or no stroke.
  2. Select the Subselection tool and click on the outer edge of the circle.
  3. anchor points and tangent handles Anchor points and tangent handles appear. The anchor point is indicated by the red arrow and the tangent handles are circled in red.
  4. Click and drag the anchor points and/or tangent handles to change the curve.
    Tip: Shift-drag to constrain the adjustments to 45% increments.

Original oval
The original oval
drag the anchor point
Click & drag anchor point.
after the click and drag of anchor point
Adjusting the tangent handles
Click & drag tangent handle.
The final result
Final result 


Ungrouped objects will interact with each other which can cause some undesirable effects. They will take a "bite" out of the bottom object if the two objects are different colors, or if they are the same color and overlap, they will react as one object.

  • Draw one object - any shape is fine but use only Fill color; no Stroke/Line
  • Draw another object in the same color that intersects with the first one
  • Try to select one of the objects and watch what happens. The two objects are now one and you can not select one without the other.

NOTE: If your two objects are different colors, selecting one of them after they've been allowed to overlap and moving it will result in a "bite" taken out of the bottom one.
ungrouped objects intersecting Yikes!

As you can see, this could cause some major problems so Flash gives us a way to keep our objects looking the way we designed them so they don't merge together or eat each other up.

    Grouping objects is an easy process.
  • Create an object and then select it by using the Arrow tool to double click on it or draw a selection around it.
  • selection box rather than pattern Choose Modify/Group or press Ctrl+G.
    Notice how the object now has a selection box around the entire thing rather than the pattern selection? Now you could place other objects on this one and neither will be adversely affected.

Ungrouping is as simple as going Modify/Ungroup or pressing Ctrl+Shift+G (Ctrl+B also works) while your grouped object is selected.

Editing a Grouped Object
To edit a grouped object, you have a couple of choices… You can Ungroup it as mentioned above, or you can double click on it with the Arrow tool. This will cause the rest of your work area to "dim" and give you access to the object. You can then use the other tools to make your changes. You will see edit mode appear above the stage which indicates editing mode of the selected object. Once you've finished the editing, just double click with the Arrow tool on the dimmed section of the stage (off the object) and it will go back to it's grouped state. Or click on the Scene 1 link to the left as shown in the third image below.

a grouped object editing a grouped object The group tab

NOTE: When you know that an object in a movie will only be used once, such as a background or text (which naturally has grouped behavior), it's okay to leave that object as a grouped object rather than converting it to a symbol. 

Breaking up text...

While working with the Text Tool  you probably noticed the outline that surrounds text. As mentioned above, this outline indicates a "grouped" object. Flash automatically gives text grouped behavior. You also learned that you can break apart text into individual letters. Since the text in Flash is vector based, it can be broken apart and "ungrouped", then reshaped much the same as Fills and Lines. my ugly example This can be a really neat thing to do to the first letter in a paragraph to give it a unique look, or to change one letter throughout your text area.

In Flash MX, ungrouping text is a two part process. The first time you break apart text (select the text and choose Modify > Break Apart), it will break the letters into individual grouped letters. If you take it one more step and break apart the text a second time (choose Modify > Break Apart again), Flash will make the text editable so it can be reshaped.

Let's try it...
    Type some text
  1. Select the Text tool and type I LOVE FLASH (choose whatever font type, color, and size you want). Notice the blue outline around the text which indicates it is grouped.

    Break apart text
  2. From the Modify menu, choose Break Apart or Ctrl+B keys.

    Individual grouped letters
    Flash has broken the text into individual grouped letters.

    Break apart again
  3. Now choose Modify > Break Apart again (or Ctrl+B keys). Flash breaks the text into editable objects. Notice the dots that fill the text which indicate an editable object.

  4. Click on the stage one time to deselect the text.

    angle appears below the arrow
  5. With the Arrow tool, put the mouse near the bottom right corner of the letter I. Notice that an angle appears below the arrow.

  6. Hold down the left mouse button while dragging down. The I is reshaped.

    curve appears below the arrow
  7. Now move your mouse over to the O. Notice that a curved line appears below the arrow.

  8. Hold down the left mouse button while dragging down. The O is reshaped.

  9. Continue practicing reshaping the rest of the letters

  10. When finished editing, regroup the text by drawing a selection around the entire text with the Arrow tool.

    Draw selection around the text

    Group the text
  11. Choose Modify > Group or Ctrl+G. Notice the blue outline around the regrouped text.

    Notice blue outline around regrouped text


When you create an object it will be on the lowest level of the layer. Create another one and it is still on the same lowest level. This is why ungrouped objects will segment or mingle with each other depending on whether they are the same color or different colors. Grouping them creates sublayers on the layer. You can arrange or stack these groups/sublayers by using the Arrange menu. Find it by going Modify/Arrange.

arrange the grouped objects

It's not always necessary to stack objects. If they don't overlap/interact with each other then the stacking order isn't important. But let's say you draw a series of objects that you will use to create a complex object like a face. You will want the face shape itself to be on the bottom with the facial features stacked above otherwise they would be hidden by the face shape.

NOTE: This same effect could be obtained by using layers but it's really best to use a single layer as often as you can so that your movie doesn't end up being impossible to maneuver through.