Set Transformation Point and Reset Transformation Point in Flash CS3

When you right-click a symbol instance on the Stage in Flash, there are a couple new options that were added in CS3: “Set Transformation Point” and “Reset Transformation Point”. There’s not much out there about these features, as I understand they were added quietly late in the game. But they’re very useful nonetheless. The problem is it’s a bit tricky to figure out how these things are useful without knowing what the feature is or how it works – because (at least to me) it sounds like they do something when they actually do something a bit different (and once I found out what they did, it made a lot of sense). So lets run through this new feature.

  1. Drag an instance of a symbol to the Stage from the Library.
  2. Select the instance using the Free Transform tool.
  3. Drag the transformation (the white circle) to a new location on the instance.
  4. Right-click the instance and choose Set Transformation Point.
  5. Drag a new instance of that symbol to the Stage, and select it with the Free Transform tool.

As you can see, the Transformation pointof the second instance is exactly where you placed it in the first one. That’s essentially what this first option does, and it can be very handy if you’re using a bunch of instances in a FLA that need to rotate or otherwise transform from the same point – saves a lot of dragging/estimating.

As for Reset Transformation Point-

  1. Right-click the instance again, and choose Reset Transformation Point.
  2. Drag another instance onto the Stage, and select it with the Free Transform Tool.

Now the Transform point is back in the default central position for the new instances of this symbol. Alternatively, you can change the Transformation point location, and just choose Set Transformation Point again and it will save this new location for the instances.

This feature appears to work on a per-symbol basis. You can set the transformation point for all instances of a particular symbol for multiple symbols in the library. For example, you have Symbol 1 and Symbol 2 in the library. You can set the transformation point for an instance of Symbol 1, and all instances of that symbol will keep that transformation point location until you reset it or set a new location. You can independently set a transformation point for Symbol 2 and it is saved until you reset it on an instance of that symbol. And so on.

As an aside/note/whatever, remember that you can set the Transformation point to the Registrationpoint by double-clicking the white circle.

If you’re new to Flash and you’re wondering what the heck a Transformation point is – it is the point around which the symbol rotates or transforms, and looks like a white circle when you have the instance selected using the Free Transform tool. The best way you can illustrate this is by creating a new instance, and rotate it using the Free Transform tool (select the instance using the tool, and move the cursor around the edge until you see a little round arrow and then drag). Now change the location of the white circle and rotate the instance again. This also affects how the instance skews and resizes. The Transformation point has also been referred to as a “Control point” in Flash (some references in documentation are to the Control point), but it is different than the Registration point (the small black crosshair).

Author Jen deHaan

Jen deHaan is a freelance graphic and web designer, fascinated with great layout and usability. She has been working in the software industry since 2001, and has held positions with Macromedia, Adobe, and Motorola in the Silicon Valley area near San Francisco. Jen has written and contributed to over 20 print publications on web design that have been published by Peachpit, Adobe Press, and Wiley. She now lives on a farm with her family and dogs in central Vancouver Island, Canada.

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Join the discussion 13 Comments

  • Larry Lague says:

    Wow, you just saved me a lot of time! Plus, double-clicking the transformation point to set it to the registration point?? Amazing. Do you know if there is any way to do this in code? I would love to load a bitmap into a sprite and then set it’s transform point. I know I can load a bitmap into a sprite, then load that sprite into another sprite, and set the child’s coordinates, but I wish there was a simpler way?

  • Arka Roy says:

    Thanks, this helped!

  • Arka Roy says:

    Thanks, this helped!

    I’m a Flash n00b and have a lot of trouble with the matter of registration and transformation points.

  • Raziq says:

    What a unbelievable surprise ! I think I have just found the spitting image of me. I can believe…
    Larry Lague, please , could you send me your email or let me know if you would like to get my email…I’d like to have a closer look at your picture because it is too small in here….I don’t want to believe something that’s not correct.
    I keep looking at the picture, Ayeee…. I can’t imagine!
    (this is not a hoax)

  • Liste says:

    This did not help me at all !!!! I need the fucking cross thing to move, the one that y cordinates are set from. Why is this sp hard ?!?!?!?!

  • Liste says:

    *My cordinates, not y cordinates, sorry

  • Jen deHaan says:

    Hey Liste,

    Well, that’s a registration point not a transformation point. You can set where the registration point is when you create the symbol (that grid in the Convert to Symbol dialog).

    If you need to move your symbol’s content in relation to the registration point after you created it, go into symbol-edit mode and move the content around the registration point. That lets you “place” the registration point wherever you need it to be for the symbol.

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  • Jon says:

    Thanks for the great info. Any way to change the transformation point of a motion tween created with the motion editor? I’m not sure how the thing got moved but it’s attached itself to the lower right side of the MC and I can’t select it (in free transform mode). I just keep getting the skew tool coming up when I hover over the transformation point because of it’s location.

    I’ve reset the point for the MC I’m animating and dropped it back onto the stage. I then copied the motion from the animated clip with the incorrect TPoint. However the transformation point location seems to be copied with the motion, arghhh!

    Any ideas to save me from doing the animation again?

  • Jen deHaan says:

    @Jon: Do you have a file you can share with the steps you’re using? I haven’t seen the transform point inaccessible on a tween, except when 3D is involved (need to use the 3D tool transform point). I’d probably be bettter help to give you exact steps.

    That’s true about the transform being saved when re-applying a tween – you could reset the Transformation category in the Motion Editor in these kinds of cases (the blue arrow in the “Transformation” row).

  • Thank youuuuuu Jen deHaan!!!
    For years I fight with this and the more was my adjustments to this f***ing transformation point, the more my result was far from what I want to get.
    This simple and clear post was very useful. No more trouble with transformation point!!! Thank you again…

  • Lucas says:

    Very nice!

    Is there a way to change transformation point’s cordenates by code?

  • BlackMamba says:

    U wasted our time… this is so lame…

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