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Creating custom guides

From: Up and Running with Illustrator

Video: Creating custom guides

In this exercise I am going to show you how to create custom guides in Illustrator. Guides are useful for positioning and aligning objects, because as you draw or move or transform an object, your cursor snaps into alignment with the guides. The guides don't print of course, so they serve as a kind of invisible infrastructure for your graphics. I've gone ahead and created a blank new document that measures 7 inches wide by 5 inches tall. Couple of ways you can create guides in Illustrator. One is to go up to the View menu, choose Rulers and then choose Show Rulers or press Ctrl+R Command+R on the Mac.

Creating custom guides

In this exercise I am going to show you how to create custom guides in Illustrator. Guides are useful for positioning and aligning objects, because as you draw or move or transform an object, your cursor snaps into alignment with the guides. The guides don't print of course, so they serve as a kind of invisible infrastructure for your graphics. I've gone ahead and created a blank new document that measures 7 inches wide by 5 inches tall. Couple of ways you can create guides in Illustrator. One is to go up to the View menu, choose Rulers and then choose Show Rulers or press Ctrl+R Command+R on the Mac.

And then drag a guide out from one of those rulers. If you drag from the horizontal ruler, then you create a horizontal guide. If you want to make the guide perpendicular to the ruler, then you press the Alt or Option key as you drag. If you press the Shift key as you drag, then you will align to the nearest tick mark in that perpendicular ruler, so a couple of different ways to work. I am just going to go ahead and drop this horizontal guide at any old position and now I will drag a vertical guide from the vertical ruler and drop it at any position as well.

Now let's say I want to identify the exact center of my artboard. I'll go ahead and marquee these two guides by dragging in an empty area of the illustration and anything that's enclosed in that rectangular marquee becomes selected, which includes the two guides in this case. If you're having problems selecting your guides, go up to the View menu, choose guides and then choose Lock Guides to turn that command off. In my case though the guides are already unlocked, so I'm good to go. Now I need to align these guides to the center of artboard by going up to this option in the Control panel, the one that says Align to Selection by default.

Click on it and choose Align to Artboard instead. Then notice these align options next-door here. I'll go ahead and click on Horizontal Align Center, and then I'll collect on Vertical Align Center and now I've exactly centered those guides. Now let's say I want to create a circular guideline that is something that you can do in Illustrator. In fact, you can convert anything that you can draw into a snappable guide. I will go ahead and click and hold on the Rectangle tool here in the toolbox to bring up this flyout menu, and then I will select the Ellipse tool, and now I'm going to go ahead and click at the intersection of these two guides, which brings up a dialog box and allows me to enter some specific settings for this ellipse.

I am going to make it a perfect circle by setting both the width and height values to 300 points and click OK. Unfortunately that aligns the top left corner of the bounding box that contains the circle to that click point. That's not really what I want, so I will try again. I will show a different technique here. I will press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac and I will press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac. Notice how the cursor is now showing me that I will create the shape from the center outward. So when I Alt+Click or Option+Click on that guide intersection, I get that same Ellipse dialog box.

Here's something else I want to show you. Notice if I go ahead and enter a different Width value, say 200 point. If I want to create a perfect circle, I just go ahead and click on the opposite value, Height in this case, and it goes ahead and grabs that Width value. Really what I want though is a circle with a 300 point diameter, so I will set Height to 300 point, click on Width to grab that same value and click OK and now I have created a perfect circle from the center out. To convert that circle to a snappable guideline, go up to the View menu, choose Guides and then choose this command, Make Guides, and we now have a circular guide to which our cursor will snap into alignment in the future.

Now I want to create an entire grid of guides, and in order to make that happen I am going to click and hold on the Line tool and select the Rectangular Grid tool from the flyout menu. Then I will go ahead and click in the far upper left corner of the graphic in order to create this Rectangular Grid creation dialog box right here. I will set the Width to the width of the entire artboard, which is 7 inches, so I will dial 7in; press the Tab key to convert it to points. Then for Height, I will dial in 5in, which is the height of the artboard, and press the Tab key in order to convert that value to 360 Points.

Now I just happen to know that I need 11 horizontal dividers, because I have tried this out in advance, and 13 vertical dividers, and that's it. Now I will go ahead and click OK in order to create the grid that you see here. Now you might not see a lot of purpose to drawing a grid such as this inside of Illustrator, but there's a lot of purpose to drawing that grid and then converting it to a guide. So with this series of line selected, I will go up to View menu, choose Guides and then choose Make Guides in order to convert those objects to guidelines.

And now, just to make sure I don't mess anything up, I will go back to the View menu, choose Guides again, and this time I will turn Lock Guides on. Objects will still snap into alignment with the guides, but I will no longer be able to modify them, so I won't accidentally drag them around. If later, of course, you decide you need to modify some of your guides, then just go ahead and turn that Lock Guides command back off, and that is how you create custom guidelines here inside Illustrator.

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Up and Running with Illustrator

26 video lessons · 20863 viewers

Deke McClelland
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