Start your free trial now, and begin learning software, business and creative skills—anytime, anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts.

Start Your Free Trial Now

Using rulers and guides


Illustrator CS5 Essential Training

with Mordy Golding

Video: Using rulers and guides

One of the most important attributes of vector graphics is precision. In other words, your ability to create artwork to a very specific size or position, to have artwork lineup with each other perfectly, or to create things in scale. For example, the layout of a room or architectural drawings. Illustrator has many tools and functions to help us create perfect graphics, but at the very core of that are rulers and guides. As you can see in my document right now, I have rulers visible. They appear across the top and left of my screen and you can toggle these rulers on and off by pressing Command+ R on Mac or Ctrl+R on Windows.
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 3m 35s
    1. Welcome
      1m 18s
    2. What is Illustrator CS5?
      1m 46s
    3. Using the exercise files
  2. 12m 37s
    1. What are vector graphics?
      6m 3s
    2. Path and appearance
      3m 42s
    3. Stacking
      2m 52s
  3. 32m 6s
    1. The Welcome screen
      2m 23s
    2. Creating files for print
      6m 7s
    3. Creating files for the screen
      2m 55s
    4. Using prebuilt templates
      2m 40s
    5. Adding XMP metadata
      4m 18s
    6. Exploring the panels
      6m 33s
    7. Using the Control panel
      3m 11s
    8. Using workspaces
      3m 59s
  4. 43m 44s
    1. Navigating within a document
      9m 15s
    2. Using rulers and guides
      7m 26s
    3. Using grids
      3m 6s
    4. Using the bounding box
      3m 37s
    5. Using Smart Guides
      5m 56s
    6. The Hide Edges command
      3m 22s
    7. Various preview modes
      3m 47s
    8. Creating custom views
      4m 3s
    9. Locking and hiding artwork
      3m 12s
  5. 28m 46s
    1. Using the basic selection tools
      8m 50s
    2. Using the Magic Wand tool
      5m 22s
    3. Using the Lasso tool
      2m 28s
    4. Selecting objects by attribute or type
      3m 37s
    5. Saving and reusing selections
      2m 15s
    6. Selecting artwork beneath other objects
      2m 13s
    7. Exploring selection preferences
      4m 1s
  6. 1h 16m
    1. The importance of modifier keys
      1m 52s
    2. Drawing closed path primitives
      11m 38s
    3. Drawing open path primitives
      5m 47s
    4. Understanding anchor points
      3m 43s
    5. Drawing straight paths with the Pen tool
      7m 37s
    6. Drawing curved paths with the Pen tool
      9m 47s
    7. Drawing freeform paths with the Pencil tool
      5m 33s
    8. Smoothing and erasing paths
      3m 8s
    9. Editing anchor points
      7m 21s
    10. Joining and averaging paths
      10m 9s
    11. Simplifying paths
      4m 55s
    12. Using Offset Path
      2m 17s
    13. Cleaning up errant paths
      2m 32s
  7. 48m 26s
    1. The Draw Inside and Draw Behind modes
      7m 34s
    2. Creating compound paths
      5m 56s
    3. Creating compound shapes
      8m 0s
    4. Using the Shape Builder tool
      10m 28s
    5. Using Pathfinder functions
      8m 6s
    6. Splitting an object into a grid
      1m 16s
    7. Using the Blob Brush and Eraser tools
      7m 6s
  8. 49m 1s
    1. Creating point text
      4m 2s
    2. Creating area text
      8m 13s
    3. Applying basic character settings
      7m 44s
    4. Applying basic paragraph settings
      4m 24s
    5. Creating text threads
      8m 25s
    6. Setting text along an open path
      6m 29s
    7. Setting text along a closed path
      6m 24s
    8. Converting text into paths
      3m 20s
  9. 18m 55s
    1. Create a logo mark
      11m 26s
    2. Add type to your logo
      7m 29s
  10. 42m 42s
    1. Using the Appearance panel
      8m 21s
    2. Targeting object attributes
      4m 42s
    3. Adding multiple attributes
      4m 25s
    4. Applying Live Effects
      5m 18s
    5. Expanding appearances
      4m 42s
    6. Appearance panel settings
      4m 33s
    7. Copying appearances
      4m 51s
    8. Saving appearances as graphic styles
      5m 50s
  11. 34m 0s
    1. Applying color to artwork
      5m 57s
    2. Creating process and global process swatches
      8m 54s
    3. Creating spot color swatches
      3m 19s
    4. Loading PANTONE and other custom color libraries
      4m 49s
    5. Organizing colors with Swatch Groups
      3m 31s
    6. Finding color suggestions with the Color Guide panel
      4m 24s
    7. Loading the Color Guide with user-defined colors
      3m 6s
  12. 50m 23s
    1. Creating gradients with the Gradient panel
      8m 12s
    2. Modifying gradients with the Gradient Annotator
      4m 37s
    3. Applying and manipulating pattern fills
      5m 33s
    4. Defining your own custom pattern fills
      9m 13s
    5. Applying basic stroke settings
      5m 22s
    6. Creating strokes with dashed lines
      3m 41s
    7. Adding arrowheads to strokes
      2m 45s
    8. Creating variable-width strokes
      4m 35s
    9. Working with width profiles
      2m 36s
    10. Turning strokes into filled paths
      3m 49s
  13. 32m 46s
    1. Creating and editing groups
      8m 18s
    2. Adding attributes to groups
      12m 17s
    3. The importance of using layers
      5m 9s
    4. Using and "reading" the Layers panel
      7m 2s
  14. 12m 13s
    1. Creating and using multiple artboards
      7m 52s
    2. Modifying artboards with the Artboards panel
      2m 2s
    3. Copy and paste options with Artboards
      2m 19s
  15. 31m 10s
    1. Moving and copying artwork
      3m 55s
    2. Scaling or resizing artwork
      6m 47s
    3. Rotating artwork
      2m 44s
    4. Reflecting and skewing artwork
      2m 34s
    5. Using the Free Transform tool
      2m 15s
    6. Repeating transformations
      3m 39s
    7. Performing individual transforms across multiple objects
      2m 10s
    8. Aligning objects and groups precisely
      4m 27s
    9. Distributing objects and spaces between objects
      2m 39s
  16. 35m 40s
    1. Placing pixel-based content into Illustrator
      5m 14s
    2. Managing images with the Links panel
      4m 49s
    3. Converting pixels to paths with Live Trace
      8m 44s
    4. Making Live Trace adjustments
      6m 9s
    5. Controlling colors in Live Trace
      6m 4s
    6. Using Photoshop and Live Trace together
      4m 40s
  17. 14m 42s
    1. Managing repeating artwork with symbols
      4m 38s
    2. Modifying and replacing symbol instances
      3m 8s
    3. Using the Symbol Sprayer tool
      6m 56s
  18. 16m 57s
    1. Cropping photographs
      1m 59s
    2. Clipping artwork with masks
      3m 22s
    3. Clipping the contents of a layer
      3m 31s
    4. Defining masks with soft edges
      8m 5s
  19. 25m 52s
    1. Defining a perspective grid
      7m 48s
    2. Drawing artwork in perspective
      8m 46s
    3. Moving flat art onto the perspective grid
      9m 18s
  20. 25m 8s
    1. Printing your Illustrator document
      3m 26s
    2. Saving your Illustrator document
      6m 39s
    3. Creating PDF files for clients and printers
      7m 30s
    4. Exporting Illustrator files for use in Microsoft Office
      1m 4s
    5. Exporting Illustrator files for use in Photoshop
      2m 31s
    6. Exporting artwork for use on the web
      3m 3s
    7. Exporting high-resolution raster files
  21. 2m 18s
    1. Additional Illustrator learning resources
      1m 36s
    2. Goodbye

please wait ...
Watch the Online Video Course Illustrator CS5 Essential Training
10h 37m Beginner Apr 30, 2010

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In Illustrator CS5 Essential Training, author Mordy Golding explains the core concepts and techniques that apply to any workflow in Illustrator, whether designing for print, the web, or assets for other applications. This course includes a detailed explanation of the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of the Illustrator drawing tools. Also demonstrated are techniques for combining and cleaning up paths, organizing paths into groups and layers, text editing, working with color, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Setting up a new document based on the output destination
  • Using rules, guides, and grids
  • Making detailed selections
  • Drawing and editing paths with the Pen and Pencil tools
  • Creating compound vector shapes
  • Understanding the difference between point and area text
  • Applying live effects
  • Creating color swatches
  • Transforming artwork with Rotation, Scale, and Transform effects
  • Placing images
  • Working with masks
  • Printing, saving, and exporting artwork
Mordy Golding

Using rulers and guides

One of the most important attributes of vector graphics is precision. In other words, your ability to create artwork to a very specific size or position, to have artwork lineup with each other perfectly, or to create things in scale. For example, the layout of a room or architectural drawings. Illustrator has many tools and functions to help us create perfect graphics, but at the very core of that are rulers and guides. As you can see in my document right now, I have rulers visible. They appear across the top and left of my screen and you can toggle these rulers on and off by pressing Command+ R on Mac or Ctrl+R on Windows.

The rulers in this document are currently set to use inches, but we can really change them to use different measurement systems. You can find that setting inside of your Preferences panel. I will press Command+K or Ctrl+K on Windows to open up my Preferences dialog box and from the popup here I'll switch to Units. The General setting could be set to Inches, Picas, Points, Millimeter, Centimeters or Pixels. But it's important to realize that the setting here is simply the basic generic setting of how measurements are displayed inside of Illustrator. But you can really specify values in any way that you want later on.

For example, even if I am using Inches now, I could type in a value of 3p4, which stands for 3 Picas and 4 Points, and Illustrator will automatically convert that to inches as necessary. But for this document, I am going to set it to Inches and click OK. If you want to change just the rulers itself, you can actually right-click on the ruler and change the settings for that ruler right here as well. But let's take a moment here to focus on the actual rulers inside of the document page. I am going to zoom in just a little bit here and I am actually going to go to reposition this artwork so it comes kind of on the upper left-hand corner of my screen, so that you can see that right now the upper left-hand corner of my page is where my rulers begin from.

That's where the 0 point of my ruler appears. Wherever the X and Y axis or the 00 point of my ruler meets, we refer to that in Illustrator as my origin point for that artboard. This is actually important and new to Illustrator CS5 because in previous versions, the origin point of an artboard was always in the lower left-hand corner. Now in CS5 Adobe moved to 00 point to be in the upper left-hand corner which really matches other applications, for example, like InDesign. But you'll notice right now that my ruler starts at 0 and just keeps going.

Well right now, this is my active artboard. So Illustrator shows me the rulers for this artboard. Another thing that's new to Illustrator CS5 is that each artboard maintains its own ruler system. Or you can say every artboard has its own origin point. Take a look at this. When I go ahead now and I move to this artboard and I click on any piece of artwork on this artboard, which will now turn this artboard into the active artboard, my ruler now resets itself to 0 at this point. This is valuable because every single object that you create inside of Illustrator is positioned precisely by coordinates.

You can view these coordinates by opening up your Transform panel. I will go to the Window menu and I'll choose to open up Transform and you can see that right now this piece of art has coordinates of X and Y at these values. This little icon here called the reference point proxy allows you to specify which part of the object is identified by those X, Y coordinates. Right now because the upper left-hand corner of this proxy selected, I am seeing the coordinate values of this part of my graphic. If I move back to this artboard though and I click on this flower right here, the coordinates that are represented here are specific to this artboard.

While 99% of the time you will probably want rulers to work in this way where each artboard gets its own ruler system, there may be times when you want to have one overall ruler for your entire canvas even if there are multiple artboards inside of it. If that's the case you will go to the View menu down to where it says rulers and you'll choose this option here, Change to Global Rulers. Let me close the Transform panel here for a moment and let's focus on another aspect of working with precision inside of Illustrator. And that's guides. Guides work together with rulers to help you position artwork precisely on your page.

To create a guide you would simply move your cursor into the ruler itself, click and then drag to pull out that guide. I have my mouse button held down and I'll continue to hold it down until I am ready to position my guide in place. If you hold down the Shift key while you are dragging out the guide, it will snap the tick marks in your ruler. At my current view each tick mark in my ruler represents an eighth of an inch. Once I release my mouse, I have now created a guide inside of Illustrator. Even after you have created a guide, you are still able to select it and move it and you do have the ability to lock your guides if you don't want that to happen.

The easiest way to adjust that setting is to simply right-click anywhere on your artboard and you will see an option here for Lock Guides. By selecting that right now I can actually work with this guide and not worry about selecting it and removing it. It is currently locked. If I want to adjust or move the guide, I can right-click, uncheck that option, and now I can select that guide and move it around. Guides are kind of like magnets and as you have other objects selected-- We'll talk more about selections itself in the next chapter. But here if I take this piece of artwork and I start to move it, I can feel that it will actually snap to that guide.

In this way I am assured that I am lining objects up exactly to those areas. You can create horizontal guides by pulling out a guide from the horizontal ruler. What I find extremely helpful inside of Illustrator is that if you have any artwork selected, for example, I will select this piece of art right here, guides will actually snap to the artwork when you are drawing it. So if I wanted to create a guide right here along the edge of this graphic, I can click over here, drag, and as my guide touched that that object, it will snap to it automatically. Perhaps one of the most powerful things about guides inside of Illustrator and really what makes guide so unique inside of Illustrator is that a guide is really just a special type of an object.

In other words, you can draw any artwork inside of Illustrator and turn it into a guide. Say you had to create some artwork that had to fit into an area of a specific dimension. Rather than struggle with getting your ruler setup and your guides drawn just in the right place, you could draw a shape to exact specifications. For example, I will select my Rectangle tool and I will click once on my artboard. I will type in an exact width, maybe 3.5 inches, and the height should be 2 inches, the size of a business card, and I'll click OK. Now that I have the shape created I can go to the View menu, go down to where it says Guides, and then turn this setting on called Make Guides.

What I've now done is I have changed that shape into a guide. If my guides are actually locked you'll see that I can't select it, but other pieces of art that I actually click on and move will snap to that guide. Guides don't even need to be rectangular. You could take any shape. For example, I'll use my Ellipse tool to just click and drag to draw a circle and I will press the keyboard shortcut Command+5 or Ctrl+5 on Windows to now turn that into a guide. If your guides are unlocked and I will right-click here to unlock my guides, you have the ability to select any of these guides and then go back to the View menu, choose Guides, and choose to release that guide to return it back to a regular shape inside of Illustrator.

If I can pass on some helpful advice, don't worry so much about getting all your guides set up inside of your document before you start drawing. It is perfectly okay to just jump in and start creating and then worry about the precision later. It is easy to add guides at anytime or to change any of the settings inside of your rulers and more likely than not, you'll end up changing things anyway. So jump in, have fun, and everything else will fall right in the place.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Illustrator CS5 Essential Training .

Expand all | Collapse all
please wait ...
Q: Despite clicking the rectangle icon on the toolbar, as shown in the video, the other tool shapes are not accessible in Illustrator. The rectangle is usable, but the star, ellipse, etc. are not, and do not appear anywhere in the toolbar. What is causing this problem?
A: These tools are grouped together, so to access them, click and hold the mouse for a second until the other tools appear. If that isn't happening, reset the Illustrator preferences file. To do so, quit Illustrator and then relaunch the application while pressing and holding the Ctrl+Alt+Shift keys. Once the Illustrator splash screen appears, release the keys and that will reset the preferences file.
Q: In the video “What are vector graphics,” the author states that if he creates a 1 inch x 1 inch Photoshop file at 300ppi image, there are 300 pixels in that image. Is that correct?
A: This statement is by the author was not totally correct. If the resolution is 300ppi, it means that there are 300 pixels across one inch, both vertically and horizontally. That would mean you'd have 90,000 pixels in a 1 inch x 1 inch image at 300 ppi.
Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.

Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

Join now Already a member? Log in

* Estimated file size

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.

Mark all as unwatched Cancel


You have completed Illustrator CS5 Essential Training.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.


Upgrade to View Courses Offline


With our new Desktop App, Annual Premium Members can download courses for Internet-free viewing.

Upgrade Now

After upgrading, download Desktop App Here.

Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member ?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Start your FREE 10-day trial

Begin learning software, business, and creative skills—anytime,
anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts. provides
Unlimited access to over 4,000 courses—more than 100,000 video tutorials
Expert-led instruction
On-the-go learning. Watch from your computer, tablet, or mobile device. Switch back and forth as you choose.
Start Your FREE Trial Now

A trusted source for knowledge.


We provide training to more than 4 million people, and our members tell us that helps them stay ahead of software updates, pick up brand-new skills, switch careers, land promotions, and explore new hobbies. What can we help you do?

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.