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Using rulers and guides

From: Illustrator CS5 Essential Training

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.

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.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS5 Essential Training
Illustrator CS5 Essential Training

126 video lessons · 82175 viewers

Mordy Golding
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 3m 35s
    1. Welcome
      1m 18s
    2. What is Illustrator CS5?
      1m 46s
    3. Using the exercise files
      31s
  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 5s
    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 28s
    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. 26m 2s
    1. Defining a perspective grid
      7m 48s
    2. Drawing artwork in perspective
      8m 46s
    3. Moving flat art onto the perspective grid
      9m 28s
  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
      55s
  21. 2m 18s
    1. Additional Illustrator learning resources
      1m 36s
    2. Goodbye
      42s

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