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How to Work with Adobe Illustrator Rulers & Guides

Learn how to work with Adobe Illustrator rulers and guides from expert Will "Focus" Dubois in this Howcast video.


This is how you work with rulers and guides in Adobe Illustrator. So, a lot of times, the human eye doesn't exactly do us justice. So we'll look at things, and they may not be exactly aligned how we want them, they may not be in the proper location. So what we want to do is, on a Mac you can either hit Command-R or on a Windows computer, Control-R, and you can bring up your ruler. And you'll notice when you do that - I'll turn it off and on. To turn it off and on, you simply hit the same key buttons, so Command-R or Control-R.

And you'll notice that it toggles it off and on. And a ruler is exactly what you think. There's nothing fancy behind it but it essentially matches up different points on your window so that you can measure things out appropriately. So, right now this is set to points. One of the things you can do is if you wanted to change this to let's say, a different type of measurement: picas, inches, millimeters, centimeters, pixels, whatever's more convenient for you. You can right-click in the very upper right corner, or control-click, and this will bring down the option for selecting the measurement type. So let's go with inches. You'll note that this is an 8 1/2.

You'll notice this. It starts 0 at the left corner, 0 at the top, and if you go across you'll notice that it's 8 1/2. And if we scroll down here to the bottom, you'll notice that it's 11-inches. Now, you might say, okay that's great but how in the world am I actually going to see this measurement, if I have artwork here I'm not going to go up to the top all the way over to the right. So, what you can do is you can actually click on the ruler area. You can drag this down and it will place a guide on your board. So let's say we wanted a guide at 2-inches. Go to the 2-inch mark. Drag that down. And let's say we wanted one over at 4-inches. Go to the 4-inch mark and drag it out. And this center point is right where your 2x4 is. So now you know, if you had a shape, let's get our rectangle tool, and you wanted to make it exactly at 2x4, we can click our cursor on that point, drag it out, and let's add a fill to that so it's not blank. And you'll notice that this is at the 2x4 area, where your ruler is, and your guides. Now, there also is an option, if you were to go to your view menu, and you go down, you'll notice that you have the Guides option.

And you can hide the guides, lock the guides and make guides. Now when you make the guides it's essentially what we just did by dragging them out. When you lock them, that means they cannot be moved. So, if I were to grab this right now, I can move this guide again, anywhere. Which, sometimes you may select something and you may not want to move that. It might happen by accident. So, if you were to go back there and you were to lock your guides, if you were to try and click it now, nothing's going to happen. It's not going to move. So, we're going to actually go back. We're going to unlock that. If we go back into the View menu, you'll notice that there's something called Smart Guides. And, if it's off, if you were to drag this close to this point, this rectangle. Click it and drag it. You'll notice that getting it aligned is kind of difficult. It might take some time.

But, if you were to go to View, Smart Guides, as soon as you click this, you'll notice as you get closer it will actually snap to the inner section of that point. You can also, finally, go to Illustrator, go to Preferences, and you go to Guides and Grid. You can go to Smart Guides, and in these you'll notice that you also have the Units option. When you click these you can change what the points are by default that you will use. The strokes, the typeface, or just in general on your rulers, your guides and grid. You can actually click that menu option. And when you go in here, you'll notice you can change the actual color of the guides themselves. Like if we wanted all our new guides to be magenta, they'll come up like that. We can change the style from lines to actual dots. If we have a grid, we can customize the grid to be a different color. And we can change that style on the grid from lines to dots. Click OK. And you'll notice, we zoom in, now our guides are magenta and they're dotted. And that's how you work with Rulers and Guides in Adobe Illustrator.

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