03 Rulers, Grids & Guides

Difficulty Level: Beginners
Illustrator Version: 10
Assumed Knowledge: Limited



The aim of the tutorial is to:


Enable you to use the rulers & grids to create accurate drawings.

Using rulers

Illustrator can display rulers, one along the top and one along the left side of the illustration window.

When you open a new file, the rulers are not visible, but you can display them at any time. These rulers are a tool for accurately placing and measuring objects on the artboard. As you scroll and zoom around the file, the rulers adjust accordingly.

To show or hide rulers:

Choose View > Show Rulers, or View > Hide rulers.

Defining ruler units

The large tick marks on the rulers indicate the unit of measure (such as inches), and the small tick marks indicate increments of the unit of measure (such as 1/8 inch). When you magnify or reduce your view, the increments of the unit of measure reflect the change in magnification.

The default units of measure for the rulers are points (a point equals .3528 millimeter). You can change the unit of measure to inches, millimeters, centimeters, picas (a pica equals 12 points or 4.2333 millimeters), or pixels by using the Units & Undo panel of the Preferences dialog box or the Artboard panel of the Document Setup dialog box.

The unit of measure that you set for the rulers applies when you measure objects, move and transform objects, set grid and guides spacing, and create ellipses and rectangles. It does not affect the units in the Character and Paragraph palettes, which always display size, leading, vertical shift, line width, and line dash in the units set in the Type pop-up menu in the Units & Undo Preferences dialog box.

To set the ruler unit of measure for all files:

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences > Units & Undo (Windows and Mac OS 9) or Illustrator > Preferences > Units & Undo (Mac OS X).
  2. From the General pop-up menu, choose the unit of measure you want to use, and click OK.

To set the ruler unit of measure for only the current file:

  1. Choose File > Document Setup. Choose Artboard from the pop-up menu at the top left of the Document Setup dialog box.
  2. From the Units pop-up menu, choose the unit of measure you want to use, and click OK.

You can quickly change the units of measure by right-clicking (Windows) or Control-clicking (Mac OS) the ruler and choosing a new unit of measure from the menu that appears.

Changing the ruler origin

The point where 0 appears on each ruler is called the ruler origin. When you open a file, the position of the ruler origin depends on the View option selected in the Artboard panel of the Document Setup dialog box. Generally, if you selected either the Single Full Page or the Tile Full Pages option, the default ruler origin is located at the lower left corner of page 1.

When you change the ruler setting, the new setting becomes the default for the file whenever that file is opened. You can change the origin for the rulers at any time. For example, you may be working on a 3-inch-by-5-inch card that is centered on an 8.5-inch-by-11-inch page. Setting the ruler origin to line up with the 3-by-5-inch artwork rather than the 8.5-by-11-inch page can make precision editing easier for you.

Note: The position of the ruler origin affects the tiling of patterns, as well as the bounding box information for the Separation Setup command.

To change the ruler origin:

  1. Move the pointer to the upper left corner of the rulers where the rulers intersect.
  2. Do one of the following:


To help align text and graphic objects on the page, you can use background grids.

Grids normally appear as lines or dots behind the artwork, and they do not print. You use grids to lay out objects or elements symmetrically. Selected artwork and tools snap to the grid if Snap To Grid is turned on. Grid spacing, color, and style can be different for each file.

Note: When your document's viewing mode is Pixel Preview, the Snap to Grid command on the View menu changes to Snap to Pixel. For more information, see Working in pixel preview mode.

Using grids

You can choose between two grid styles--dots and lines--and you can change the color of the grid by using either predefined grid colors or colors you select using a color picker.

Spacing of grids is defined by two values: the distance between major lines, and the spacing between subdivisions. The visibility of the grid and snapping to the grid are controlled by the Show Grid command and the Snap to Grid command in the View menu.

Setting grid and guide preferences

Use the Guides & Grid preferences to set the color and style of guides and the grid, and grid spacing.

To set guide and grid preferences:

  1. Choose Edit > Preferences > Guides & Grid (Windows and Mac OS 9) or Illustrator > Preferences > Guides and Grid (Mac OS X).
  2. Set options for guides and the grid:


Recreate the following drawings with exact mesurments:




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