Adobe CS5 Illustrator Ruler and Guide Customization and Use

Adobe Creative Suite 5 (Adobe CS5) Illustrator has Ruler and Guide functions to help organize and accurate place your illustrations. These functions can be used with their default settings but can also be customized to your needs.

Setting ruler increments

Using rulers to help accurately place objects in an illustration sounds simple (and it is), but not knowing how to effectively use the rulers in Illustrator can drive you over the edge.

To view rulers in Illustrator, choose View→Rulers→Show Rulers or press Ctrl+R (Windows) or Command+R (Mac). When the rulers appear, their default measurement setting is the point (or whichever measurement increment was last set up in the preferences).

To change the ruler increment to the measurement system you prefer.

  1. Create a new document and select a measurement unit in the New Document dialog box.

  2. Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac) the horizontal or vertical ruler and pick a measurement increment.

  3. Choose Edit→Preferences→Units (Windows) or Illustrator→Preferences→Units and Display Performance (Mac) to open the Preferences dialog box.

Change the ruler unit only by using the General drop-down list in the Preferences dialog box. If you change the measurement unit on the Stroke and Type tabs, you can end up with 12-inch type rather than that dainty 12-point type you were expecting.

Setting general preferences changes them in all future documents. To change the measurement unit for only the document you're working on choose File→Document Setup.

Changing the ruler origin

In Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop, you can change the ruler origin, which defines the start of a printing area of an image.

  1. Move the pointer to the upper left corner of the rulers where the rulers intersect.

    Changing the ruler’s origin.
    Changing the ruler’s origin.
  2. Drag the pointer to the spot where you want the new ruler origin.

    While you drag, a cross hair in the window and in the rulers indicates where the new ruler origin will be placed.

You can restore the original ruler origin by double-clicking the ruler intersection.

Using guides

Guides can help you create more accurate illustrations. After a guide is created, you can turn its visibility off or one quickly with the View menu. You can use two kinds of guides in Illustrator:

  • Ruler guides: These straight-line guides are created by clicking the ruler and dragging out to the artboard.

  • Custom guides: These guides, created from Illustrator objects such as shapes or paths, are helpful for replicating the exact angle.

    Turn selected paths and shapes into custom guides.
    Turn selected paths and shapes into custom guides.

Creating a ruler guide

A ruler guide is the easiest guide to create: Click the vertical or horizontal ruler anywhere and drag it to the artboard. By default, the horizontal ruler creates horizontal guides (no kidding), and the vertical ruler creates vertical guides.

You can press Alt+drag (Windows) or Option+drag (Mac) to change the orientation of the guide. The vertical ruler then creates a horizontal guide, and the horizontal ruler then creates a vertical guide.

Click the ruler and drag out a guide.
Click the ruler and drag out a guide.

Creating a custom guide

Create a custom guide by selecting a path or a shape and choosing View→Guides→Make Guides. The selected object turns into a nonprinting guide. Changing a path into a guide isn’t a permanent change. Choose View→Guides→Release Guides to turn guides back into paths.

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