By Jennifer Smith, Christopher Smith

Using rulers to help accurately place objects in an illustration is not difficult, but not knowing how to effectively use the rulers in Illustrator can drive you straight over the edge.

To view rulers in Illustrator, choose View→  Rulers→  Show Rulers or press Ctrl+R (Windows) or   +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, use one of these methods:

  • Create a new document and select a measurement unit in the New Document dialog box.
  • Right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac) the horizontal or vertical ruler and pick a measurement increment from the contextual menu that appears.
  • Choose Edit→  Preferences→  Units (Windows) or Illustrator→  Preferences→  Units (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.

  • Choose File→  Document Setup to change the measurement unit for only the document you’re working on.