How to Place Guides in Exact Positions in Illustrator CC

Learn how to place guides in exact positions in Illustrator CC, using a combination of rulers, transform properties, and align tools, and save yourself all the headaches and backtracking down the road with a little smart planning before you start designing.

Video Tutorial

There are three key techniques I will explore in this tutorial, and all of them are covered in the simple video tutorial above. Watch along at your own pace, and get inspired to change the way you set up your canvas before you get stuck in.


Step-by-Step Tutorial

Set Guides with X and Y Properties

Step 1 – When you set up your document, remember your width and height, and you will need to know these values when you come to set guides on the x or y-axis.

Step 1 - When you set up your document, remember your width and height, and you will need to know these values when you come to set guides on the x or y axis.

Step 2 – In your document, go to window > rulers > show rulers.

Step 2 - In your document go to window > rulers > show rulers.

Step 3 – Check your guides are unlocked by going to view > guides. As you can see below my guides are already unlocked, but if your options say ‘unlock guides,’ be sure to click it to activate the mode.

Step 3 - Check your guides are unlocked by going to view > guides. As you can see below my guides are already unlocked, but if your options say 'unlock guides' be sure to click it to activate the mode.

Step 4 – From both the horizontal and vertical rulers, click and drag to pull rulers out onto the canvas. Don’t worry about where they land, as we will adjust that as we go.

For this exercise, I am going to set a guide of 20px around the document.

Step 4 - From both the horizontal and vertical rulers, click and drag to pull rulers out onto the canvas. Don't worry about where they land, as we will adjust that as we go.

Step 5 – Using the selection tool, select the first guide to adjust. I will work from left to right, then top to bottom for this exercise.

Step 5 - Using the selection tool, select the first guide to adjust. I will work from left to right, then top to bottom for this exercise.

Step 6 – With the guide selected, bring up the transform properties panel by going to window > transform.

Step 6 - With the guide selected bring up the transform properties panel by going to window > transform.

Step 7 – Here’s where you’ll need your document width and height handy. So as my canvas runs from left to right, it starts at 0px and ends at 1000px (remember, my document was 1000×800). So to set a 20px vertical guide, I simply need to set my x-axis to 0+20, or just 20.

Step 7 - Here's where you'll need your document width and height handy. So as my canvas runs from left to right, it starts at 0px and ends at 1000px (remember, my document was 1000x800). So to set a 20px vertical guide, I simply need to set my x axis to 0+20, or just 20.

Step 8 – Click enter, and you’ll set the guide to 20px.

Step 8 - Click enter, and you'll set the guide to 20px.

Step 9 – Now for the right-hand guide. I will work backward for this guide. Select it with the selection tool, then set its x-axis value to 1000-20 (remember, 1000 is the width of my document).

Step 9 - Now for the right-hand guide. I will work backward for this guide. Select it with the selection tool, then set its x axis value to 1000-20 (remember, 1000 is the width of my document).

Step 10 – Press enter, and I will now have a 20px vertical guide on the other side of the document.

Step 10 - Press enter, and I will now have a 20px vertical guide on the other side of the document.

Step 11 – Repeat for your horizontal guides on the y-axis. As my document runs from top to bottom, it runs from 0-800. So my top guide will be 0+20, or just 20.

Step 11 - Repeat for your horizontal guides on the y axis. As my document runs from top to bottom, it runs from 0-800. So my top guide will be 0+20, or just 20.

Step 12 – For my bottom, it will be 800-20 (or 780). Click enter.

Step 12 - For my bottom, it will be 800-20 (or 780). Click enter.

Now, you have four guides set exactly 20px from the canvas edge.

Now, you have four guides set exactly 20px from the canvas edge.

Set Guides with Alignment Tools

Step 13 – Next, let’s look at aligning guides with other guides and objects on the canvas. To demonstrate, I have pulled out four vertical guides from the left-hand ruler.

Step 13 - Next, let's look at aligning guides with other guides and objects on the canvas. To demonstrate, I have pulled out four vertical guides from the left-hand ruler.

Step 14 – Highlight all rulers with the selection tool.

Step 14 - Highlight all rulers with the selection tool.

Step 15 – Select align to selection.

Step 15 - Select align to selection.

Step 16 – Use the quick align options (top bar) to distribute vertically centrally.

Step 16 - Use the quick align options (top bar) to distribute vertically centrally.

The guides will have now aligned perfectly spaced within the distance covered by the four guides.

The guides will have now aligned perfectly spaced within the distance covered by the four guides.

Step 17 – Repeat the process with align to artboard.

Step 17 - Repeat the process with align to artboard.

Step 18 – As before, distribute vertically centrally.

Step 18 - As before, distribute vertically centrally.

Step 19 – The guides will have now equally spaced vertically across the width of the artwork.

You can experiment with the distribution equally from the further left or right object, or from a key object, as you need.

Step 19 - The guides will have now equally spaced vertically across the width of the artwork.

Set Guides with Equal Spacing

Step 20 – Lastly, let’s look at how to create guides with equal repeating spacing between them. Drag out multiple guides onto the canvas, as before.

Step 20 - Lastly, let's look at how to create guides with equal repeating spacing between them. Drag out multiple guides onto the canvas, as before.

Step 21 – Select the further top or left with the selection tool.

Step 21 - Select the further top or left with the selection tool.

Step 22 – I am going to distribute my guides at 50px intervals. As before, bring up your transform panel, set the first guide to 50px (0+50), and click enter.

Step 22 - I am going to distribute my guides at 50px intervals. As before, bring up your transform panel, set the first guide to 50px (0+50), and click enter.

Step 23 – For the second guide, select with the selection tool, and type 50*2, which means 50 multiplied by 2, or 100px on the x-axis, and click enter.

Step 23 - For the second guide, select with the selection tool, and type 50*2, which means 50 multiplied by 2, or 100px on the x axis, and click enter.

Step 24 – Repeat with as many guides as you like, using the * function, to set guides at specific points wherever you like on the canvas.

Step 24 - Repeat with as many guides as you like, using the * function, to set guides at specific points wherever you like on the canvas.

Step 25 – You can even find specific points on the canvas this way. For example, here, I have selected a vertical guide and have set my x-axis position to 1000/2. This means placing the guide halfway along the 1000px width, which gives me an exact center point of 500px.

Step 25 - You can even find specific points on the canvas this way. For example, here I have selected a vertical guide, and set my x axis position to 1000/2. This means placing the guide at halfway along the 1000px width, which gives me an exact center point of 500px.

Step 26 – Once you have set all your guides in place, remember to go to window > guides > lock guides to lock them in place, so that you can go about your design work.

Step 26 - Once you have set all your guides in place, remember to go to window > guides > lock guides to lock them in place, so that you can go about your design work.

There’s no need to eyeball your guides anymore if you use the transform panel, align tools, and some quick simple math.

Spend the time setting up your document correctly in the beginning. It only takes a couple of minutes or so, but it can potentially save you hours of time further down the road.

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