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Manipulating Guides in Illustrator CS

Alignment, distribution and automatic guide creation By Dave Nagel
If you use Illustrator regularly, no doubt one of your first steps when working on a new document is to set up your guides. The process, though, can take some time, especially if you like to create a grid made up of guides or want your guides perfectly centered. And, even if this isn't a problem for you, well, it is redundant and at least a little time-consuming. So today we'll take a look at a few methods for manipulating guides and for setting up an automated Action for creating any number of evenly spaced guides for any size document.

The most common problem many of you likely face is simply placing guides that are centered on the canvas, regardless of the size of the canvas. With this in mind, you can't use the standard transformation tools without doing some calculation ahead of time, which isn't productive at all. This is owing to the fact that transformations in Illustrator, whether relative or absolute, are measure in units, rather than percentages. You can transform a guide precisely 400 points, but you can't, for example, transform it to a location at 50 percent the width of the canvas. So here are some ways around it.

Method 1: Alignment and distribution
In Illustrator, it's possible to manipulate guides just as if they were any other kind of object, with certain limitations. You can move them, rotate them and even align and distribute them. But how can you create guides and then spread them out evenly across your canvas without performing measurements or simply eyeballing it? Using Align and Distribute Objects tools, of course. To begin, open up Illustrator and place six vertical guides on your canvas. It doesn't matter where you place them.

Now, in order to make the guides editable, choose View > Guides > Lock Guides to uncheck the Lock Guides option. (If it's already unchecked, leave it alone.)

Select all of the guides on your canvas by dragging the Selection tool across all of them. When they're selected, they'll change color to the current layer's color (in my case, a darker blue).

Now open up the Align palette (Window > Align). Select the flyaway menu on the top right and choose "Align to Artboard." (This option should remain checked in the future, so you won't have to do this every time.)

Click the button for "Horizontal Distribute Center."

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