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Adobe Illustrator CS5 : Working with Illustrator Documents - Artboards

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3/19/2012 3:39:12 PM
In Illustrator, the artboard defines the maximum drawing area that you can print. The artboard is useful as a guide to where objects on a page belong. The maximum printable size is 227 × 227 inches or 358 square feet (provided that you can find a printer to print that big). You can define any number of artboards, each can be any size, and when it comes time to print, you can print them independently or in any combination.

Commercial printers print colored artwork using separate plates for each of the primary colors (typically, they use four plates). An application such as Illustrator can break down color images into the separations that are used to create these plates. Crop marks are lines that are printed as an aid to determining where to trim (or crop) the printed page when the document is printed on oversized paper.

Illustrator's separation setup ignores the artboard and places crop marks around the entire imageable area. The imageable area is only the area where artwork exists. It may be within the artboard, but it also may extend onto the pasteboard. When you export an illustration to another program, such as QuarkXPress or InDesign, Illustrator uses the artboard as your default bounding box.

1. Choosing the artboard measurement units

You can view a document in points, picas, inches, centimeters, millimeters, or pixels. The measurement units affect the numbers on the rulers and the locations of the hash marks on those same rulers. The measurement system also changes the way measurements display in the Info panel and in all dialog boxes where you type a measurement other than a percentage.

You change the measurement system in one of three ways:

  • Using the Preferences dialog box. Use this method if you want to use all documents that are currently open. To do so, choose Edit (Illustrator) => Preferences => Units & Display Performance.

  • Press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+U . This cycles through all the available units in your active document.

  • Using the Document Setup dialog box. Use this method for the currently active document. You open this dialog box by choosing File => Document Setup.

2. Working with the Artboards panel

Choose Window => Artboards to view the Artboards panel, as shown in Figure 1. Double-clicking the artboard takes you to that artboard in the document, viewing it at Fit in Window zoom level. Double-clicking the page icon to its right opens the Artboard Options dialog box for that artboard.

Figure 1. The Artboards panel lists available artboards.

Clicking the New Artboard icon creates a new artboard at the same size as the currently active one. The up and down arrows control the artboard number, which is the order in which the artboards are used for stacking, printing, and when exporting to PDF. Note that this number can be completely independent of the name of the artboard.

3. The Artboard tool

The Artboard tool allows you to change existing artboards and create new artboards. The Artboard tool is in the lower half of the Tools panel, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. The Artboard tool is found in the lower section of the Tools panel.

As soon as you select the Artboard tool, the screen changes, making everything outside the artboard area darkened and putting a big dashed line around the Artboard. The Control panel also changes, displaying the options shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Choosing the Artboard tool results in a different set of options in the Control panel.

From this view of the Control panel, you can quickly change to preset page sizes (left side) and type specific dimensions for your existing artboard. You can also quickly add a new artboard by clicking the New Artboard button.

But what's great about this tool is that you can now modify an existing artboard or create new ones with the tool. Just click and drag outside of the existing artboard to create a new artboard. Click once on any existing artboard to select it and then grab one of its handles to modify it.

4. Changing the artboard size using the Control panel

Choose the size of the artboard by selecting one of the following preset sizes in the Size drop-down list (popup menu) on the left edge of the Control panel, as shown in Figure 4:

Figure 4. The crazy number of options in the Size list

  • Custom. Any size you type in the Width and Height fields of the Document Setup dialog box automatically changes the Size drop-down (popup) to Custom.

  • Fit Artboard to Artwork bounds. Choosing this option instantly changes the size of the artboard to the size of all the artwork in your document.

  • Fit Artboard to selected art. Choosing this option instantly changes the size of the artboard to the size of all the artwork you currently have selected.

  • Letter. 8.5 × 11 inches

  • Legal. 8.5 × 14 inches

  • Tabloid. 11 × 17 inches

  • A4. 8.268 × 11.693 inches (21 × 29.7 centimeters)

  • A3. 11.693 × 16.535 inches (29.7 × 42 centimeters)

  • B5. 7.165 × 10 inches (18.2 × 25.4 centimeters)

  • B4. 10.118 × 14.331 inches (55.7 × 36.4 centimeters)

    NOTE

    A4, A3, B5, and B4 are paper sizes commonly used outside the United States.

  • NTSC and so on. The options in this section change the artboard to the size (in pixels) of these video-centric choices.

  • 176 × 208 and so on. Makes your artboard 176 × 208 pixels or the dimension you choose in this section.

  • VGA and so on. Makes your artboard the appropriate screen size.

4.1. Setting the artboard orientation using the Control panel

You define the orientation of your artboard by choosing one of the two Orientation pages. On the left is Portrait orientation, and on the right is Landscape orientation:

  • Portrait orientation. You use this when the document is taller than it is wide. You can also think of portrait orientation as the vertical view.

  • Landscape orientation. You use this when the document is wider than it is tall. You can also think of landscape orientation as the horizontal view.

4.2. The Artboard Options dialog box

Clicking the Artboard Options button displays the Artboard Options dialog box, as shown in Figure 5. This dialog box is really useful if you don't have the Control panel displayed, but I'm sure you do, so the Artboard Options dialog box becomes much, much less useful. In fact, the only thing you can change here that you can't change in the Control panel is the Fade option (in the oddly named Global section). If you have a pre-Intel processor Mac, you might want to deselect this option with complex documents, but otherwise, you can safely ignore these options.

Figure 5. The Artboard Options dialog box
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