Essential Tips for Using Artboards in Illustrator

Illustrator uses artboards, which are similar to pages in InDesign, for layout. Although they all sit on the same canvas, they act individually and they can be printed and exported as distinct items. Having multiple artboards in one document allows you to maintain and edit multiple projects and different page sizes together for consistency and ease. Understanding how to work with artboards is a fundamental skill that all Illustrator users should master.

SET ARTBOARD OPTIONS WHEN CREATING A NEW DOCUMENT

When setting up a new document, set the number of artboards to start with—you can always add more later—and indicate a size, bleed, and orientation. In addition, you can indicate how those artboards are laid out by creating a grid, row, or column; how many columns the grid is arranged into; and the initial spacing between the artboards. You can have a maximum of 100 artboards in a document.
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Once your document is set up, you can add, delete, re-arrange, and resize artboards. Use this dialog box just to get you started.

USE THE ARTBOARD TOOL

Select the Artboard tool from the Toolbox (or use Shift-O) to enter the artboard editing mode. Each artboard’s name and number (assigned based on creation order) appears in a box at the upper left of the artboard. Delete an artboard by clicking the “X” in the upper right-hand corner.
artboardtool
Resize any artboard by selecting it then dragging any of its handles. Create a brand-new artboard on the canvas by clicking and dragging with the still-selected Artboard tool. Use Illustrator’s Smart Guides to align to the grid layout, if needed. Hit the Escape key to exit the artboard editing mode.
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OPEN THE ARTBOARD OPTIONS DIALOG BOX

If you need more accuracy or extra specifications when creating a new artboard, open the Artboard Options dialog box. Do this by double-clicking on the Artboard tool, either in the normal view mode or artboard editing mode.
artboardopdiabox
Set options for the width and height of the currently-selected artboard with the option of constraining proportions, indicate the orientation, and add any video-specific marks you might need. Global settings for all artboards—such as fading the area that lies outside the selected artboard—can be set here. Other information indicates the number of artboards and how to create an artboard within another artboard. Once you’ve set your options, be sure to save it all as a preset for future use.

USE THE ARTBOARD PANEL

Open the Artboards panel (Window > Artboards) to easily manipulate and navigate around your document’s artboards. Existing artboards are listed in the panel in the order they were created. In the left column is the artboard’s number. This number works like page numbers in InDesign, or tab-through order. You can re-arrange the order from the panel by clicking on an artboard and either dragging it, or using the up/down arrows in the panel. Keep in mind, this only re-orders the boards’ numbering order, it doesn’t actually move them on the canvas.
artboardpanel
Add and delete artboards in the document by clicking the appropriate buttons at the bottom of the panel. Double-click within the name field to fit the artboard in the window. If you double-click directly on top of the name, you can also rename the artboard.

The icon to the right of an artboard name in the panel indicates the orientation (portrait or landscape) of that artboard. But the icon’s other function is a quick way to access the Artboard Options dialog box discussed above. Click on the currently-selected artboard’s icon, or double-click on any other board’s icon and the Options dialog box will appear.

OTHER ARTBOARD OPTIONS

Use the navigational numbers in the lower left of Illustrator’s Application Frame to jump to a particular artboard and have it fit to the window.

Deleting an artboard only deletes the artboard, leaving any artwork exactly where it was.
deletedartboard
Change the color of all current and future artboards in this document (to mimic paper or background color only) by going to File > Document Setup. Select the Simulate Colored Paper checkbox, click on the top color rectangle, then choose a color. After closing the color picker and choosing OK, you may need to enter into artboard editing mode to view the changes. NOTE: I don’t know if it’s a bug or a feature, but once the editing mode has been activated, the background color choice appears to stay.
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Choosing Save As to save the file, you have the option of saving out each artboard separately. Choosing Save each artboard to a separate file allows you to indicate a range of artboards to save. This is handy when you have developed the individual layouts together, but then need to distribute or otherwise manipulate them independently of one another.

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Posted on: December 12, 2016

Erica Gamet

Erica Gamet has been involved in the graphics industry for over 25 years. She is a speaker, writer, and trainer, focusing on Adobe InDesign and Illustrator, Apple Keynote and iBooks Author, and other print- and production-related topics. She is a regular contributor to InDesign Magazine, tech edited How To Do Everything with Adobe InDesign CS4, and served as leader of the Denver InDesign User Group. After living as a nomad for almost a year, she recently put down roots in El Paso, Texas, where she hikes and bikes every chance she gets. Check out ericagamet.com to see all of Erica's upcoming events, tips and tricks, and workbooks.

3 Comments on Essential Tips for Using Artboards in Illustrator

  1. Thanks for the tips. As for saving out to separate files, is that a MAC option only? I run Adobe CC on a PC and there is no option to save multiple artboards as separate file.

  2. I have a template for 25 artboards all in a row and i need to expand that but I am at the end of the canvas and I need to start a second row. How do I do that?

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