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In this lesson we'll be working with precision tools in order to create a new picture.
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For precise positioning of our work, the three best tools you can use are the ruler, the guides and the grid. We are going to open up a new document, play around with those a little bit and then we are going to start creating some artwork.
To begin, we will create a new print document by clicking the print document link in the welcome screen. We are going to change our unit of measurement from points to inches. We are going to leave the width at 8.5, that is fine; we are going to change the height though to 5.5, hit the tab key. Make sure everything looks the way we wanted which it does. Let us go ahead and title this Shapes and click the Okay button. This gives us a blank canvass that we can use to draw all of the shapes that we going to be doing in this lesson.
However, to start with, I want to show you a couple of ways to precisely position your shapes, we are going to start with the ruler. The ruler is located at the view menu so let us go to the view menu now and about a half way down, choose the show rulers command. The rulers appear at the top and the left hand side of your document window. But I want you to know that as you move the cursor, the dotted line and the ruler changes to always indicate your cursor position. I also want you to know that the ruler is positioned so that the zero mark is on the left hand side and also along the very bottom. By default, Illustrator always counts positions starting from the lower left hand corner. If you want to though, you can change the ruler zero point which is the point from which it starts measuring by simply pressing and dragging one small box in the upper left hand corner of the ruler display. I am willing to change it so that the zero point is in the upper left hand corner. The first thing I want to do though is pen my document down a little bit so that I get a better look at the upper left hand corner. To do that, I am going to hold down the space bar, which changes my cursor to the grabber hand, press, and drag down just a little bit and then I release the space bar. To reposition the zero point, I place my cursor in the box in the upper left hand corner of the ruler display, press and hold, drag down into the right until I am exactly on that upper left hand corner and then let go.
In addition to the ruler, you also have what is called the grid. The grid is a set of boxes that lets you position your objects in whatever increments you decide you want to work in. By default, your document is divided into one inch boxes and inside each box, there are eight sub-divisions. To display the grid, go back up to the view menu and choose the show grid command towards the bottom of the menu. The darker lines appear every inch in your document and there are eight sub-divisions within those darker gray line. Currently, we see a grid but our cursors and our objects are not going to snap to this grid marks until we tell it to.
To do so, we go back to the view menu and choose snap to grid which is directly under the show grid or hide grid command. Now, if we create an object, we cannot place the boundaries of the object anywhere but on this grid mark. To test this out, let us click on our rectangle tool, position our cursor on the intersection of two grid lines, press and hold and then drag down into the right and you will see as you drag that it snaps to this grid marks. Go and click the mouse button and we know that this particular rectangle we have just drawn is exactly two inches wide by one inch tall. If you want your grid to have dimensions other than a major grid line every inch with eight sub-divisions, you change that in the preferences dialog box for guides and grids. Go up to the edit menu, on the Macintosh, it will be the Illustrator menu. Choose preferences and choose guides and grid. The top part of this dialog box has to do with guides, which we are going to look in just for a moment. For right now though, I want to focus on the grid portion and you will notice the highlighted text, grid line every one inch. Let us change that to 0.5 so we will have a grid line every half inch and hit the tab key to get down the subdivisions, within this major grid line, let us have five subdivisions. So what will we end up with is a grid line every half inch with five subdivision which is going to give as ten subdivision per ins. Click the Okay button. Any objects that you have drawn are not affected but the background grid has been changed.
The third and possibly the most useful of these three tools for precisely positioning objects are what are called guides. Whenever you get close to a guide, the cursor or object turns to its position. To create a guide, we move our cursor into the ruler, press and hold the left mouse button down and drag out into our document. The dotted line that we are dragging is going to become a guide, so let us position at approximately in the center of the screen and let us drag another one down from the top ruler and we now have two guides. Notice that one of the guides, the vertical guide is cyan and the other is a darker blue. Your most recent guide will always be a darker blue, which indicates that it is still selected. If you changed your mind and you want to get rid of that guide, you can simply hit the delete key, which deletes the selected guide. You can also select the guide using this selection arrow. Let us go and click on our selection arrow and then click on your guide and then go ahead and delete that. What I like to do is setup a couple of guides around the edge of the document so that we do not get too close to the edge. So just go ahead and go up to the top ruler, pressing and drag down to the half-inch mark, do the same on the left hand side, half inch on the left, half inch on the right. Hold down the space bar to get the hand tool, drag upward so that you can see the bottom of the document, let go of the space bar and drag one guide down to the half inch from the bottom mark.
To make sure that you do not accidentally select or delete any of these guides, we can lock them in place, you do that by going up to the view menu, choosing guides and from the guides sub-menu, choose lock guides. This guides are no longer selectable, you can test that out by trying to click on one. At any point, you can go back up to the view menu. Go to guides and either unlock your guides or clear the guides which gets rid all of them. We are not going to do either one right now but that is where those commands are located. Let us go and click off this menu.