How to Add Grids and Guides in Adobe Illustrator

Grids and guides are a great way to add some organization to your designs, especially if you are working with a layout design.

In the main top menu, View > Show Grid will get you an overall grid in Adobe Illustrator. Make sure you have Snap to Grid on if you want your items to easily align to it. You can also use the Rectangular Grid Tool to create and customize your own grid. 

If you need a grid that you can move and customize, you may want to create it with the line segment tool. To add a guide, click and drag from the top or side ruler. Let go of the mouse when the guide is in the position you want it to be.

My name is April, in this tutorial, I’ll show you how to add grids and guides in Adobe Illustrator.

Key Takeaways

  • In the View menu, you’ll find a Show Grid option that will add a grid to the background of Illustrator but will not print in the background.
  • The Rectangular Grid Tool is a quick way to make an evenly-spaced grid.
  • If you need a grid that you may want to change in the future, drawing your custom grid with the Line Segment Tool may be the way to go.
  • To add a guide, make sure your Rulers are showing. Click and drag from either ruler and a guide will appear. Let go of the mouse when you want to place it.

Note: The screenshots from this tutorial are taken from Adobe Illustrator CC Windows version. 

Method 1: Show Grid

Adobe Illustrator includes a basic grid that you can have shown within your document. This grid does not print, so if you need those lines to print in your design, you may want to try another method.

Step 1: In the top main menu, click View > Show Grid. The keyboard shortcut is Ctrl/Command + .

And now the grid is showing.

If you need to adjust the way the grid appears, go to Edit > Preferences > Grids & Guides. Adjust the settings as you wish.

Note: You may also want to turn on the Snap to Grid option in the View menu. This will help you quickly align items in Illustrator to the grid that is shown! The keyboard shortcut for Snap to Grid is Shift + Ctrl/Command + .

Method 2: Rectangular Grid Tool

With the Rectangular Grid Tool, you can quickly customize a grid or table within Adobe Illustrator. The only point maybe if you want to move the lines around, etc. 

These lines are all connected, so each time you want changes it may be quicker to just create a new one. 

Let’s see how.

Step 1: Click and hold down on the Line Segment tool on the toolbar until the fly-out menu comes up. Then click on the Rectangular Grid Tool.

Step 2: You can either double-click the tool button or you can double-click on the artboard to bring up the Rectangular Grid Tool Options dialog box. 

Now you want to set all the settings to generate the grid that you want. Choose the size, horizontal and vertical dividers you want, and click OK.

Step 3: If you double-click the tool button, after you set the settings you will have to click and drag the mouse to get your grid. 

If you double-click the artboard, when you click OK in the dialog box, the grid will be generated on your artboard.

Step 4: Now you are ready to create with the rectangular grid you created!

Method 3: Line Segment Tool

If you want a grid that you can easily move around, and that will print in your design, you should try using the Line Segment Tool. 

Step 1: Select the Rectangle Tool (keyboard shortcut M) and make a rectangle. 

Step 2: Select the Line Segment Tool (keyboard shortcut \). We are going to draw our first grid line by clicking and dragging a line from the top border, holding Shift to create a straight line, all the way to the bottom border.

Step 3: Now that we have our first line at the correct height, we can copy it across the border to create as many lines as we want. 

With our line selected, click and drag the line while holding Ctrl/Command + Shift + Alt/Option and it will make a copy of the line. Depending on how many columns you want the grid to have, copy as many lines as you would like.

If you are looking to make an evenly-spaced grid, select all of the lines (not including the border), go to the Align Panel (if not showing, go to Window > Align or keyboard shortcut Shift + F7), and choose the Horizontal Distribute Space button. 

Now the lines will redistribute evenly.

Step 4: Create the horizontal lines. You can create them the same way we created the vertical lines. You can also select the vertical lines, make a copy, and rotate them 90 degrees.

Notice there are too many lines and they are not long enough. With your Selection tool and your horizontal lines selected, use the middle anchor point on the right side to drag them long enough to touch the border.

Now do the same on the left side.

Step 5: Get rid of any lines you don’t want. For me, I am going to select the top line and the bottom line and hit Delete.

Feel free to keep customizing the grid how you want it to be. You can make the border thicker, certain lines thicker, whatever is most helpful to you! I also chose to remove another line and redistribute the lines again.

How to Add a Guide in Adobe Illustrator

Guides can be great temporary tools to help you keep elements aligned in a layout design in Adobe Illustrator. Let’s look into how to work with them.

Step 1: First you need to have your rulers showing. Go to the top main menu View > Rulers > Show Rulers. Or you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl/Command + R. (Mine are already showing, so the menu option changes to Hide Rulers)

Step 2: Next we want to hover over the ruler, click, and drag down into the artboard area. Use either the top or side ruler. The top ruler will create a horizontal guide, and the side ruler will create a vertical guide.

Step 3: Release the mouse and you now have a guide. 

I am using my guide to line up the elements of my layout.

You can continue to add guides to your document. You can even put all your guides on a separate layer to show/hide them when needed.

There are some customizations you can do with your guides. Go to Edit > Preferences > Grids & Guides. The preferences dialog box will come up with all the different choices.

Once you have your guides and settings how you want, you can use the View menu to Hide, Lock, or even clear the guides once you are done with them. I often use guides to set up a print margin around the end!

Final Thoughts

Grids and guides can be very helpful when designing in Adobe Illustrator. 

The method you prefer for adding grids may depend on your workflow and your intended use for it later. With the View menu, the Rectangular Grid Tool, the Line Segment Tool, and guides, Illustrator allows you to forge your path.

Have you tried to add grids in Illustrator? Which method did you use to add the grid? How often do you use guides in your documents? Let me know in the comments below.

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