For a decade or so, there has been a murmur of grassroots discontent among Adobe Illustrator users over the fact that Illustrator could not create or edit multiple-page documents. Less-expensive vector graphics programs such as CorelDraw for PCs or EazyDraw 3 for Macs can be used to draw a map or a fabric pattern, but they can also be used to lay out a 300-page book.
So, when Adobe rolled out multiple artboards (printable pages) with Illustrator CS4, there was a wave of speculation that perhaps the barrier had been broken, and Illustrator had become a document-producing program. Instead, multiple artboards took multi-page projects in a different direction: You can define a single, multi-page file, but the purpose is not to produce a traditional multi-page document. Instead, multiple artboards are best used to create, within a single file, multiple pages with different page sizes and specifications.
In this article, I'll walk you through the process of creating and editing a set of multiple artboards within an Illustrator CS4 document, and then we'll explore a scenario in which you can use multiple artboards to print distinct elements of a project on separate pages.
Two Approaches to Creating Multiple Artboards
There are a number of ways to create and edit artboards, but they fall into two basic approaches:
- Take a bunch of scattered elements on a single artboard, and break them into separate artboards.
- Define artboards when you create a document, and work within separate artboards to create a project.
Let's examine both approaches.
Creating Multiple Artboards as You Generate a New Document
You can create multiple artboards when you define a new document. This approach is especially useful when you know in advance that you want a set number of equally sized pages, laid out in a grid in your document.
Follow these steps to create a new document with multiple artboards:
- Generate the new document by choosing File > New from the Illustrator menu. The New Document dialog opens (see Figure 1).
- Enter a value in the Number of Artboards box to define the number of artboards in your document. The maximum is 100.
- Next to the Number of Artboards box are four icons that allow you to choose how to lay out the pages: grid by row, grid by column, row, or column. Choose one of these four layout options. For example, if you want to generate four pages in one row, choose the Row option. For four pages in a single column, choose the Column option. If you want to organize 12 pages into a few rows, choose the Grid By Row option.
- Use the Spacing spinner to define the spacing between artboards in your document.
- Set the Width and Height options to define page size. (All artboards generated this way will be the same size, but you can change artboard sizes later.)
- If desired, use the Bleed settings to define a uniform bleed for all pages. (Ableed allows printing to the edge of your print surface.)
Figure 1 Defining a 16-page document using multiple artboards.
Here's another approach to generating multiple artboards for a new document. This setup allows more flexibility in defining multiple-sized pages.
Every document has at least one artboard. To create additional artboards, from inside or outside that original artboard, draw one or more rectangles and choose Object > Convert to Artboards (see Figure 2).
Figure 2 Converting selected rectangles—on and off the initial default artboard—into separate artboards.
You can use this technique to create artboards from within the regular Illustrator document window, without disrupting the flow of your design work. You can create up to 100 artboards this way.
Creating Artboards from an Existing Document, or Editing Existing Artboards
If you're working with an existing document (one artboard), or you want to edit the number, size, or location of existing multiple artboards, click the Document Setup button in the Control Panel (see Figure 3).
Figure 3 The Document Setup button in the document Control Panel.
Clicking the Document Setup button opens the Document Setup dialog. Click the Edit Artboards button (or press Shift-O) to start Edit Artboards mode. In this mode, you can drag the corner handles to resize existing artboards (see Figure 4).
Figure 4 Resizing an existing artboard.
Alternatively, you can click an area of the document (inside or outside any existing artboard) and draw a new artboard (see Figure 5).
Figure 5 Drawing a new artboard.
A modest Control Panel in Edit Artboards mode allows you to control the properties of a selected artboard. You can use the Control Panel tools to do the following (see Figure 6):
- Use the Presets pop-up to choose preset sizes for a selected artboard.
- Toggle between portrait and landscape orientation.
- Generate a new artboard with the same properties as the selected artboard.
- Delete an artboard.
- Move or copy artwork within an artboard when you move the artboard. (By default, moving an artboard does not move artwork within that page.)
- Define center mark display.
- Access artboard options in a dialog.
- Define dimensions of the artboard by entering values in boxes.
Figure 6 Control Panel tools in Edit Artboards mode.
To exit Edit Artboards mode, click a tool in the toolbox or press the Esc key on your keyboard.
Working with Artboards
Working in a multiple-artboard document is fairly intuitive. Using the Selection, Direct Selection, or Group Selection tools, click to select objects. You generate paths, fills, and effects in artboards the same way you would if you were working in just one document.
By the way, you can flow type from a text box in one artboard into a text box in another artboard. You do this in the same way you flow text from one text box to another within an artboard:
- Select the text box containing overflow text.
- Click twice on the overflow icon—a small red crosshair (see Figure 7).
Figure 7 Click the overflow icon twice to flow type into a new text box.
- Use the loaded cursor to draw a new text box—including, if you wish, in a new artboard, as shown in Figure 8.
Figure 8 Drawing a new text box in a new artboard for overflow type.
- When you release the mouse button from drawing the new text box, the overflow type fills the text box. The text thread is identified in Illustrator with a thick blue line (see Figure 9).
Figure 9 Type flowing between text boxes in separate artboards.
Working with Multiple Artboards?
So what's the point of multiple artboards, and how do they help you? The point of multiple artboard documents, really, is that they're documents made up of pages with similar properties, including defined bleed, color mode, printer marks, printer profiles, and other print features.
You can print any or all of your artboards by using the Print dialog in Illustrator. Many print options apply globally to an entire document and all the artboards within it, but you can elect to print all artboards, select artboards, or only non-blank artboards. To access those features, follow these steps (see Figure 10):
- With your multiple-artboard document open, select File > Print to open the Print dialog.
- Select the General category.
- Use the Range box to define which artboards to print. For example, if you want to print artboards 1, 3, and 5, enter 1,3,5 in the Range box. If you want to print artboards 3 through 5, enter 3-5.
- Select the Skip Blank Artboards checkbox if you want to print only non-blank artboards.
- Define output features for the entire document, such as page size, marks and bleed, color management settings, and overprint and transparency flattener options.
- When you're finished defining artboard-specific settings and general document settings, click Print.
Figure 10 Defining print output to publish pages 1–4 and 6 of a document.
Innovative illustrators will certainly come up with interesting ways to utilize multiple artboards to improve productivity and unleash creativity. But it's clear now that Illustrator users can cast off the various tricks and workarounds they formerly used to print multiple-page documents (using layers as pages, using tiling, and so on). Now you can easily and quickly create multi-page documents, in which each page can be a different size.