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How to Use Multiple Artboards in Adobe Illustrator

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Perhaps no new feature in Illustrator CS4 has generated as much hype, intrigue, and head-scratching as the ability to define multiple artboards within a single document. With multiple artboards, Illustrator users can now create multi-page documents - but not, perhaps, in the way you might think. David Karlins, author of Adobe Illustrator CS4 HOW-TOs: 100 Essential Techniques, examines how to create and modify multiple artboards and how they can (and cannot) be used.
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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.

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