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#33 Using Multiple Artboards

The multiple artboard feature introduced in Illustrator CS4 enabled designers to collect many Illustrator assets and layouts into a single file, stored on independent artboards (Figure 33a). The presentation and organizational benefits of multiple artboards were a big hit, and Illustrator CS5 builds upon the feature to make it more versatile and powerful.

Figure 33a

Figure 33a A multi-artboard Illustrator CS5 document containing various components of a design project: poster, flyer, postcard, CD booklet, and disc label.

Artboards now have their own dedicated panel (Window > Artboards) from which you can select, rename, and reorder your artboards (Figure 33b). Clicking any artboard name in the Artboard panel makes it the active artboard, and double-clicking fills your document window with that artboard.

Figure 33b

Figure 33b Illustrator CS5's new Artboards panel displaying six artboards and the panel's menu options.

When you create a new document, you can add multiple artboards of identical size in the New Document dialog box. In an existing document, you can use the Artboard tool artboard_tool.jpg to add artboards of varying sizes at any time. A single Illustrator document can contain up to 100 artboards.

With the Artboard tool, you can select entire artboards, resize them by pulling on any of the corner/edge handles, or reposition them on the Illustrator canvas by clicking and dragging (Figure 33c). For precise control over artboard size, use the width and height fields in the Control panel to specify the artboard's size, and the x and y coordinates to control its position on the Illustrator canvas.

Figure 33c

Figure 33c Resizing (left) and repositioning (right) artboards with the Artboard tool.

By default, everything on the artboard moves with it, except locked objects and objects on locked layers. However, artwork doesn't scale when the artboard is resized. To move the artboard without moving the art on it, deselect the Move/Copy Artwork with Artboard button artboard_button.jpg in the Control panel.

In CS4, artboards were identified only by a number, making it hard to keep track of what each artboard contained when selecting, printing, or exporting individual artboards. In CS5, artboards can be given names that are displayed in the Control panel (when the Artboard tool is in use), the Artboard Navigation pop-up menu (Figure 33d), or in the Artboard panel.

Figure 33d

Figure 33d Artboards listed in the Artboard Navigation menu.

The fastest way to name artboards is not from the Artboards panel, however. That process requires selecting the artboard name, choosing Artboard Options from the panel menu, renaming the artboard in a dialog box, then clicking OK. It's much more efficient to switch to the Artboard tool (Shift-O), select the artboard to be renamed, and enter a name in the Name field of the Control panel. While that tool's still active, you can select other artboards and quickly rename them as well.

Rearranging artboards in the Artboard panel does not rearrange them visually, just hierarchically. The Artboard panel sequence and appearance of artboards on the Illustrator canvas are not dynamically related. To arrange your artboards on the canvas so they reflect the order in the Artboard panel, choose Rearrange Artboards from the Artboard panel menu, and specify your desired arrangement options (normal order or reverse order, horizontal or vertical distribution, number of columns, and spacing between artboards) in the dialog box (Figure 33e).

Figure 33e

Figure 33e Artboards rearranged in a single row by using the Rearrange Artboards dialog box.

Whether or not you rearrange your artboards visually, their sequence in the Artboards panel plays a key role when the document is printed or exported. The numeric order of artboards in the panel acts as the document's page order when printing and saving as a PDF.

Other print- and export-related artboard improvements include:

  • A new Auto-Rotate default in the Print dialog box sets all artboards to the proper orientation for the destination page size, allowing you to print portrait- and landscape-oriented artboards simultaneously.
  • You can now save native Illustrator (.ai) files from individual artboards using Save As. This allows you to save a multi-artboard file as separate files in Illustrator CS3 (or earlier) format for backward compatibility.
  • When exporting to non-native formats (EPS, JPEG, and so on), select the Use Artboards check box in the export dialog to create separate files from each artboard. A "root" name is required for the exported files (i.e., campaign.jpg), but the files are named with their artboard name or number appended after that shared root name (i.e., campaign_postcard.jpg).
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