Now that you’ve set up your page and chosen your mat, it’s time to choose how your drawing area looks. (To start with Lesson 1 of this series, go here.) In this lesson I’m going to show you all the options in the Grid tab of the Page Setup panel. I’ll also show you how to use the rulers and guidelines that are available in Designer Edition and above.
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The Grid: What is it?
If you like to have lines on your screen as reference points, you can turn on the Grid. This gives you horizontal and vertical lines in a grid pattern. You can customize the lines in several ways.
Click the Page Setup icon at the right to open the panel. The second (middle) tab in that panel is for grid settings.
To turn on the grid the first thing you do is click the box beside “Show Grid.” That turns on the grid lines and you can then customize them.
You can also turn the grid on and off by…
…simply typing g on your keyboard.
…using the the keyboard shortcut for Windows is CTRL + FN + F4 (misprinted in the User’s Manual) or for Mac is CMD + FN + F4 to open the Grid Settings only panel.
…going to the View>Grid Options drop down menu.
…using right click>Show Grid (as long as no image is currently selected).
This is where you turn your grid off and on. If you see a check mark in the box, it’s on. If for some reason this is checked but you don’t see any grid lines, the likely reason is that you’ve got the grid line color set to white. Keep reading to learn how to set the color.
Snap to Grid
This section is one that you definitely need to understand. If you don’t know what it is and don’t want it, it can drive you crazy.
With Snap on, when you move an image it moves only in relation to the grid. Notice the placement of the purple square in this pic. It’s about 1/4″ below the 1″ line of the y-axis and 1/4″ to the right of the 2″ line on the x-axis. (Are you having nightmares of high school geometry class yet???)
When I have Snap turned on and try to move the shape, it will only move to a spot that is 1/4″ below and 1/4″ to the right of the junction of 2 other grid lines.
When you want that it’s great, but most people get into this mode accidentally. Then they panic when their image “jumps” around the screen and won’t go where they want it to go. Just keep this in the back of your mind. If your shape starts jerking around the screen seeming to have a mind of its own, uncheck this box.
Guidelines are an option in Designer Edition and up. If you don’t have DE, you won’t see this in the menu. This is a line you can place anywhere as a visual reference point. It doesn’t cut — it just helps you line up images on the page. You place your mouse right next to the top or right side of the drawing area, left click and drag. If you have the rulers on (see below), start in the ruler area. As you drag you’ll see a blue line is drawn. That’s your guideline.
The software also tells you the precise location of the guideline on the drawing area based on the x- or y-axis.
To move a guideline, hover over the line in an area where you don’t have an image placed and watch for the cursor to change to a black line with arrows pointing left and right or up and down. Once you see that, left click and drag the line to the new location. If you need to get rid of a guideline, follow the same procedure but right click instead and then choose Delete. Or, just select and hit your delete key (you’ll know the guideline is selected when it turns from a robin’s egg blue to a royal blue).
Remember how I said a previous lesson that I’d teach you how to utilize other areas of your mat since a letter-sized sheet is always placed in the upper left corner? Here’s one way to do it. Set up your page size as 12″ x 12.” Then add a guide line at 1″ on the y-axis and another at the 3 1/2″ spot on the x-axis. That now shows you the available cut area of a letter-sized piece of paper placed on the lower right edge of the mat. I’ve highlighted that area in light purple here.Even if you don’t have guidelines because you don’t have Designer Edition, you can still use the grid lines to do the same thing.
A warning about guidelines and rotating the page
I mentioned in a previous lesson that you can rotate your page. I also warned you that this changes the X and Y axis. Here’s where that matters. If you’ve rotated the page and try to pull a guideline from the top, it will instead come out from the right! It’s very confusing, so I recommend you don’t do this very often.
Snap to Guides
Just like Snap to Grid, checking this box means the image only moves in relation to where the guidelines are. Here’s the catch: when you draw a guideline, this box is automatically checked. So if you want your images to move freely, you’ll need to uncheck this box each time you start drawing guidelines.
Rulers are available in Designer Edition and above. I’ll show you a trick later for adding a ruler without DE, but many people will purchase it just for the rulers feature. Turning this on places a ruler at the top and right side of the drawing area. You can tell in the panel that the ruler is on because it’s highlighted in gray.
When the rulers are on and an image is selected, a slightly darker gray area on the ruler shows you the width and height of the page size. A yet darker gray area on the ruler that shows you a selected image is in terms of location on the mat (or off the mat). This pic is showing the location of the yellow arrow on both the x- and y-axis (top ruler and side ruler).
As you zoom in and out, you see more or fewer numbers and divisions on the rulers.
You can turn the rulers off and on in this location, or with the keyboard shortcut CTRL + r (Windows) or CMD + r (Mac), or in the View>Show Ruler drop down menu.
This is another Designer Edition setting that gets the most attention when you accidentally turn it on. When you have crosshairs on, there are light gray lines that center on your mouse and move with it. If you use it in conjunction with the grid, it helps you to place your images in precise locations on the page.
Most people don’t like it, so this is where you can turn it off as needed. You can see that I’ve turned it off in the screenshot of this area of my menu because it isn’t highlighted. The published keyboard shortcut is CTRL + = on Windows or CMD + = on Mac to toggle crosshairs off and on, but it doesn’t work on Windows (not sure about Mac). You can use the View>Show Crosshairs drop down menu option to turn these on and off as well.
In this section of the panel, make choices for style, spacing and divisions.
You can choose for your grid to lay flat like a square or, if you are working on creating 3D images, in an isometric format. If you need the latter, you already know what that means. 99.9% of us will just use square.
This tells the software how far apart you want your grid lines. For example, if you set it to 1 the grid lines are drawn every 1.” As with the page size, backspacing the number and typing in your own numbers is the most effective way.
You can also have lighter lines within the main grid lines for smaller increments. Divisions tell the software to break up each square into smaller squares. For example, if the spacing is 1 and the divisions are 2, there is a darkish line every 1″ and then lighter lines every 1/2.” So each 1″ square now has 4 sections. That’s what I have in this picture.
You can choose any color you want for your grid. In the screenshots in this post, I have it set on purple or black. You can select from the options in the small squares. Or move the round target in the color spectrum to any location. Moving the slider bar at the right adjusts the amount of gray in the color — raising it adds more gray.
Once you choose a color, you see it in the larger square at the left under the word “color.”
Now that you’ve got a page set up and your drawing area looking the way you want, it’s time to learn how to navigate around the software. That’s up next in Lesson 5: The Mouse & Cursors.