Recently, someone asked me how to fill a page with designs and have them equally spaced. Such a great question! There are several ways to do that, so it’s a great topic for some tutorials. Over the next few days, I’ll show you multiple ways to get equal spacing for your designs on the page. We’ll start today with how to use Snap to Grid.
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This method uses a software feature most people turn on by accident and then don’t like. But it can be extremely helpful. It’s called Snap to Grid. When this is on and you move a design, it will only move in increments that are the same in relation to the grid. Say what? Pretend my shape is .25″ to the right of a vertical grid line and .007″ down from a horizontal grid line. By using Snap to Grid, I can make a second copy that’s the same distances from 2 other grid lines.
Snap to grid for equal spacing
Here’s how the Snap to Grid works in spacing your designs equally around the page.
- Turn your grid on. Adjust the spacing so that it’s bigger than your object. Most designs will not be symmetrical (same in height and width), so choose one or the other. Here, I’ve turned my on and adjusted the spacing to be wider than the arrow. It’s also between horizontal grid lines.
- Turn on the option for Snap to Grid.
- Make a copy of the object with the keyboard shortcut CTRL+c or with the icon in the Quick Access Toolbar.
- Use the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD+f to paste in front. That means your copy is right on top of your original. This is important for this method!
- Grab that copy and begin to move it with your mouse. You’ll notice that it will only move in “jerks.” That’s because it’s only going to move to a location on the page that is the same distance from the grid lines as the original.
- Once you have that, you can copy both the images, paste in front, and move. Then copy all 4, paste in front and move. Keep doing that until you have filled your page. I’ve turned my grid off here so you can see the equal spacing. But even if the grid isn’t showing, any copies will still snap to the grid because I haven’t turned that off.
Even though my copies are evenly spaced, they aren’t really centered on the page. At this point, I could group all the shapes, turn off Snap to Grid, and then center them to the page with the icon in the Quick Access Toolbar.
Pros of this method
- It’s quick and easy to set up the grid.
- You have a good amount of control in how far apart the grid lines are.
- The shapes always end up in the same spot in relation to the structure you set up (the grid). That’s not always the case with some other methods I’ll show you. This can make it easier to do something like set up multiple pieces of material on the same mat and cut them in the same pass on the machine. You can more easily make them cut in the same location relative to the edge of the material. (It’s never perfect, because there’s some wiggle room in how you place the material on the mat).
Cons of this method
- You have to remember to use the paste in front. If you use something like the keyboard shortcut CTRL/CMD+arrow key, the copy isn’t in the same spot in relation to the grid. It will be if you use a regular paste, but it’s still down and to the right of your original.
- Your horizontal and vertical lines have to be spaced in the same increments. In other words, you can’t have the horizontal lines 1″ apart and the vertical lines .5″ apart (but stay tuned for another method where you can).
- When you move your shapes with the arrow keys on your computer keyboard, they’ll only move in relation to the grid. In other words, you can’t scoot them over just a tad. You can, however, set them in a specific X/Y location in the Quick Access Toolbar or Move tab of the Transform panel.
- The first few steps take longer than some other methods. It does go faster once you can copy multiple images at once.
- The finished set won’t necessarily be centered on the page. It depends on your grid spacing and the size of your design.
When you have Snap to Grid on and resize an object with your mouse using the squares of the bounding box, it will only resize in increments as well. For example, if I have a design that’s 2″ wide and my grid is set at 1″ spacing with Snap to Grid on, I can only resize the width to 1″, 2″, 3″, etc.
In Method #2, I’ll show you how to use guidelines and snap to those.