Smart Guides in Adobe Illustrator CS5

When I was new to Illustrator, I noticed green lines and some labels appearing on my artboard while I created my art work. When I learnt that they were ‘Smart Guides’ and explored more about how to use them effectively, I realized how handy they were. Smart Guides helped me a lot while working as they assisted me and sped up my output.

Smart Guides as they are called, smartly guide you while you move around your screen creating or manipulating objects on your artboard. They create temporary snap-to guides that help you align and/or modify objects relative to other objects.

Smart Guides are on by default. To toggle Smart Guides, go to View > Smart Guides or Ctrl + U (Windows) and Command + U (Mac). Smart Guides are shown in light green color by default, but you can change their color in the ‘Smart Guide Preferences’ window. To open the Preferences window, do either of the following:

a. For Windows: Edit > Preferences > Smart Guides… For Mac: Illustrator > Preferences > Smart Guides.

b. On the Application bar (below the Menu bar) click on ‘Preferences’ button.

Application bar

In the Preferences window, from the drop down choose ‘Smart Guides’.

Preferences window

Let us take a look at each of these options in detail;

1. Color: Specifies the color of the guides. Use the drop down to choose a new color from the list.

2. Adobe Illustrator displays six kinds of Smart Guides;

(i) Alignment Guides:

Alignment Guides

(ii) Anchor/Path Labels:

They identify the anchor points and paths as you hover your mouse over them.

Anchor/Path Labels

(iii) Object Highlighting:

The objects that have live effects or distorts applied to them, are highlighted with Object Highlighting.

Object Highlighting

(iv) Measurement Labels:

When you draw or modify objects using various Drawing Tools and Text tools, Measurement labels display small labels with the object’s dimensions. While the Measurement Labels display the dimensions as you draw, they also display an anchor point’s X and Y coordinates from the object’s original location, when you move the objects.

(v) Transform Tools:

Transform Tools display information as you scale, rotate or shear objects.

Transform Tools

(vi) Construction Guides:

Construction Guides will display guidelines as you draw new objects. You can specify as many as six angles at which you would like Illustrator to draw guidelines drawn from anchor points of a nearby object. Choose angles from the drop down or enter Custom Angle values in the boxes.

Construction Guides

3. Snapping Tolerance: Specifies the number of points the pointer must be placed from another object for Smart Guides to take effect.

If you are not using Smart Guides yet, I would suggest you to start using them. I hope you liked the tutorial and I thank you for viewing it.

Filed Under: Adobe Illustrator


About the Author: Minal is a freelance web and graphics designer. She specializes in designing Logos, Stationery, Graphics and Icons as well as website templates using graphical tools like Photoshop, Illustrator and Expression Web. Twitter @saffronstroke

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  1. Liltoes says:

    Hi Minal,

    I have noticed that sometimes even if I have Snap to Grid as well as Smart Guides on, object anchor and/or center points will actually not snap to a center/anchor point belonging to another object. I will zoom in as far as AI will allow and the point I am dragging simply refuses to stay “on top” of the point I am dropping it on. I drop it and almost instantly the point I dropped moves one pixel away to the north, south, east or west of the point I dropped it on. I found many who have complained about this on blogs and forums. Some say it is a well known bug of AI but I am not absolutely sure it is. Have you noticed this behavior before? I am curious to see what you may have to say on the subject.

    Thanks and great site btw!


    • Minal says:

      Hi Liltoes,

      I am not aware of this bug, if any. But I too have come across few forums where users have complained about it. However I tried to replicate the issue you mentioned, but AI behaved well in my case. I rarely use grids, I prefer ‘Snap to Point’ over ‘Snap to Grid’.

      I hope this helps. Thank you for the comment.


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