Setting up Illustrator Files and Artboards

Graphic Design

Illustrator artboards are a powerful and unique feature; they work similarly to pieces of paper on a physical desk. You can have one piece of paper or several. You can put items on the paper or outside of the artboard. Artboards can be kind of tricky if you are not familiar with Illustrator. That’s why premade templates are a great solution. It has the files set up for you to customize!

Getting Started

Open Illustrator. Go to File > New. A “New Document” window will popup.

  • Name: Enter your file name. It automatically sets to “Untitled-1”. If you are unsure what to call it, you can always complete this later. However, for my workspace, I like to complete it.
  • Number of Artboards: Create one canvas or several different digital canvases in Adobe Illustrator. If you are creating blog post graphics or business cards, this feature is great. Both sides can be in one document. If you know how many artboards you need, enter them here.
  • Size/Width/Height: Customize the size of your artboard(s). For digital pieces, I always use pixels. For print pieces, I use inches or
  • Orientation: Is your piece vertical or horizontal? Change the orientation with these buttons.
  • Color Mode: If you are designing something for print, use CMYK color mode. If the piece is for the web, use RGB. For web, I use a custom profile since I want them to have a high raster effect. You can always change these settings afterward.

Setting Up Files in Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator Workspace

Illustrator comes with several tools and features. Even as a designer, I don’t need all of them all of the time. So, I set up a custom workspace that features the tools I use most frequently. Adobe Illustrator comes with a few default workspaces – Automation, Essentials, Layout, Painting, etc. However, I created a workspace called Lindsay Humes that features the following:

  • Organization Tools
    • Layers: Similar to Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator has layers. I use these when I want to lock elements.
    • Artboards: Since I’m working with numerous artboards, here is where I manage and name them.
  • Shape Tools
    • Transform allows you to resize and move objects.
    • Align is for aligning and distributing objects amongst one another and within artboards.
    • Pathfinder allows you to combine, subtract, add, and do a bunch of other customizations to shape. If you are creating icons or logos, it’s a necessary tool.
  • Type Tools
    • Paragraph tool is for text alignment. I use this predominately for wireframes and in stationery.
    • Character is for type customizations. A dedicated post is coming soon!
    • Glyphs allow you to work with specific character sets and alternate glyphs of a font.
  • Color
    • Swatches are select colors used within the document. I customize these for the brand (more coming soon).
    • Color panel allows you to customize the color to find the perfect hue!
    • Color Guide will show you different color families and shades.
    • Stroke allows you to customize the look and style of lines and borders.

Customize Your Workspace in Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator has a great guide on how to organize your artwork using Artboards here!

What questions do you have about getting started with Adobe Illustrator? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!

You might also like Adobe Illustrator Tools Panel & Shortcuts and How to Install Fonts on Your Computer.

Want more Graphic Design tutorials? Check out these posts!

Setting Up Adobe Illustrator Files