My Illustrator students will often ask me how to print several copies of their project to a page once they have designed it. For example, they design a bookmark that is 2.5in x 7.5in, and now they’re ready to print it on a standard 8.5in x 11in page.
The simple answer is that you need to format it to print on the 8.5 x 11 paper yourself! There is no Illustrator button that will automatically set up your artwork to print on this page. The reason for this is that Illustrator is a program for professionals and is used for so much more than printing from your home printer. So to have that functionality built into the program would just kind of be a waste. (My opinion!)
But don’t worry! Having the freedom to format your artwork to the page yourself gives you a lot of control! Let me show you what I mean.
Here I have designed two bookmarks in Illustrator. The final size of my artwork is 2.5in x 7.5in. Now that my artwork is finalized, I’m ready to prepare it for print! (Note that I have a dark area around my artboard here because I am now using CS6. Your interface will look much lighter if you are using a version previous to CS6.)
At this point, I go to File > Document Setup, and I turn on my bleed and set it to .125 inches. A bleed is space that you need to build around your design if colors and objects go all the way to the edges like in my designs.
Now I go through and adjust my artwork a little bit so that all objects that bleed off the page extend to my bleed line. (I could have done my design with bleed on from the very beginning, but I prefer to design the artwork as close to the final version as possible, and build in the needed space later.)
Now I am ready to place my artwork on an 8.5 x 11 page! I can either create a new artboard in my document (CS4 and higher) or I can make a new document. I prefer to make a new document in this situation. I copy one of my bookmarks and paste it into the new document, and center it to the artboard using the alignment tools.
The size of my finished artwork is 2.5 x 7.5. So I make a rectangle with these values (remember, you can just click once with the rectangle tool to set specific values for width and height). I center this rectangle to my design so that it lines up exactly where the artwork should be cropped (I use the alignment options to help me do this!). Once this is positioned properly, I turn off the fill and stroke (very important!!). Then I go to Effect > Crop Marks (CS4 and higher). This creates crop marks for me around my artwork!
Now I can make two more copies of this and manually position them on my artboard!
This is a great feature and it’s the quickest way to create crop marks! There are just a couple of problems with it:
1) Depending on the size of your artwork, the crop marks will bleed off your 8.5 x 11 page. When images bleed of the page like this, a printer will often default to “fit to page” rather than printing at 100%. This means that the printer automatically SCALES DOWN your artwork. If you have created your artwork for specific dimensions, then your printed artwork will no longer be the correct size. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, as long as you know to look for it. If I’m printing from my home printer, I make sure that it’s printing at 100%. If I’m printing at a print shop, I have to remember to tell the technician NOT to choose “fit to page.” (Whenever I’m preparing files that others will download and print, I cannot have crop marks that bleed off the page like this because people downloading and printing my files will not know to look for this option.)
2) If I want to fit more than one to a page, these large crop marks may make tiling several copies of my artwork difficult. The crop mark from one bookmark may overlap onto the cropped area of another bookmark, for example.
In cases where the above two are problems for me, I will create my own crop marks. To do this, I paste the artwork into my new document. I also create and position the rectangle that I mentioned above that is formatted to the exact size of my finished artwork.
Now I make sure Smart Guides are on (View > Smart Guides). I use the line tool to create the crop marks manually. With Smart Guides on, the neon guides light up and help me to make sure I’m drawing the crop marks where they need to be.
Doing it this way allows me to make the crop marks as small as I like, and it also gives me more liberty in arranging my artwork. For example, in this second bookmark design, I have a bleed off the top and bottom of the design, but not the sides. So I can fit more to the page by lining up the bookmarks side-to-side, and having only one cut between each. (Compare with the above version where we had to leave space for the bleed on either side of each bookmark.)
Creating manual crop marks like this also allows me to use a dotted line if I want to designate a fold rather than a cut.
So there you have it! It’s just a little extra work preparing your file to print, but it’s nice to have control over exactly how your artwork will print! And of course, I’ll let you have these bookmarks as a free download, since I made them for this demonstration anyway! You can download the teal/white version or the wine/pink version! Or both!
If you’re interested in learning Illustrator, I have a variety of Illustrator classes available. Start with Illustrator 101!