Illustrator: Rock-Solid Alignment using Anchor Points

We all know that alignment is a huge part of any design. The more control we have over alignment, the better. After a certain point, 100% alignment control gives way to new opportunities to make Illustrator even more useful, like making seamless patterns for example. I want to show you how “anchor points” work in Illustrator, and hopefully send you into control-freak bliss.

Selected circle

Understand this first:

  1. If you noticed from the screenshot above, you can access Illustrator's anchor points from the Transform palette. (or the horizontal quick menu in some of the latest versions of Illy)
  2. Using Anchor Points to align objects only works when numeric values (x, y coordinates) are entered into the Transform Palette. (i.e., choosing an anchor point and then using the Align palette will not work.)

Get to Know the Artboard:

Here is an example of a default coordinate system on a 400 X 400px Illustrator artboard. Since you must use the (x, y) coordinate system to enjoy this feature, it's important to familiarize yourself with, at the very least, where Illustrator puts (0, 0)

400 by 400 artboard

Example 1:

In this example (from the Transform palette) I chose the bottom left anchor point to do my alignment. I then entered in the x and y coordinates (0, 0) and I'm instantly able to be 100% sure that my shape is perfectly aligned to the bottom left corner.


You might look at the example above and say to yourself, “You can do that with the Align palette.” In this case you would be correct, but in example 2 below, you'll see something that the align palette can't do.

Example 2:

In this example, I chose the center anchor point, and aligned my object to the upper left corner by entering a 0(zero) x value, and 400 y value. Now my circle's exact center is exactly aligned to the upper left corner. Why is this so special? Well, for one thing, this amount of control is great for making seamless patterns. And seamless patterns are file-size reducers, as well as time savers in most cases.

Transforming to the top left