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Lesson 4. Using Layers > Aligning Objects

Aligning Objects

In the next steps, you will draw a strip of film to add to the page. You’ve already learned the skills to complete this exercise, so this will just be more practice for you. The strip of film consists of several large rectangles representing the frames of the film plus two rows of small rectangles with rounded corners down the sides of the strip representing the sprocket holes. You will create a new layer to make it easier to manage the strip of film.

Create a new layer and name it film. Drag it below the Foreground layer.

You want the illusion of the film canister sitting on the strip of film, so this layer needs to be below all of the other layers. As long as this layer is selected, all items you create are placed on that layer.

Draw a tall, skinny rectangle. Make the rectangle approximately the same width as your film canister and twice as long. Fill the rectangle with black.

You may want to move the rectangle off to the side of the film canister to make it easier to manage. This rectangle will form the filmstrip.

Draw a smaller rectangle within the filmstrip for one of the frames of the film. Fill this rectangle with 30% black.

The frame needs to be centered on the filmstrip and placed toward the top of the filmstrip. In the next step, you will align the frame to the filmstrip. You want some room on either side of the frame to draw the sprockets, so don’t draw the frame too wide.

Select both rectangles. Choose Modify > Align > Center Vertical.

The small gray frame is centered within the filmstrip.

Draw a small rectangle for the sprocket. Fill the shape with white and add a 1-point curve to the corners. Move the rectangle to the top left of the filmstrip.

Remember that to add a corner radius, you use the Object panel. Select the Rectangle item in the panel list and then type 1 in the Corner text box.

Make a copy of the rectangle using the Alt-drag or Option-drag method, holding down Shift as you drag to keep the copy aligned with the original. Move the copy just below the first rectangle. Choose Edit > Duplicate to make another copy. Repeat the Duplicate command until the rectangles fill the left side of the filmstrip.

The number of rectangles depends on the size of your elements. Don’t worry how many you have. You are more interested in achieving the look of sprocket holes on a filmstrip. When you’ve finished making the duplicates, you may notice that they are not evenly spaced within the filmstrip. They are equidistant from one another, but they may not be spaced equally on the top and bottom of the filmstrip.

Later you will use the Align panel to distribute the items so they are spaced evenly. Before you can do that, though, you need to position the top and bottom sprockets on the filmstrip.

Use the arrow key to move the last sprocket down until the distance between the bottom of the sprocket and the bottom of the filmstrip is the same as the distance between the top of the first sprocket and the top of the filmstrip.

Select all of the sprocket rectangles.

There are many ways to select just those items. You can use any method you’ve learned. One way is to use the selection rectangle and drag around all of the items. This selects all of the sprockets, the filmstrip, and the gray frame. Then hold down Shift and click the frame and the filmstrip to deselect them, leaving just the sprockets selected.

Choose Window > Align.

The Align panel aligns selected objects on their edges or their centers or spaces them equally. You could have used the Align panel instead of the Modify menu to align the frame in step 4.

The Align panel has two pop-up menus with horizontal and vertical options and a preview pane with three rectangles illustrating your align selection.

Choose Distribute Centers from the Horizontal pop-up menu. Click Apply (Windows) or Align (Mac OS).

Your rectangles are equally spaced within the filmstrip.


When you choose a distribute option from the pop-up menu, another rectangle is added to the preview pane.

While all of the sprockets are still selected, use the Alt-drag or Option-drag method again to make a copy of them for the right side of the filmstrip. Use that method again to add frames to the filmstrip.

If your frames aren’t spaced the way you want them, you can use the Align panel to distribute them.

Save your file.


You can also use the preview pane on the Align panel to quickly align selected objects. For example, if you want objects aligned to their left edges, you can click anywhere within the far left polygon in the Align panel. You’ll see the preview rectangles in the pane move to the left edge. You can click any of the bounding polygons or any of the interior rectangles to change the alignment method.

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