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Is there a tool inside or outside of Adobe Illustrator which packs custom shapes inside an (say) A4 page?

This would be an optimization for printing the same element multiple times on the same page.

Example doodle:

enter image description here

This example involves rotation, but it'd be ok without too.

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This is a very complex problem, I have not seen a utility for Illustrator that does this. Relevant discussion: Is there a script available for arranging elements for optimal use of the printable area? –  JohnB May 14 '13 at 17:22
    
I know it's NPHard, but I was not expecting an optimal solution. Just some approximation that is at least as good as the one I could pull off in 15 minutes. –  iuliux May 14 '13 at 17:31
    
And, also, rectangular shapes would suffice. –  iuliux May 14 '13 at 17:31
    
I would just pack a shape into a corner and then alt-click-and-drag the shapes across the top and then duplicate them down the page. a faster way to do this may be to "compact" a few elements then turn them into a pattern and apply them to the page. –  Johannes May 14 '13 at 20:23
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

In the restricted case where a rectangular array would suffice, you might speed things up using Effects > Distort and Transform > Transform. If you use Copies and adjust only the Horizontal move, you can quickly create a row that fits the sheet. Repeat the effect on the vertical to fill the grid, then Expand Appearance to create discreet objects. The advantage, apart from possibly saving some time, is that everything will be evenly spaced for cut and trim.

For a triangular shape, two objects, one inverted to minimize the total amount of space, can be replicated in the same way.

You might find the Pattern feature useful in this situation, since it offers a variety of different overlap and repeat patterns. The same "Expand Appearance" trick freezes the layout.

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