TL:DR Smart guides aren't accurate - even though the snap, (end up causing more problems in the long run) is there a way to fix it?

Maybe there are some settings that I'm missing (need to be changed)

I use my smart guides all the time (and am overall pleased with them). I do have my issues with it, as explained here:

A lot of times, when I'm trying to make a bunch of triangles like this:

enter image description here

Done by making a triangle, cloning, flipping, rotating etc. Repeat until full

(Perfect) Snapping using Smart Guides

enter image description here

Ends up looking likeenter image description herebetween the triangles (Outline Mode)

Now I personally (with a strong attention to detail) will notice that there is something off after making just 1 or 2 triangles (Even before outline mode... strokes look oh so slightly thicker/off)

And then I check in outline mode... and sure enough:

enter image description here

Notice the line spaces (and this is in outline mode, so if I didn't notice it before, now it's sitting right in front of my nose)

The way I (seemingly) "fixed" the first image was by adding in a thick stroke outline so that masks out the difference, however, in a lot of my cases I don't want to have a stroke at all (and then you really notice the problems).

  • 1
    To be honest.. it's been an issue since I think CS4, (maybe CS5). ... Not sure there's much to be done other than outline mode and manual correction. Hopefully someone wiser than me knows.
    – Scott
    Dec 21, 2017 at 0:13
  • @Scott back in CS3 it used to work fine? I would get it just for this. (Its a pita and literally messes things up in the long run for my projects)
    – Welz
    Dec 21, 2017 at 0:15
  • Can't disagree... people have been complaining for years.
    – Scott
    Dec 21, 2017 at 2:20
  • I can't replicate the issue in Illustrator CC 2017. Smart guides work as expected - see screenshot here
    – Billy Kerr
    Dec 21, 2017 at 12:10
  • 1
    @BillyKerr I just tried it in CC 2018 and it was producing same results (as my failed CS6) then I realized that I had my Snap on... So I turned it off, and it worked properly. In my CS6.... this is what happens It keeps moving back, any ideas?
    – Welz
    Dec 21, 2017 at 12:55

5 Answers 5


Smart guides aren't smart

They are but do not work so good with grids because the pixel grid moves the object on the previous or next pixel/point.

Disable the "align to pixel" and "align to point" and continue working with smart guides.

EDIT: Example (50x50px workspace)

Pixel Grid


No Pixel Grid

  • 5
    Yes thhis is true. basically snapping is fine but the options are too deeply hidden and there is no way of checking what options are on and off with a glance.
    – joojaa
    Dec 21, 2017 at 14:22
  • 1
    Wiki feature is no longer needed so it has been removed.
    – user9447
    Dec 21, 2017 at 15:08

Apparently, all this has nothing to do with Smart Guides.

Check if Align New Objects to Pixel Grid selected (if so, turn it off)

enter image description here

If it's on... it will keep on jumping like this:

enter image description here

To turn it off, go to the Transform Panel - Window→Transform (Shift+F8) and click on the dropdown menu.

It's often missed since it's hidden in the transform panel, which I never use anyhow.


Offhand.... maybe helpful, maybe not...

Check your Snapping Tolerance for Smart Guides (Preferences > Smart Guides)

The default for AICC it's set at 4pts. Setting it to 1pt will work much better. You can't set it to less than 1pt.

Also turn off Snap to Point in the View Menu.

I still feel "smart" guides aren't always accurate.

  • 1
    More like "Assisting Guides"...
    – Welz
    Dec 21, 2017 at 3:56
  • 1
    The snapping tolerance, I believe has to do with how close your object should be in order to "Snap" into place with other objects etc.
    – Welz
    Dec 21, 2017 at 13:14
  • Correct, but for some reason too great a distance can cause bad snapping. At least that's what shows here.
    – Scott
    Dec 21, 2017 at 15:21
  • [After getting the solution - the Align Pixel Grid...] I tested out the snapping tolerance and it (for me personally) worked better at a higher number, considering that Smart Guides weren't at fault here, rather they actually helped me (once I figured out the problem)
    – Welz
    Dec 24, 2017 at 0:39

For me, I find that Smart Guides are not the most precise or user-friendly way to do what you're describing. I prefer using Snap to Point which can be enabled in the View menu if its off.

  • Select the object you're moving, then position your cursor over a specific point on the object when picking up and dragging. In Illustrator CC, this needs to be done with the Direct Select tool (White arrow)
  • Then drag the object over to align with a point on another object. When it snaps, the arrow will turn from black to white.

As long as Align to Pixel Grid is off (which is an evil option that can be disabled in the Transform Palette) this produces consistently accurate results.

Animated demonstration


Ok here's a different take on this thing. The snapping is not inaccurate like you put it, there are just more snapping magnets than you are aware so there is a very big likelihood that you snap to the wrong thing.

The alignment guides, which you rely on, are great if you want to layout sparse elements like text boxes. The problem of alignment guides is that they tend to go and find quite many objects and once your scene complexity grows and you're doing things other than layout. They become more and more useless over time. Great for bread and butter graphic design tasks but not this task.

There is a better way and that is just diametrically opposed to Scott's post*. And that is to rely on just anchors, you may or may not want to turn the alignment guides temporarily in the prefs. The magic trick to mastering Illustrator is not using the selection tool (black arrow) but rather the direct selection tool (white arrow) to drag things from vertices. Select your object, then switch to direct selection tool (or hold Ctrl/Command down with [regular] selection tool).

Once you enable the white arrow tool you can you can move the cursor to a corner point and it says anchor, then drag that until it says anchor. This way you are explicitly telling Illustrator to move this point to this other point and are not relying on Illustrator to guess form several points. Sometimes you need to hold Shift down to tell Illustrator that you want to snap to more objects.

What snapping option you use depends on your situation, if you rely on snap all you'll just get confused.

* But then scott is unhappy with snapping and i am not.

  • Using this method... how can I guarantee that my triangles stay symmetrical (perfect)?
    – Welz
    Dec 21, 2017 at 13:45
  • @WELZ why wouldnt they? its just a more refined way to do what you do
    – joojaa
    Dec 21, 2017 at 13:50
  • to move the 2 point's that are touching the other triangle... is easy to align, how would I move the 3rd point? (away from anything)
    – Welz
    Dec 21, 2017 at 13:51
  • 1
    @WELZ ok i think you need to start from basics. When you when you have multiple points selected then the white arrow tool moves all the points selected. Dont click on points just drag them that does not clear the selection. From there the logic is exactly the same as telling a foreginer to move this point there your cursor has to hit those points
    – joojaa
    Dec 21, 2017 at 14:07
  • I appreciate your answer, however it isn't the solution - to this exact scenario (I found the solution: It had to do with align to pixel grid and snap etc). Here's what happens when I use 1. Selection Tool: 2. Direct Selection Tool (in outline mode)
    – Welz
    Dec 21, 2017 at 14:14

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.