I am taking the plunge and going to learn Illustrator by focusing on some of the fundamental elements I've heard about or seen here and there in tutorials but never fully grasped.

First up is Artboards. From my understanding:

Illustrator workspace is composed of a canvas that contains one or more artboards.

Artboards are placed on the canvas starting from a point called the Global ruler origin. In addition every artboard has its own origin point and rulers as well.

Artboards are like putting paper on a desk.

So let me get this straight. When you create a new Document, the result is actually not so much a "document" but a Workspace with a big gray Canvas. The tools on the sidebar and such are part of the workspace, just like the canvas is part of the workspace. Hmm... There is no "document" anymore, that was the wrong concept I guess.

But wait, there's more! On this canvas we actually created the Default Artboard. The white area where you actually can place your artwork.

So that's as much as I understand so far. When you create a new document, you're actually "entering a new Workspace", and given an Artboard laid on top of the Workspace Canvas. And you are to place your art on the Artboard.

What I don't understand though is where to go from here. Why should I create more than one Artboard? Why don't I just create 1 very largely-dimensioned Artboard to contain all my disparate content? Or, if I'm feeling like having my Ads on one Artboard and my Webpages on another, why not just altogether skip Artboards and just have different Layers. Why couldn't/shouldn't you just do that?

Basically, why create multiple Artboards? What should I be doing to Artboards to take full advantage of them? How should I learn to organize my Artboards to start with some good best practices.

Right now I am looking at making a font, and am wondering if each letter should be on its own Artboard, or it's own Layer, or multiple letters share a single Layer, etc.. But I'll save the Layer questions for later.

  • 1
    If frying something... Document = Oven... Canvas = Stovetop.... Artboard = frying pan. You can have multiple pans frying something, but there's only ever 1 stovetop and 1 oven.
    – Scott
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 7:26
  • 1
    At the end of your question I see what's the problem: you're using the wrong tool for the job. Artboards are like pages, or screens. For creating fonts you should really be using Fontlab or one of the other alternatives graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/19734/…
    – Luciano
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 9:52
  • Now I do often make fonts in illustrator, and i use one artboard and layers. But in hindsight i should have used artboards. But it was more expedient to work on layers.
    – joojaa
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 14:08

3 Answers 3


You create an artboard to control your outcome. If you are printing on A4 paper you would make an A4 artboard. This way you would know how your art would lay out on the paper. Having multiple would just allow you to make multiple pages. So for example same art on a smaller and bigger page when printing they would print as separate pages, and in a pdf be separate pages.

Same if you target a specific pixel size you'd define an artboard of the size you want your export to be. Then when you export you can constrain the export to that size. If you have multiple artboards then Illustrator knows how to export them to separate files for you. This saves some time in extracting multiple assets from the same data.

As a bonus you can see what space is unused or outside of your output.

No, you don't need any artboards if you don't want to. There are many cases where one is not needed. On the other hand its pretty useful for a lot of things.


You are totally over thinking this.

Artboards are like pages, where you can layout your design.

You don't "need" multiple artboards, you don't "need" to use multiple layers, you don't "need" to organise artboards, you don't "need" to place artwork on an artboard, you can have a huge artboard if you want. What you want to do is entirely up to you.

There are no "best practices" because what's "best" for you or some particular task might not be "best" for someone else or some other task. Best is subjective. There are no rules. Do what you want!

As for designing fonts, Illustrator isn't font design software. Use actual font design software instead. If you want to get a taste for that, try FontForge - it's free and Open Source.

  • This is a bad post. Font software do not allow you to define advanced vector graphics, they are far too primitive to design a font. They only allow touching up the vectors. The main thing they are for is exporting the font file, that's all they should be used for.
    – Lance
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 0:55
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    @LancePollard thats not true. I make fonts in fontgorge all the time, but i also sometimes draw glyphs in illustrator, sometimes Creo, and sometimes i do it with a text editor. Each has its pro and con depends on what you are after. text editor is so far the most efficient editor. I believe some of the more designerly font applications are also very good for designing the shapes. Some users report that they are better at drawing than illustrator is.
    – joojaa
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 8:18
  • Okay, good to know.
    – Lance
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 9:04
  • @LancePollard - and you are are mistaken. I never suggested you use font software for creating advanced vector graphics! Where did I say that?
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 9:13

You’ve got some great answers to your question of what the artboards are, and I also agree with others saying you don’t need to use them to create a font.

But I would add that to make the font you should use an Illustrator plugin called FontSelf. It makes it easy to create a working font directly from illustrator, only one artboard required.

EDIT: I am in no way affiliated with FontSelf, I'm just a happy customer. At my job our clients routinely provide us with PDF files full of character outlines, but rarely a working font.

Fontographer was overkill for what we needed, and only one of us was trained to use it. With FontSelf we stay right in Illustrator, any of us can use it, and we can generate an OTF font we can use anywhere, or tell FontSelf to just create the font and open it immediately only in Illustrator.

It really saved us a lot of time and stress, honestly.

  • 3
    Hi @John and welcome to GDSE. Can you edit your answer to add more about why the asker would want to use FontSelf? We also ask that you disclose if you are affiliated with the product. Thank you!
    – curious
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 8:17

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