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I'm working on a design that's to be printed. The size of the item is 1/3 of a standard letter page. I would like to be able to work on it in Illustrator only once without the copy and paste at the end. It's very tedious to make any kind of change.

Moreover, the printed result has to be multisided so ideally I would like to use two artboards (one front, one back).

Is this something that is possible to do in Illustrator: print one artboard several times on a page and multisided?

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  • You can create a 4th artboard which encompasses the other three - then simply print artboard 4
  • Often, you can set your printer to print multiple pages on one sheet via the print dialog box.

With this in mind, if you expect the duplex (2-sided) prints to line up to one another using an end user/home/office printer, you're going to be terribly disappointed.

Rereading your question, it sounds like you might benefit greatly from Symbols and using 3 instances of the same Symbol. With this, you only need to edit the symbol to see all instances of that symbol update - 1 edit, multiple copies basically.

You can also create 1 master .ai file. Save it. Then open another .ai file and place the master .ai file in the second file as a link. Edit the original, then open the second and the links should update. (InDesign is a bit better for this but works very similar)

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Some of my templates are set up like this, and I use the exact same setup that Scott described. I really dislike working with Symbols though (the editing interface has room for improvement) so I avoid them when I can.

In your case, here is how I would build the template: have a master artboard for the page size then "sub"-artboards for each panel. Then have a master layer for all the art and a sub-layer for each panel. To repeat the artwork use a Transform effect on the master layer (to make copies and move vertically). Here's how it would look:

Illustrator screenshot

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All you really have to do is select "Ignore artboards" when your print window comes up.

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  • This was my favorite answer. I don't understand why Illustrator makes some things so difficult! – sscirrus Mar 17 '17 at 22:00
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    this won't let you print trim marks for the artboards though... trim marks will trim to the content – Anentropic Mar 26 '17 at 16:44
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This is a little late, but it might help other people. I don't think illustrator easily supports doing this, unfortunately, but there are workarounds. The way I would go about doing this, is to create your artwork on multiple artboards of the size you want (1/3 of a page, in your case). Then when you're ready to print, save a copy of your file as a multi-page pdf. If you want crop marks or other printing marks around each artboard you can select that in the save to pdf dialog that pops up.

Then, create two new artboards for the front and back of your printed page. Place the pages from the pdf you just saved (ctrl+shift+p, make sure you check the "show import options" box) on the new artboards in the arrangement you want. You can then print from illustrator at this point, or you can save your printing artboards as a pdf, and then print from a pdf viewer with more printing options.

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My "ah-ha!" moment today was applying a transform to a layer, rather than to individual objects. So for your example:

  • Create an artboard the size of your paper.
  • Place objects in the top third.
  • Put those objects in their own layer.
  • Select the layer in the Layers panel.
  • Bring up the Appearance panel, click on "fx" at the bottom, select "Distort & Transform", select "Transform".
  • For "Move / Vertical" enter "240 pt". (Roughly. Depends on your margins.)
  • For "Copies", enter "2".

If you prefer your art objects be in separate top-level layers (rather than glommed into one, in sublayers), naturally you can do the transform on each top-level layer.

For printing 2x2 on one sheet (on Avery labels), I transform the layer twice: one vertical and one horizontal. There isn't a "grid" option, but the transforms stack.

I hope that helps!

  • But then if you need to modify anything it will be quite some work, proportional to the number of copies. – Luciano Mar 15 '17 at 9:44
  • Not sure what you mean? For the OP's document: the whole layer gets the "make 2 copies" transform, and the layer contains all the art in the top third, so that art is also displayed in the middle and bottom thirds. Not a one-time copy, it's a persistent transform to whatever is put into the layer. – scottn Mar 28 '17 at 10:39

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