I've run into a little snag. I'm trying to distribute a two lines along the body of a square in Illustrator.

The lines

This is what I want the lines to look like, this done by hand though it's not distributed perfectly.

Say I select the two vertical lines and the square and then I make the square the key object. I then click on horizontal distribute space. What I get is this.

enter image description here

The two lines just align themselves to the right hand side of the square.

Am I doing something wrong? Thanks in advance!!

  • It's weird that it aligns to the right, but it is possible that you have your Align to set to Align to key object, instead of Align to selection. Alternatively you could try to make a square and then go to Object > Path > Split into grid..., which can also create guides.
    – Joonas
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 7:03

4 Answers 4


This may not be the most elegant solution, but working in Illustrator is all about problem solving.

My suggestion would be to place two extra lines on the edges of the square, for the vertical lines, one on the exact right and one on the exact left, then dropping your two original lines pretty much anywhere in between. Then select all four lines, switch to 'align to selection' in the align panel, and click 'horizontal distribute center.' Then just scrap the two lines on the far right and left. Repeat for the horizontal lines!

Hopefully this answers your question in a clear and helpful way. It's my first answer on the Graphic Design StackExchange


Yes, I don't think distributing objects works the way you may hope.

The aim of distribute is to even out the space between objects, but your objects are overlapped.

What's happening in your example is when you select a key object, the 'space-between' value in the align panel becomes activated, and as it's default is 0, you can see why you're getting that result.

So the easiest way to achieve your goal, from your starting point, is to place a temporary line along the left edge of the square, and another along the right. Select your four vertical lines, without selecting any as the key object, and don't select the square, and click horizontal-distribute. Then delete your temporary lines.

  1. Draw two identical vertical lines, one aligning with the left side of the square, one with the right;
  2. Select both of them and select the blend tool (W);
  3. Click the top anchor of each line with the blend tool to give it a reference;
  4. With the (now fully black) blend still selected, double click the blend tool;
  5. Choose specified steps and choose 2 for the number;
  6. Object > Expand the blend;
  7. Object > Ungroup the resulting group;
  8. Delete the outer two lines.

Alt-rotate the two lines 90° to create the horizontal lines.


I think this is a case of Illustrator getting in the way of common sense. By far the easiest thing to do here is just do the math yourself! Why use distribute when it's easy to do with simpler tools as @MG_ has already pointed out.

  1. Get the dimensions of your square and divide by 3.
  2. Place the square at the origin (x:0 , y:0) of your document. You can use your align tools for this.
  3. Draw your horizontal line, move it to the y:0 edge of your square.
  4. Draw your vertical line, move it to the x:0 edge of your square.
  5. Move horizontal line up y:1/3 of your square's dimensions.
  6. Use transform again (command D) and check “copy” to get second horizontal line.
  7. Move vertical line over x:1/3 of your square's dimensions.
  8. Use transform again (command D) and check “copy” to get second vertical line.
  9. Align vertical lines to vertical center of square.
  10. Align horizontal lines to horizontal center of square.

It's much easier and program independent to think of just moving your lines 1/3 of the square in x and y coordinates than relying on distribute to do it for you.

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