I never use Adobe Illustrator much so this might be a fairly easy question, but I can't seem to find any answers in my searching.

I am designing a watch dial which has numeric hour markers. It is extremely easy to add them if they are aligned to the circle. I just add my 12 where I want then use the rotate tool to copy at 30 degree increments. Such as this picture where due to the rotation they are aligned out from the center:

rotated markers

But, I can't seem to figure out a way to do the same alignment with vertical hours. You can rotate each hour individually from the previous step so it is vertically aligned, but they lose the correct position on the dial (both vertically and horizontally) when all have been made vertical. I believe that has to do with the bounding box.

Here is an example of the vertical hour markers I am talking about:

vertical markers

How can one do this while still keeping the correct spacing and alignment? Manually placing each one is not an option - this needs to be precise and uniform around the circle - the correct spacing from the outside as well as the correct degree placement on the circle.

1 Answer 1


The problem is that each number has a different bounding box, and regardless of that you actually want to align the number's path to the circle, not its bounding box. So a solution without any manual positioning isn't really possible.

Manually placing each number isn't actually hard to do. You just need guides.

  • Set up guide lines dividing your circle at each relevant angle (i.e. 30°, 60°, 90°, 120° & 150°) and a guide circle to align the numbers to.

  • Then simply place your numbers so that their bounding box is centered on the guide line and the number itself (i.e. its actual path, not its is bounding box) aligned to the guide circle.

close up alignment

close up alignment

finished alignment

Remove your guides and you're left with this:

enter image description here

  • While the concept is great (I thought about doing the same thing if it came down to it) I can just tell by looking at your images these are not aligned properly. Take the 12 for instance... this shows us the 1 and 2 are the same height. With that being true, shouldn't the 10 and 2 sit on the same horizontal line on the image? They should, but they don't. I'd imagine if you added horizontal lines to all the left -> right numbers you would see the same except for maybe the 9 to 3. So... there is more to it than this.
    – user756659
    Jul 16, 2016 at 5:58
  • That's the problem, there is no "correct" way to do this. Each number is a different shape with a different bounding box so If the 10 and 2 are on the same baseline then they will have different distances from the circle or different alignment to the guide markers, there's no way around it. You need to define what "correct" is and that will dictate your method. If you do want consistent baselines for example you simply calculate all the baselines and align to the baselines before aligning to the circle.
    – Cai
    Jul 16, 2016 at 6:57

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