I have somewhat of a mess on my hands with a certain file. So I was given a (.ai) file by a client that contains 20,000 circles (210 circles high by 90 circles wide where each circle needs to be labeled with a different letter (that corresponds to a pre-agreed upon color scheme) to indicate what color the balls will be in real life when this file is turned into a physical art piece.

So, I have already labeled each circle with the correct letters, but since this file is going to later be used by a cnc cutter to etch the letters into the bottom something of a half-dome/cup-like shape (in wood) I am told each letter needs to be EXACTLY in the center (horiz and vert) of each circle in order for the cuts to come out correctly. Currently, they are not perfectly centered.

Is there a quick, easy way to select all the letters (and/or maybe all the balls?) and 'tell' illustrator to space them all out in a perfect grid to match up to the balls (the balls are perfectly spaced, but my placement of the letters within them is unfortunately not)?

The only thing I can think of so far is to center-align each line....line-by-line....which is taking AGES and I have a tight deadline. Surely, there has to be a better way that I am ignorant of?

  • 1
    You do understand that visually centering text and mathematically centering text produces different results.
    – joojaa
    Oct 27, 2016 at 4:18

3 Answers 3

  • Start by locking the circles.

  • Then outline the text.

  • Get it so you can select all text for the first column (column rather than row because there's fewer of them, you'll only have to do this 90 times).

    • Put the first text on the top circle of the column.

    • Put the last text on the bottom circle of the first column.

    • Select all the text for the first column and hit align/distribute vertical.

  • Repeat for second column and the rest.

When you place first and last text on the circles make sure they're centered both ways with the circle. Will have to unlock circles for the alignment or have another set of circles pasted in place just to use for text alignment. When aligning text and circle make sure circle does not shift at all. I'm not sure how illustrator decides which object is aligned to which. I think it has to do with which one was selected first.


You should be able to select all (control+a or command+a on mac) then center the text (control+shift+c or command+shift+c on mac). That would at least save you from having to select each line and center, as you mentioned.

You should/could also look into the Align pallet (Window -> Align). With this, you could select individual rows or columns and center the selection with themselves. Be sure to check the options, as it can align to selection or to art board... in this case you want 'to selection'.


If you want to perfectly center a letter in a circle, make sur you have outlined your text first. non outlined text has spacing which makes the centering not relative to the letter itself.

Then, follow typo-joe's technique.

But to me there will have to be repetitive tasks.

You could also put a grid with your spacings, then snap to grid and manually adjust. That's one by one too, but might be faster...

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