How and When to Use Align and Distribute

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simonwl

simonwl

Introduction

Welcome to another tutorial! As you may have noticed, Clip Studio Paint recently updated to version 2.0! With that, a whole slew of new features dropped.

 

One of the features I was most excited about was the Align/Distribute feature, and today we’ll be looking at how it works and when it can be beneficial to use!

 

As usual, please find a video version of the tutorial below:

How Align and Distribute Works

First of all, if you don’t see the window yet, you can open it from the Window > Align/Distribute menu option.

Next up, let’s look at what all these buttons do.

You can mouse over each button and get a good description of what it represents.

 

First of all, you can select the Align and Distribute features. You can align the left edges, horizontal center, right edges, top edges, vertical center or bottom edges. Likewise you can distribute items in the same way.

 

How these features work depends on the “Alignment base” you have chosen. This setting determines in what space the elements will be aligned or distributed.

 

The first option is “Alignment object”. This means objects are aligned within the current space occupied by them. Something you need to keep in mind with this option only is that the space occupied by objects is refreshed EVERY time the position of objects changes. So, for example, if all four objects are located in each corner of your canvas, and you align their top edge, the next time you want to arrange them, a much more narrow area rather than the whole canvas will be used to calculate the alignment.

Next up is “Canvas”. Objects are aligned within your entire canvas.

 

With “Selection area,“ objects are aligned within a selection you have made.

 

“Guide” refers to guidelines you may have created. (You can create guidelines either by using the Ruler tool, or by activating the “Ruler Bar” option from the View menu and dragging and dropping a ruler from the bar.) If multiple guidelines are present, a single object or layer will always align to the guideline closest to it, whereas in the case of multiple objects or layers, they will align to the guideline that the highest number of objects are closer to.

 

Finally, “Auto” automatically chooses whichever previous option currently makes the most sense based on your selection. If you have multiple layers selected, “Alignment object” is chosen. If you have a selection active, “Selection area” is chosen. If you have guides active, “Guide” is chosen. If none of these apply, “Canvas” is chosen.

There is also a “Distribute evenly” option that ensures there is always the exact same space between elements! If you are aligning similarly sized objects, you may not notice a huge difference (or none at all) from using the “distribute horizontal/vertical center” features.

 

If the objects are sized differently, however, you will begin to see a difference. When distributing evenly, the space is calculated based on the edges of the objects.

When distributing the horizontal center, the space is calculated based on, well, the horizontal center of the objects.

 

Finally, there are two toggle options.

 

You can choose to “Align to text pixels”, which means that if you have a text frame pulled up, the frame will be ignored and only the actual text will be used. This can be a subtle option, but pay attention to the frame surrounding the text here and how it differentiates when the option is toggled on or off.

You can also choose to “Align to vector paths”, which means that the actual vector points are aligned rather than the actual shape. Let’s look at this drawing - you can see that if I choose the “Canvas” Alignment base option with “Align to vector paths” on, the edge of the drawing is cut off. That’s because the vector paths are aligned to the edge of the canvas, rather than the shape of the line drawn by the vector path.

When viewing the vector paths from a selection, it becomes clear the paths were aligned to the edge of the canvas:

Three Use Cases

So now you know how the feature works!

 

But why was I excited about it? What are some use cases for it?

 

Here are three reasons I was excited about it:

#1: It’s great for rearranging comic panels!

Let’s say that I want to rearrange a comic page into a webtoon scroll format. I start by copying all panels from a page-sized file into a webtoon-sized file. Previously, I had to move each panel individually after copying them all.

However, now I can just select all panels, use the “Canvas” Alignment base, align the horizontal centers of all panels, and then distribute their vertical spacing evenly across the canvas.

Of course, it can be good to switch up the spacing between panels for dramatic reasons (more about that in my other tutorials “Making Comics for both Print and Webtoon” and “8 Techniques for Scene Transitions in Webtoons”). However, the new feature still is a huge time saver when it comes to this kind of task!

#2: It’s great for creating character line-ups!

In this example, I want to turn this poster into a character line-up that I can use as a reference.

I merge the layers of all characters, then copy them to a new document. Now, I distribute their horizontal centers and align their bottom edges. Of course, some minor adjustments regarding positioning still need to be made, but 90% of the work was already done for me in just a few clicks!

Next, I want to create a police line-up style of background. I create a single line layer, then copy it multiple times. I move the last line to the height I want. Then, using the “Alignment object” Alignment base, I distribute the vertical spacing evenly. Finally, I also create some text that shows each character’s name. To make sure that it is all placed at the same height, I use the “Align vertical center” tool. I also align it to the center of each character by selecting the text and corresponding character, and using the “Align horizontal center” option.

#3: It’s great for exporting icons!

I decided I want to use all these illustrations here as icons. To do that, I would need to make sure the images are all evenly sized. With the new Align feature, we can do this extremely fast. I select all the layers and folders, then align everything to the center of the canvas both horizontally and vertically. Next, I can use the “Change Canvas size” feature to roughly crop the canvas to an even square that contains all the elements. Once that is done, I align everything to the center of the canvas once more.

Now I can toggle the visibility of each layer and export everything at a uniform size. You might also want to use the “Specify output size” in the “export settings” window to match any image size requirements your icons may have.

Tips and Tricks

Before I end this video, I want to point out a few tips and tricks! The tools may seem simple enough, but there are a few things that you should keep in mind.

Using Rectangles as Guidelines

While you cannot align/distribute guides themselves, you can create rectangles and distribute these, then align your actual objects to these rectangles, using them like you would use a guide.

Using the Correct Order

Especially when using the rectangle guide method, it may be important to keep the correct order of using the Align feature in mind! What I mean by this is that if you want to align objects to the rectangle with the “Alignment object” base and “Align to vertical/horizontal center” features, but your objects are all over the place, the alignment shape will be calculated based on that rather than the rectangle! So, first align everything to the edge of the rectangle, rather than the center. Pick whichever edge of the rectangle the object is furthest away from. Now, unless any objects are wider than the rectangle, the center of the “Alignment object” base will be the rectangle, and you can align to the center, without the rectangle itself getting moved around!

A Common Mistake

Please keep in mind that if there are any small, barely noticeable elements left over on your layer, they will be included when calculating the alignment/distribution values. If something looks off, make sure that there’s no such instance present on your layer.

Folders vs Layers

One thing to keep in mind when aligning objects is that if you select multiple layers within a folder, those layers will be arranged, rather than the folder itself. Only if you actively select the folder without selecting the layers within, all layers within the folder remain grouped together when using the align/distribute feature.

Multiple Vector Objects on a Single Layer

It’s worth noting that the Align/Distribute feature works with multiple vector lines on a single layer. This can be useful in cases where you have single line drawings that you want to re-arrange, such as something like this...

...but it can also be an obstacle if you have multi-line drawings that you want to re-arrange, like this:

However, in the latter case, simply extract the elements you want to separate into different layers (for example, by using the “Object” tool, clicking and dragging to select specific lines, then cutting them, creating a new Vector layer, and pasting them there). If you do this, then select the layers, you can still use the Align/Distribute feature as intended.

Aligning 3D Objects

One thing you may have be wondering - does this work with 3D objects? Unfortunately, it does not (at the moment, anyway). However, you can still absolutely use normal layers and align/distribute these according to your wishes, thereby creating a reference for the spacing of 3D objects!

Thank You!

That’s about all I could think to say about the wonderful new Align/Distribute feature. What have you been using the tool for? Did this video give you some new ideas on how to use it? Let me know in the comments! And as always - if you have any questions, feel free to ask and I’d be happy to answer!

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