How to Create an Isometric Grid in Adobe Illustrator

How to Create an Isometric Grid in Adobe Illustrator

This is a very quick and easy tutorial for creating an isometric grid in Adobe Illustrator, which you can then either work directly over in Illustrator or print out for freehand sketching.

If you want to skip the tutorial and get working in isometric right away, download these completed grids in PDF format, ready for printing or import into Illustrator or Corel:

1. Create a new document (File > New…). In this case we’re creating a grid we can print out, so we’ll make it letter sized. Set the units to Inches.

Create a new document

2. Draw a vertical line longer than the page. Select the Line tool [press the \ key] and click once (don’t drag) or press Enter. Enter a length of 15 and angle 90 for a 15 inch vertical line.
Draw a line up, longer than you need
3. Move the line to the lower left corner. Using the Selection tool or “black arrow” [V] grab the line by the lower point and drag it to the lower left corner of the page. Your cursor should turn white when you’re over it.
Adjust Keyboard Increment
4. Set the Keyboard Increment to 0.125 in. Open the Preferences panel (File > Preferences > General or Illustrator > Preferences > General, or simply Ctrl/Command K). Type 0.125 for 1/8″ increments. Press OK.

Set Keyboard Increment

5. Duplicate the line horizontally. Hold the Alt/Option key and press the Right arrow key. The line will be duplicated 0.125″, our increment setting, to the right of the original. Keep doing this until the duplicates run well off the page.

Duplicate the line

6. Rotate 60 degrees. Select all the lines (drag a marquee selection using the Selection tool [V] or press Ctrl/Command A). Select the Rotate tool [R] and press Enter. Type 60 for Angle. Hit Copy. Align the end of one of the lines to the top left corner.
Select Rotate tool (R), press Enter, type 60 degrees

8. Reflect. Select the Reflect tool and press Enter. Ensure the Vertical radio button is selected, then press Copy.

Select the Reflect tool, press Enter
9. Check the alignment. The grid should look like this, all identical equilateral triangles.
Check alignment

10. Select everything. Drag a marquee selection with the Selection tool [V] or press Ctrl/Command A. Group all the lines (Object > Group or Ctrl/Command G).

Select all (Ctrl/Command A)
11. Draw a rectangle. Select the rectangle tool [M] and click (don’t drag) on the top left corner. Make the rectangle 8 x 10.5 inches and press OK.
Draw a rectangle
12. Position the rectangle. Press [Down] twice and [Right] twice. This will give us a 1/4″ border on all sides of the rectangle.

Adjust rectange position (press Right twice, Down twice)
13. Select everything. Ctrl/Command A.
Select all (Ctrl/Command A)
14. Create a clipping path. Object > Clipping Path > Make or Ctrl/Command 7. This will hide everything outside of the rectangle.

Object > Clipping Mask > Make (Ctrl/Command 7)
16. Add a title block (optional). Include your logo, a place for a title, your name and the date.

Add a title block (optional)

About

James Provost is a freelance technical illustrator & editorial illustrator and co-founder of Technical Illustrators.org. Say hello on Twitter @jamesprovost.

26 comments

  1. Burt says:

    Hi. Found this site while wandering today and noticed that the isometric pdf links seem to be broken.

  2. Thanks for the heads up, Burt. All fixed now.

  3. Boyd says:

    Really handy. I’m not an illustrator – I’m drawing challenged, but this grid makes it easy to quickly sketch simple stuff. Now I have to see if I can get Illustrator to snap to these intersection points. I’ll look for help on the internet but that might be a nice “next step” tutorial for idiots. Thanks!

  4. Manuel D. Montesinos says:

    I found your tutorial very helpful. Do you have other tutorials, as for illustration techniques or shortcuts for those rush assignments to be done “yesterday”?

  5. Klemen says:

    Great man! :)) very helpful tutorial.

  6. Wink says:

    Oh this is so usefull!

    Thanks so much for this! Would have been nice if you also gave us a download link but perhaps that just me being lazy :)

  7. @Wink
    Not reading the whole post is you being lazy.
    There are download links at the top ;)

  8. ANIL KUMAR.T says:

    Very Nice, It’s very use full for isometric drawing, I am awaiting more tutorials from your side

  9. Dave Urban says:

    Thanks for the tut. Very helpful!

  10. arfa says:

    thank you so much. makes isometric drawing a whole lot easier.

  11. deymonio says:

    thanks !!!!! i need to know this :) great tutorial!!!!

  12. AntonMK says:

    Works like a charm,but why not do this using a pattern? Would it not work too?

  13. gocha says:

    thank you very helpful tutorial ! At first I was lost with the inches values (habitually I use centimeter), but after that I draw my own isometrical sheet very quickly.

  14. Phos FourDots says:

    Or, you can go to Incompetech and use their scripts to generate all kinds of grids, with tweakable parameters, which you can download as PDF files. For free.

    http://incompetech.com/graphpaper/

  15. CUPRA says:

    Thanks for this tut, it’s perfect for a project I’m working on. It’ll help make sure that our team of designers has all the illustrations at the same angle!

  16. Lean says:

    Muchisimas gracias, estaba buscando una guía para crear hojas isométricas hace un tiempo! Muy buen tutorial!

  17. Jash says:

    Right click the link and hit “save link as” for anyone having a hard time downloading it. Took me a while to figure out.

  18. Jen Ricardo says:

    Me encanto este tutorial no sabia que se le llamaba cuadrícula isometrica a esto, muy útil. Gracias!! ^^

  19. Livy says:

    Nice tutorial! Except I wanted to use the grid as live paint and fill it in with the paint bucket. When I used the clipping mask I seemed to have lost that capability. Any way around that?

  20. @Livy You can either convert the grid to a Live Paint object before clipping it, or after by double clicking the clipped object to enter Isolation Mode, selecting the artwork and going to Object > Live Paint > Make.

    Isolation Mode allows you to edit only the clipped artwork without affecting other objects on the artboard. Double click off the clipped artwork to exit Isolation Mode.

    You should then be able to Live Paint in or out of Isolation Mode.

  21. Gavin says:

    Great refresher. Thanks James!

  22. michelle says:

    I just downloaded a single sheet with isometric grids and put it as a layer, and drew on top of it. Easier, then you just remove the layer, or hide layer when you don’t want to see it.

  23. Ballookey says:

    Thank you for the tutorial!

    For anyone who wanted Snap To functionality, you can stop before masking the lines and instead, select all the lines, go to View > Guides > Make Guides instead. Then between Snap To and Smart Guides, it’s easy-peasy to use the pen tool to create perfect shapes.

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