How to Rotate a Canvas in Illustrator

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Adobe Illustrator's artboards include editable features.

If you're accustomed to working with Adobe Photoshop's "Rotate Canvas" command, you may expect to find an equivalent option in Adobe Illustrator. In Photoshop, the canvas defines the live area of an individual document, which constitutes a resizable object you can crop and rotate. In Illustrator, the canvas consists of the "scratchpad" working area, the background behind the individual artboards on which you draw. You can't rotate the canvas itself because Illustrator doesn't treat it as an editable, selectable object, but you can change the orientation of individual artboards and the artwork that appears on them.


Step 1

Select and modify artboards in the Artboards panel.

Open the "Window" menu and choose "Artboards" to reveal the Artboards panel. Select the listing for the artboard you want to change.


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Step 2

Switch artboard orientation to rotate artboard dimensions.

Open the fly-out menu at the top right corner of the Artboards panel and choose "Artboard Options." Change the orientation of the artboard from portrait to landscape or vice versa to rotate its dimensions. Note that this operation does not rotate the artwork on the artboard.


Step 3

Rotate artwork independently of artboards.

Press "Ctrl-A" to select all the artwork on the current artboard. If several artboards intersect, this command selects the objects on more than one artboard. Press "R" to switch to the Rotate tool. Double-click the tool to open the Rotate dialog box. When the dialog box opens, enter a rotation angle to change the orientation of the selected artwork. Click the "OK" button to close the dialog box and complete the operation.


Adobe Illustrator offers more than one method of rotating selected artwork. In addition to using the Rotate tool's dialog box to enter a specific rotation angle, you can activate the tool and use it interactively, clicking and dragging within the document window to rotate artwork incrementally. You also can enter a rotation angle in the Transform panel and press the "Enter" key to apply the change.

When you activate the Artboard tool in the Adobe Illustrator Tools panel, the Control panel displays an unlabeled Orientation button you can use to rotate the dimensions of an artboard.

To access the Artboard Options dialog box, you can double-click the Artboard tool's icon in the Tools panel. With the Artboard tool active, the Control panel displays an unlabeled Artboard Options button that also opens the Artboard Options dialog box.

If you swap the width and height of an artboard, you accomplish the same objective as changing its orientation. Enter the height measurement in the Artboard Options dialog box's width field and the width measurement in the height field.


With the Artboard tool active, the Control panel's reference point locator changes the point of origin of operations that affect the orientation and size of an artboard. By default, the reference point locator establishes the dimensional center as the point of origin of any operation. Click one of the squares at the corners or midway along the sides of the reference point locator to change the point of origin.

Information in this article applies to Adobe Illustrator CC 2014, Adobe Illustrator CC and Adobe Illustrator CS6. It may differ slightly or significantly with other versions or products.