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Preparing Multiple Instances of a Bumper Sticker for Print

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Adobe Illustrator offers plenty of alternatives to good old Copy and Paste, depending on what you're doing at the time. In this quick tutorial we'll look at creating multiple instances of a single bumper sticker on your artboard. With this method you'll need only edit the original to change all copies on your page. We'll also look at how the Graphic Styles palette can help us round off the process.

Final Image Preview

Below is the final design we will be working towards. Want access to the full Vector Source files and downloadable copies of every tutorial, including this one? Join VECTORTUTS PLUS for just 9/month.

Step 1: Open a New Document

For the purposes of this demonstration I've decided to print my own bumper stickers; I have some A4 sheets of sticky-backed vinyl and I'm ready to begin with creating the document.

Go to File > New to open up the New Document dialog. As you can see I've created an A4 landscape page, CMYK as I intend to print. Define your parameters and click OK.

Step 2: Your Design

Design your sticker, business card, flyer, or whatever you're choosing to make and place it wherever you want on your artboard; we'll worry about proper positioning in a minute. My bumper sticker measures 120mm by 40mm and I'm sure you'll agree, anyone would be proud to have it displayed on their vehicle...

Step 3: Crop Marks

So we can guarantee correct cutting after we've printed our stickers let's add some crop marks to the design. Select the main background object and go to Filter > Create > Cropmarks.

Step 4: Cropping the Crop Marks(?)

The standard Crop Marks which Illustrator creates in this way are a little on the big side for our needs; we'd like to fit as many stickers as possible on an A4 page after all. Trim them down by first setting your keyboard Increment to 2mm. Do this by going into the Illustrator > Preferences and entering your value as shown below.

Then use your Direct Selection tool to take each outer anchor point 10mm inwards (five taps on the Arrow keys) and each inner anchor point moves 2mm inwards (1 tap on the arrow keys). Much better!

Step 5: Bleedin'...

When cropping print work it's always advisable to add a bleed of around 3mm. Again, select the main background object. Now go to Effect > Path > Offset Path, and enter 3mm in the Offset Path dialog, then click OK. It's not necessary to expand this effect, we'll leave it so that we can edit it should we need to.

Step 6: Group Together and Reposition

Select all the elements of this completed object and group them together. Position the group somewhere top left on your page. Showing your page tiling at this point (View > Show Page Tiling) may be helpful to prevent you from placing anything outside the printable area. The Page tile is visible as a dotted area within the artboard:

Step 7: Duplicate

With your grouped object selected, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform...

In the Transform Effect dialog, choose to make 1 copy and move 140mm horizontally to the right. You'll have to enter this figure using the keyboard; it's unlikely the slider will travel far enough to reach this value. Also, make sure Preview is checked, that way you can be sure to position the copy within your page boundaries.

Step 8: Triplicate

Well, that's sorted out the horizontal copy, now let's distribute some copies down the page too. Select your original object and go once again to Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform...

In doing this you'll be warned that you're about to apply a second instance of the effect. That's exactly the plan, so click Apply New Effect.

Step 9: Enter Values

The Transform Effect dialog will open once again, this time state that you'd like two copies and move each one vertically -60mm. A minus value here will move your objects vertically downwards.

Step 10: Check, Please!

At this point it should be clear to you that what you have on your artboard is just one object, visually reproduced. If you toggle to Outline mode (Command + Y) you can check that there is indeed just one object on your artboard. This also means that any alterations made to the original object will be mirrored in the duplicates. Change a color, see for yourself.

Should you want the duplicates to become independent, select the object and go to Object > Expand Appearance. Each one will become an object in it's own right.

Step 11: Save for a Rainy Day

It's been an enormous amount of hassle to get your document this far, right? Well never fear! Should you need to repeat this process again in the future you can save the effect using the Graphic Styles palette. First, you'll need to open your Appearance palette (Window > Appearance).

Step 12: Drag 'n' Drop

Now, open your Graphic Styles palette (Window > Graphic Styles). With your object selected, you'll see the group's appearance attributes listed in the Appearance palette. Drag the thumbnail next to 'group' into the Graphic Styles palette and a new style will be created with the attributes of your object.

Step 13: It's all in a Name

Give your style a name by double-clicking the thumbnail within the Graphic Styles palette. In the Graphic Style Options dialog which appears, enter a name of your choice (multiple stickers, or something) and click OK.

You'll see in the Appearance palette that your group has also inherited the name of your newly created style.

Whenever you want to use the style, create a group of objects and click on the thumbnail. Easy!

Conclusion

There you go, an A4 page dotted with (dynamic) stickers, ready to print. A few very simple steps, but a handy skill to have and a satisfying end result. Hopefully you'll find all manner of uses for this one..!

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