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For some of my favorite identity work on Behance, I frequently see diagrams with well placed grid lines and circles such as Denis Olenik's gorgeous work for Savviva:

http://www.behance.net/gallery/Savviva-Corporate-Identity/688520

In practice, I'm struggling with how to get the shape to actually conform around these circles when using Illustrator. I thought I was decent with the pathfinder options, but when it came to actually rounding shapes, I'm struggling with having perfect accuracy for where the circle falls.

For example, if I want to round off the corner, and activate Preview Mode in Illustrator to more clearly see the lines, the two shapes don't share a common point to snap to. Just eyeballing it doesn't feel terribly accurate either.

1. Is there a way in Illustrator to be more accurate with snapping shapes to their sides rather than their points?

2. Are there any resources out there that teach the techniques used by many type and logo designers that use custom line and circle guides?

I hope one day to be as good as Denis at rendering these exquisite type shapes.

7 Apr 2011 — 11:11am

I know it sounds lame, but what about Smart Guides? They basically solved everything for me.

7 Apr 2011 — 11:13am

First, I would say that those grid diagrams are more for dispaly than actually how the work was constructed. In other words, they are often added after the fact.

However, it is possible to do this in illustrator with a bit of geometry (don't be scared!)

1) Add anchor points to the straight lines where you would like the circle to intersect

2) Draw 3 circles the same radius as you want your final curve to be. Center 2 of these circles on the points from step 1

3) Center the third circle on the intersection of the 2 previous circles.

4) Celebrate!

7 Apr 2011 — 12:01pm

@earthache - I looked a little more into Smart Guides and unfortunately, the edge of the circle doesn't snap to the the guide that's on a diagonal.

@Luma - Thanks for this bit of geometry. It's great in theory, but Illustrator's limitations appears to not be able to accurately put it into practice. Here's the problems I ran into:

1. In order to do step one, I'd need to know exactly where the circle should hit. If I have to create a point on the line, I'm still not sure exactly where that point should be.

2. Even with a point there, the center of the circles are not snapping to it.

3. The "snap to" function ignores any object or guide that's on an angle. Even with a smart guide, I think I have to just visually guess if it's perfectly aligned.

8 Apr 2011 — 1:27pm

I was assuming that you could use the estimation that you already had to locate the point accurately enough. Maybe that is not close enough for you...

So the harder-but-more-accurate way:

Draw lines paralell to the straight lines that are exactly as far away from the original lines as the radius of the curve you want to make. The intersection of these lines will be exactly where your circle should be centered. You probably have to know the actual angle of your lines, but that can be calculated easily enough.

Snapping to center is easy with smart guides turned on. I don't really understand the snapping trouble you are describing, it sounds totally unlike my experience using Illustrator CS.