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How to Prevent Illustrator from Adding Those Extra Pixels

Words "The Victory" engraved a stone wall.  Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

You know when something (really) bugs you for a while? And you know there has got to be a solution but you just haven’t found it yet? Such is the case with the fact that Illustrator will sometimes add extra pixels to the file dimensions when exporting pattern swatches for repeats or art for uploading to POD sites.

If you create pattern repeats, you know this can be a problem. You know your artboard is, say, 1200px x 1200px, you’ve double checked it 39 times! Yet when you look at the .jpg or .png you just exported, the size has mysteriously changed to 1200 x 1201, or 1201 x 1201. This is puzzling at best, frustrating and anxiety producing at worst, potentially leading to glitches in the finished product. I was never sure if I should simply resize the .jpg image or adjust the canvas size. And if I was to adjust the canvas size in Photoshop, would I orient to the center, top left…??? Neither of those seemed like a solid option. So, where exactly was Illustrator adding this pesky extra pixel from? I had to know!

In case you can’t tell, I am pretty detail oriented, which has served me well in all the graphic design I have done for print over the years. When thousands of copies of a magazine or catalog are going on paper it has to be right. A mistake can be fixed on a website pretty easily, but not so much when reprinting is cost prohibitive or will cause the client to miss a deadline. Even in the digital world, you read about “pixel perfect” all the time.

Wonder No More!

I feel like I have cracked the code or won a little lottery jackpot today! Hence, the victory photo above. Thanks to some good old fashioned internet research—which I have tried, unsuccessfully, on this topic several times before—I have finally figured it out. Cue the happy dance here. In case you are wondering too, I am happy to share it with you!

How to Fix It

When I’m working on a pattern collection, I have one giant Illustrator file with all my designs and color ways, plus a notation of the scale that I want to save each swatch out at. I then create a second “swatch” file, pull out and scale all my swatches and create artboards for each one. I name each artboard with the corresponding “PatternName-Colorway” (saves time later). Then, to make sure the exported file will match the art board exactly, do the following steps. My example happens to be in inches, but it’s the same if you are working in pixels.

Step 1

Open Properties and then click on the artboard you want to change.

Close up of Illustrator pattern swatch and dialog box.

Notice that the position numbers have characters after the decimal. You want those numbers to be whole numbers with nothing after the decimal.

Close up of Illustrator pattern swatch and dialog box.

Step 2

Open the Artboard Options tab.

Close up of Illustrator pattern swatch and dialog box.

Change the X and Y coordinates to whole numbers. Be sure to change within the Artboard Options pane, not in the Properties pane.

Close up of Illustrator pattern swatch and dialog box.

Don't worry about the minus signs, that's just the reference from wherever the zero point is set on your artboard. Keep them if they are showing, otherwise your swatch could move a long way on the board. I usually have between 2 and 6 swatches per pattern, depending on how many colorways I have designed and whether a swatch is available in more than one color option. The swatches in this example represent a "light" and "dark" option of the same pattern.

Close up of Illustrator pattern swatch and dialog box.

That's it. Problem solved! Once the X and Y reference points are whole numbers, your artboards will export exactly at the size you need them to. No more pesky extra pixels.

Pass it On!

Do you know someone else who would find this information helpful? Feel free to share this with them. I know I am always grateful to fellow designers who share their tips and tricks.


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