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The Canvas

How to zoom and navigate the Canvas

You can hold the spacebar and click and drag to pan around the Canvas, or use the arrow keys if you haven’t selected any layers.

To zoom in and out, you can hold the key and use your mouse’s scroll wheel, use the pinch gesture on a trackpad or use the Zoom menu in the toolbar. You can also use the Zoom tool by pressing Z and either clicking to zoom in or holding and clicking to zoom out. With the Zoom tool enabled, you can click and drag a selection to zoom into a specific area.

There are also a few Zoom shortcuts:

+ + Zoom In
+ - Zoom Out
+ 0 Zoom to 100%
+ 1 Zoom to see the whole canvas
+ 2 Zoom to selected layer(s)
+ 3 Center selected layer(s) on the canvas

How to show pixels on the Canvas

By default, you’ll view the Canvas in vector mode. It’s resolution independent and you can zoom infinitely to work at any level of detail. The Mac app measures layers in points — where one point is equal one pixel on the Canvas — and when you export, you can scale things to different resolutions.

If you’re working on a design where it’s important to be able to see individual pixels, select View > Canvas > Show Pixels on Zoom or press Ctrl + P to enable Pixel Zoom and view individual pixels when you zoom in past 100%.

Vector and pixel modes

How to show the pixel grid

Select View > Canvas Canvas > Show Pixel Grid on Zoom, or press Ctrl + X, to see any edges of your layers that don’t align with the Pixel Grid once you zoom in past 600%.

An image showing a pixel grid

How to use Rulers and create Guides

The Mac app hides rulers by default, but you can show them by selecting View > Canvas > Show Rulers or pressing Ctrl + R.

You can click and drag on your rulers to set their zero origin anywhere you like on the canvas. To lock them in place, click the lock icon in the corner. To reset your rulers’ origins, choose View > Canvas > Reset Ruler Origin

Clicking the lock icon will stop any accidental ruler movements.

You can click anywhere on a ruler to create a guide. Guides will be visible when your rulers are and if you move a layer on your Canvas it will snap to the nearest guide.

You can move a guide by clicking and dragging on it inside a ruler. To remove it completely, drag it right towards the Layer List or Inspector until your cursor changes. You’ll see that the guide disappears.

To remove all of your guides together, Control-Click one of the rulers and select Remove All Vertical Guides or Remove All Horizontal Guides, respectively.

How to create Grids

The Mac app supports two types of grid; a regular (square grid) and a layout grid. You can view both at the same time if you need to.

To set up a square grid, choose View > Canvas > Show Grid or press Ctrl + G. To change its settings (the size of the cells, how often thicker lines appear and the color of the lines), choose View > Canvas > Grid Settings….

To set up a layout grid, choose View > Canvas > Layout Settings… and use the options that appear to choose the number of columns and rows, their widths, gutter widths and colors.

You can only apply grids to Artboards, or to the Canvasw if there aren’t any Artboards on it. You can edit the layout options for multiple Artboards at the same time.

When you have a layout grid set up, layers will snap to it and ignore the Mac app’s Smart Guides.

Tip: To hide and show layout grids, press Ctrl + L on your keyboard.


To measure the distance between different layers on the Canvas, select the first layer, then hold and hover over the layer you want to measure against. To measure against a layer that’s inside a group, you’ll need to as well.

If you’re measuring the distance to a text layer, holding will measure to the text’s bounding box. Holding Ctrl will measure to the text’s baseline (from the bottom) or cap height (from the top).

You can change the colors of the measuring guides via the Canvas tab in Preferences.

How snapping and Smart Guides work

As you move or insert layers and Symbols on the Canvas, the Mac app will automatically show you measurements against nearby layers, as well as Smart Guides that help you snap to a nearby layer’s centre or edges.

If you have two or more layers next to each other, and move another near to them, we’ll highlight their distance and automatically snap that layer to distribute them all equally.

When you resize a layer, if there are similar layers nearby we’ll show you if they have a similar width or height. This also works when you’re resizing a layer that’s overlapping another.

Finally, when you insert or move text layers, they’ll snap to the height or width of nearby layers. Adjust the height of a text layer will also snap the bounding box to the last line of text.

Last updated on 05 May 2021

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