Guides are a great way to align objects, layers, text, etc. in Affinity Photo, or to use as a general reference when editing photos or creating graphics and designs in a composition. Regardless of why you need guides, this tutorial shows you exactly how to create and edit guides in Affinity Photo. You can watch the video version of this tutorial below, or skip past it to read the article version.
The first thing to note about Affinity Photo is that there are actually two types of guides you can create. The first type is called a “Ruler Guide,” which is the more traditional guide you create from the rulers around your composition that show up as a light blue line across your document.
The second type of guide is called a “Column Guide.” These guides are for creating templates or mock-ups, creating rows and columns on your document while also displaying “padding” to show how much space there is between each “cell” created by the rows and columns. This type of guide is best used for anyone creating layouts for magazines, websites, phone apps, etc.
There are two main methods for creating ruler guides.
The first is to grab the “Move Tool” from the tools panel (red arrow in the image above – or by using the “V” shortcut key).
Next, make sure your rulers are displayed around your canvas. If not, you can turn them on by using the ctrl+r shortcut key or by going to View>Show Rulers (shown above).
Once you have the rulers around your canvas, click and drag your mouse from either the vertical or horizontal rulers around your canvas (red arrow in the image above is pointing to the horizontal rulers). This will produce a guide as you drag your mouse downward and over your document (blue arrow in the image above).
Continue to hold your mouse click until you reach the location where you would like to place your guide. Release your mouse click, and the guide will be placed at that location (red arrow in the image above).
The downside to this method for creating guides is that you may not be able to precisely place the guide at the exact pixel location you’d like on your document. However, there is a way to get precision with guide placement using the second method for Ruler Guide placement.
For more precise guide placement, as well as the ability to quickly place or remove multiple guides, you’ll want to use what’s called the “Guides Manager.”
To access the Guides Manager, go to View>Guides Manager.
This will bring up the “Guides” panel (outlined in blue in the photo above) with options for editing existing horizontal or vertical guides or creating new guides.
You’ll see that the first guide I created shows up under the “Horizontal Guides” column. If I click on this guide once, it will make this guide active.
If I double-click on this guide, it will allow me to edit the text of the guide (which contains the position of the guide as a number – in this case “512”, as well as the units being used to display the guides position – in this case “pixels.” This is denoted by the red arrow in the image above). I can type whatever numerical value I want in this field, and it will adjust the position of my guide.
For example, if I type “750,” then hit the enter key on my keyboard (red arrow in the image above), my guide will reposition itself to be 750 pixels down on the horizontal axis (blue arrow). Note that I don’t have to type the units – Affinity Photo will automatically add the units to the end.
If I wanted to delete this guide while its still the active guide, I can click the trash can icon (labeled “remove horizontal guide” when I hover my mouse over the icon – red arrow in the image above) and the guide will be deleted.
Right next to the trash can icon is another icon labeled “Add new horizontal guide” (red arrow in the image above). Clicking this icon will create a brand new horizontal guide on your composition. By default, the new guide will be placed exactly halfway down your composition (in my case at 540 pixels since my image is 1080 pixels in height). You can always change the guide’s position by double-clicking on the text and entering a new numerical value (as discussed above).
To the right of the “Horizontal Guides” column is the “Vertical Guides” column. All the same rules apply in this column, although the guides created here are for the vertical axis of the document. So, when I click the “Add new vertical guide” option (red arrow in the image above), a new vertical guide (blue arrow) is placed on my composition at the halfway point (in my case at 960 pixels – denoted by the yellow arrow in the image above – since my document is 1920 pixels wide).
You can create as many guides as you want using the Guides manager. Just continue clicking the “Add new (horizontal/vertical) guide” button (yellow arrow in the above image) and setting the location of your guides (red arrow). The new guide(s) will appear on the document in the location you set as they are created (blue arrow).
Below the Horizontal and Vertical Guides sections is a button labeled “Remove All Guides” (red arrow above). Clicking this button will erase all the guides in your composition.
Next to this button is a checkbox labeled “percent” (outlined with green in the image above). Clicking this option will convert the units assigned to your guides (in this case pixels) to a percent. For example, if I click the “Add new horizontal guide” button again while this percent button is checked, the new guide will be placed at 540 pixels, or 50% (red arrow in the image above).
One last note about Ruler Guides before I move on to Column Guides: Ruler Guides can also be relocated using the “Move Tool” directly on your canvas. Just hover the move tool over the guide until your mouse pointer changes to a double-sided arrow, then click and drag the ruler to a new position.
To delete the guide entirely using the move tool, simply drag the guide off the document and release your mouse. The guide will be deleted.
Keeping the Guides Manager open, I’ll now cover the second type of guides found in Affinity Photo – Column Guides. These guides differ from Ruler Guides in that they use cover overlays across your document to separate rows and columns, helping you easily visualize layouts and add design elements within the rows and columns of your layout. This is useful for anyone creating designs for specific layouts like websites and phone apps since these types of layouts tend to be based on rows and columns.
For starters, navigate over to the area of the Guides panel labeled “Column Guides” (highlighted in green in the image above). Here is where you’ll adjust the settings for your column guides. By default, your “Columns” and “Rows” will be set to 1.
If I increase the “Columns” to 2 (red arrow in the image above), my document will be cut in half vertically by a thick, highlighted line, and I will now have two distinct columns (one on the left and one on the right – denoted by the green arrows). By default, these columns will be denoted by a grayish color. The highlighted line splitting the columns down the middle of the document (blue arrow) is known as the “gutter.” In layout design, a gutter is simply the spacing between rows and columns.
Below the “Columns” field is the “Rows” field (red arrow in the photo above). Here, I’ll increase the number of rows to 2. You’ll now see there is a horizontal line (again, known as the “gutter”) that splits my document horizontally (blue arrow). As a result, my document is now divided into four equal areas with two rows and two columns.
Below the “Rows” field is the “Gutter” field (red arrow in the image above). Here I can adjust the width of the gutters that are dividing up my document. By default, the gutter is set to 100 px. If I wanted the gutters, or the spacing between the rows and columns, to be smaller, I can decrease this value to something smaller (i.e. 50 px in this example). I can simply type “50” in this field and hit the enter key.
Now my gutters are much smaller (blue arrow in the image above), so there is less spacing between the rows and columns.
If I didn’t like the styling of the gutters, I can change them using the dropdown labeled “Styling.” Filled is the default styling, but I can also use “Outlined” if I prefer. This option converts the gutters to lines rather than a highlight color.
Below the Styling dropdown is the “Color” option (red arrow in the image above). This allows you to change the color used to denote the main rows and columns in between the gutters. By default, the color is gray, but I can change the color to anything I want.
For example, I can change the color to a green color, and the colors of the row and column cells will update to green (blue arrow in the image above). Note that the color will show up lighter on the document as its not being displayed in full opacity (it is displaying more as a semi-transparent overlay).
I’ll reset the color back to gray by typing “129” for each of the R, G, and B values (outlined in green in the image above).
The next area of the panel is the “Margins” area (outlined in green in the image above). This section allows you to add or remove spacing to the guides around the outside border of your document. You can add spacing to your margins on the left, right, top or bottom of your document.
Reminder: gutters are the spacing between rows and columns, whereas margins are the spaces that go around the outer edge of your document.
For example, if I wanted to add 25 pixels of space to the left side of my document (red arrow in the image above), I would type “25” and hit the enter key in the “Left” field. You’ll now see that 25 pixels of space is added to the left side of the document (blue arrow).
Note that adding spacing to your margins will cut into the overall size of your cells (the main areas where your designs will go created by the rows and columns).
If I wanted to add equal spacing to the right side of my document, I can type “25” and hit the enter key in the “Right” field (red arrow in the image above). Now my document has 25 pixels of spacing on the left and right sides (blue arrow).
I’ll do the same for the “Top” and “Bottom” fields (red arrow), so that the entire perimeter of my document has a 25 pixel margin. You’ll notice that the end of the margin is denoted by a blue line in all areas where there is a margin (green arrow).
Finally, the very bottom section of the Guides panel is the “Spread Origin” feature (outlined in green). This allows you to change the point on your document at which the rulers start with “0.” By default, your rulers start at 0 at a value of 0 for the X axis (the horizontal axis – red arrow) and a value of 0 for the Y axis (the vertical axis – red arrow). To put it more simply, the rulers start at 0 in the very top left corner of your document.
If you wanted to change where your rulers start at 0 (for example, you may have a “safe area” where you need all your design assets to be to ensure they don’t get cut off by the printer), you can simply type a numerical value for the X and Y axis. I set my Spread Origin to 100 px for both my X and Y axis (red arrows in the image above). You’ll now see that my rulers start at “-100” in the top left corner of my document (blue arrow), and that the “0” value has shifted 100 pixels to the right (for the x axis) and 100 pixels down (for the y axis). (If your rulers didn’t update automatically, you may just want to zoom in and out using the ctrl key and your mouse wheel, which usually updates the rulers).
I’ll reset these values to “0” for the spread origin.
The example for this tutorial only has 2 columns and 2 rows, but I can add pretty much as many columns and rows as I want (or that can fit on my particular document size, factoring in the gutter width). If I wanted to get rid of the column guides and the gutter, I can decrease the columns and rows values back to 1, and set the margins values back to 0.
That’s it for this tutorial! If you liked it, you can check out any of my other Affinity Photo video tutorials or help articles.