Change Canvas Size In Illustrator For Large-Scale Designs

In this post, I explain the steps you can take to change the canvas size in Adobe Illustrator so that it can contain a larger artboard size or more artboards.

Note that the canvas is the area around the artboard and the canvas in Illustrator is not the same as the artboard.

How to change canvas size in Adobe Illustrator

If you see a notice like that: “Can’t paste the objects. The requested transformation would make some objects fall completely off the drawing area.” It may mean you need more canvas space.

You can’t change your canvas size, so you start splitting one large file design into separate individual Illustrator files.

This is what Adobe says about Illustrator canvas size:

You can create a large-sized canvas that’s 2270 x 2270 inches, which means you get 100x more working space than the default canvas.

Source: Adobe Illustrator

Have you been able to change it to that size?

Yes, but not when you first start a file document with only a 1000 px-sized artboard. Also, somehow there isn’t a one-click function to change your canvas size in Adobe Illustrator like how you can resize your artboard size.

The good news is, that there is a neat workaround to help you increase the canvas size to a maximum of 2275.4167 x 2275.4167 in (or round down to 2270 x 2270 in)

And, in this post, I’m going to give you a checklist of these steps.

But before working your way through this canvas checklist, it’s important to be very clear about what a canvas in Illustrator actually is.

So, let’s start with that.

Difference Between Canvas Vs Artboard In Adobe Illustrator

First and foremost, do not confuse canvas with artboard. A canvas is not an artboard and there is both a canvas and an artboard in Adobe Illustrator.

In Illustrator, the canvas is your workspace, just like the table, desk, or studio you are working at.

The artboard is where you work on the designs, just like a piece of paper or a page in real life that’s placed on your desk. In the case of Illustrator, that will be your canvas.

You need an artboard to start an Illustrator document. The Illustrator file cannot have a canvas without an artboard.

If canvas size is what you want to change or increase here, then you are looking at the area surrounding the artboard.

comparing canvas vs artboard vs out of bounds in adobe Illustrator

An Illustrator document file will always consist of the following:

  1. Outside of canvas — Nothing can exist or be created here, no canvas, no artboard, no objects, nothing is allowed to be added here.
  2. Canvas — There is a limit to the canvas size and it’s where artboards are placed.
  3. Artboard — Here is your work, so that you can use this space to publish, export, or consider your work on this space as official. Anything outside is a draft.

How To Change Canvas Size In Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator doesn’t allow you to custom change your canvas size like how you change your artboard. But you can create a new artboard with the maximum size for Illustrator to expand its canvas and accommodate your artboard.

Here are the steps to change your canvas size to fit larger artboard sizes or more artboards.

Step 1: New Document

You may have an existing Illustrator document and you wish to increase the size of your canvas for this document.

But if you’ve started this document with a small artboard like 1000 x 1000 px, your canvas size will be by default at a maximum of 16320 x 16320 px.

Trying to change your artboard size to bigger than that and you will see this notice: “Artboard cannot be created outside the canvas bounds.”

artboard can not be created outside the canvas bounds

Once you start an Illustrator document with a small-sized artboard like 1000 x 1000 px, Illustrator will only give you a canvas size that matches the artboard size you’ve created.

When you wish to change your existing canvas size in the same document to something bigger than 16320 x 16320 px, Illustrator doesn’t allow you to do that.

canvas size when artboard is small illustrator
Your canvas maximum size is small if your artboard size is small. Note: This is not to scale.

The solution is to create a new Illustrator document with the maximum artboard size to make Illustrator stretch the canvas size to its maximum.

So start a new document by selecting File > New.

Step 2: Set Maximum Artboard Size

In the New Document dialog box, set your artboard size to the maximum of 2270 x 2270 in, or 163440 x 163440 px, or 57658 x 57658 mm.

Input the largest artboard size into New Document settings to set canvas size in Illustrator.
Input the largest artboard size into New Document settings to set canvas size in Illustrator.

Once you do that, an orange danger size appears at the bottom of the dialog box. If you click on the danger sign, a pop-up message appears to say this:

“New artboard(s) will be created on a large-sized canvas as the artboard dimensions are too big or the artboard count is high. Some limitations will apply.”

large size artboard danger notice in adobe illustrator

In this example, I will go ahead to click on the Create button anyway.

A new document will appear with the artboard size you’ve set and your canvas size bigger than that.

Step 3: Copy Design

Go to your original Illustrator file, select and copy all your design elements. Then, go to the new file with the bigger canvas size and paste your design.

If you set your document artboard to be the maximum canvas size, which is 2270 x 2270 in, your canvas size will be the exact same size as your artboard size.

Resize your artboard to the exact size you want and match your design size to the artboard accordingly.

Canvas Size: Max Out Artboard Size First

It’s a bummer that you can’t change your artboard size and expect the canvas size to adapt to your artboard in Illustrator.

Now you know what the relationship between canvas and artboard is like in Illustrator, just set your Illustrator document to the largest artboard size first.

This will give you a file with a large-format canvas in Illustrator. Then, scale down your artboard size from there.

Are you able to change your canvas size in Illustrator? Let me know in the comments!

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