Adobe Illustrator is a very popular tool among graphic designers. This article will present you one feature which can be used in multiple situations. We will see how we can mirror drawing in Adobe Illustrator to speed up the design process. This way everything you draw will get mirrored the other side. The really great part of this is that it is really easy to set it up, but it’s not that obvious if you are new to Illustrator. So let’s see what we need to do.

How to set up Illustrator for mirrored drawing

Step 1

The very first thing we will need to do is to set up a new documents. You don’t need to set up special parameters. Any document size will do for the moment.

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Step 2

The very first thing you will need to do is to set up a “bounding box”. Why is the bounding box important? Well this effect is applied to a layer and the bounding box is an extent of the layer. For that we will make a rectangle. For the purpose of this article this was set to a size of 1000×1000 points. It is bigger than our artboard for a reason.

Step 3

After we have created our bounding box and centered it in the middle the next step is to add a ruler and some guides.

As you can see we have added the ruler and some guides. If you have a hard time finding the ruler you can access it from the View/Ruler menu bar or using CTRL+R keyboard shortcut for Windows or Command+R for Mac users. Above you can see how this should look like. Additionally in order to make the guides snap easier to the middle of the rectangle you should activate smart guides from View menu.

Now all the mirroring will take place inside this bounding box.


Before anything gets mirrored in the bounding box you need to consider one important thing. The bounding box isn’t allowed to have a fill. Otherwise the effect will not work.

Let’s move to the next step and that is to apply an effect to the layer. As you may already know you can easily apply an effect to an individual object by simply selecting the object and applying the effect from the Effect menu.

You can also apply effects to groups, but you can also apply effects to layers. To access that by selecting you layer from the layers tab. Then in the appearance tab you will see our selected layer.

Let’s check out we need to do in Step 4.

Step 4

The very first action we will need to do is to select our layer from the layers tab and then from then apply the effect we want by pressing the fx icon in the appearance tab. If for some reason the appearance tab is not present/active you can activate it from the Window/Appearance menu or Shift+F6 keyboard shortcut.

Depending how the Illustrator environment is set up these tabs can have different positions. So as we said with the layer selected we need to apply the effect using the fx icon.

Step 5

We will need to apply from the Distort & Transform the Transform effect.

Here are the settings you need to do.

You can apply the mirroring effect either to reflect the X axis, the Y axis or both. If you choose to reflect only to Reflect X axis everything you draw in the right upper part will be reflected in the left upper part delimited by the smart guides.  Set the number of Copies to 1.

More or less that’s it. You are ready to go and mirror your objects.


If you want to reflect your object both to X and Y axis then first you need to apply the effect for the X axis and then apply a new effect to the same layer, this time to the Y layer. This way your object will be reflected on all axis.

Additionally it is important to consider the following aspect. You should always draw within the bounding box. Otherwise you will see a strange behavior from Adobe Illustrator. It will screw up the mirroring effect. After all this is not a perfect software. But if you pay attention to this aspect it will behave as you want.

This way you can achieve true symmetric drawing.

Additionally you should take into account that if you draw multiple objects the order in which is mirrored is in reverse to the order you draw. What this means is that if you draw object 1 and object 2 above object 1 then the mirrored object 1 will be above object 2.


In this article we have seen how we can set up Illustrator to mirror our object. This can be used for multiple purposes. One particular example is the creation of mandalas. These became very popular. Not only that these are beautiful, but they are a really great way of expressing yourself or to relieve stress.

Last but not least I invite you to share your feedback about this article in the comment section below.

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