Changing Measurements in Adobe

There are many measurement options available in Adobe but sometimes the most obvious option is the hardest to locate. In this article, we’ll look at different units, scaling, and page sizes.

Measurements can be changed within the File – New or Document Setup. Page Units can also be altered within the Page Panel and all items can be measured using the Measuring Tool.

Different Units Available

Each file that you open will already have a measurement unit attached to it. This will have been selected by the generator of the file. If you are creating a new file you have the option of selecting your preferred measurement in the Document Setup.

Looking at a file that is already created there are many reasons why you would want to change the units:

Different Format

Print to Web

Different Location

Metric – Imperial

Print units are generally metric or imperial units. They are usually specific sizes – 8.5” x 11” or A4/A5. If we are sending a file to print it’s important that the document size is in the correct units. However, if we are changing a file that may have been printed already to a digital format then we need to adjust the units to pixels for optimum onscreen size.

If on the other hand, you are receiving a file from Europe, chances are the units will be in Metric (mm / cm) and you will need to change the units to Imperial (Inches) especially if it is to be printed as the sizes vary radically.

So how do we actually change the measurements?

Select New File

Ctrl New: ‘Dialogue Box’

Measuring Units Indesign
Measuring Units Indesign

Here you can select which unit value you wish to use.

If you are opening a file then you can change the units by going to File – Document Setup

And changing the Units here.

Document Setup Units

However, the document may now not fit on a standard print size page.

8.5” – 215.9mm

11” – 279.4mm

A4 – 210mm x 297mm

You may have to adjust some items on your document to print it correctly.

You will notice that some items may be off the artboard.

Alternatively, you can select Web Units also. Pixels or Pica. 1 Pica is 16 Pixels.

If you are generating Pinterest Pins they use a standard Pixel size of 1000 x 2100 (or 1:2.1 ratio). Some Pins are also 1000 x 1000 (or 1:1)

This unit is selected in the same way.

You’ll notice when you change your measurement unit that your guides will adjust to the new unit.

Page Size Units

As I said depending on where you are in the world depends on the page size you will be using. No matter where you are, InDesign has a neat trick regarding pages. Layout in InDesign is important.

Landscape or Portrait – A4 / A5 – Letter

In the Pages Panel, you can select what size and orientation-specific pages are. Why would I need this, I hear you ask? 

Well, I regularly use this option. I design an online magazine that is uploaded to Flippa. Each page is a landscape A4 – except the first (Front Cover) and the last (Back Cover). In order for these two pages to view correctly, I change them to portrait A5. I can do this within my document without having to create a new document with an alternate size. Open your Pages Panel.

Page Unit Change

Select the page and at the bottom of the panel change the orientation to portrait.

This is not specific to A4/ A5, but for whatever size your document is. It’s a really neat trick and saves a lot of extra work.

Scaling and Measuring

The last thing I’ll mention is not specific to Units but more how to best measure or scale within a document.

Many people use Adobe products but use the same tools all the time. There’s an array of tools within some of the dropdowns within tools. You can tell if there’s more to discover by the small arrow at the bottom right-hand corner.

Measure Tool InDesign

In InDesign, in the Eyedropper Tool dropdown is the Measuring Tape. This is a handy A-B tape for giving a quick and easy measurement.

Adobe Acrobat Measure Tool

In Adobe Acrobat there is a more specific measuring tool. If you go to Tools – Measure and right-click anywhere on the PDF. This will give you the option of Line – Perimeter and Area.

Measure Tool Acrobat

Acrobat also gives the option to change the Scale Ratio. (ie for plans or large files)

Acrobat Ration Tool

Right Click – Change Scale Ratio

The Scale Tool in InDesign is again within another tool. Click on the Free Transform and Scroll down to the Scale Tool.

InDesign Scale Tool
InDesign Scale Tool

If you double click it will give you an option Dialogue Box.

Here you can scale and also copy. So you don’t lose your original.

Instead of using the Scale Tool, you can quickly select the object to be scaled. By holding Shift and Ctrl (CMD) will scale the bounding box and everything within it. Just holding Shift will only scale the bounding box.

In Conclusion

Measurements are easily changed to fit whichever format suits your needs. Be mindful of items dropping off your artboard, and whether you are printing or creating digital artwork.

Here are some other posts you might find useful:

Too much white space in InDesign

What printer will print on 300gsm / 110lbs?

Tara Cunningham

My name is Tara. I am a Graphic Designer for the last 25+ years. Designing everything from Wedding stationery to Magazines. I have been using Adobe products since I was in college and know all the tips and tricks that make life a little easier when completing a project. Hopefully you will find the answer to your question on

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