How to Make Artboard Transparent in Adobe Illustrator

Your artboard is transparent! Even though you’re seeing a white background on your artboard, actually it doesn’t exist. If you don’t add any color to it, it’s actually transparent. So why does it show white? Honestly, no idea. 

Unlike Photoshop, when you create a new document, you have the option to choose the background color, black, white or transparent, Illustrator doesn’t offer this option. The default artboard background color shows white. 

Anyways, you can easily see show the Transparent grid from the View menu, Properties panel, or using a keyboard shortcut. If you need to save a vector with transparent background, you can choose the option when you export the file. 

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to show a transparent artboard and save an image with transparent background. 

Note: all screenshots are taken from Adobe Illustrator CC 2021 Mac version. Windows or other versions might look different. 

How to Show Transparent Grid

I’m using Adobe Illustrator CC 2021 version, so there’s actually an option on the Properties panel > Ruler & Grids that I can click and make the artboard transparent. 

If this option is not available on your Illustrator version, you can go to the overhead menu and select View > Show Transparent Grid. Or you can use the keyboard shortcut Shift + Command + D

Now the artboard background should be transparent. 

Whenever you want to show the white background again, you can click the same icon on the Properties panel, go back to the view menu and select Hide Transparent Grid, or use the same keyboard shortcut. 

Honestly, you don’t have to make the artboard transparent while you work on the design, because you can always choose the transparent background when you export it. 

Not sure how it works? I’ll explain right now. 

How to Save Artwork with Transparent Background

Why would you save your artwork without a background color? The number one reason is that the vector would fit in other images without showing the background color. The simplest example would be a logo. 

For example, I want to put the IllustratorHow logo on an image, I should use the png with a transparent background instead of a jpeg with white background.

See what I mean?

Note: When you save a file as jpeg, even if you didn’t add any background color, the background will be white. 

For example, if you want to use these stars and moon on a night sky image, it’s a good idea to save it with a transparent background. 

When you export your file to png, you’ll have the option to choose a transparent background. Follow the steps below to save your artwork with transparent background. 

Step 1: Go to the overhead menu and select File > Export > Export As

Step 2: Rename the file, choose where you want to save it, and change the format to PNG (png). Check the Use Artboards box and click Export.  

Step 3: Change the Background Color to Transparent. You can change the resolution accordingly but the default Screen (72 ppi) is pretty good for screen resolution. 

Click OK and your image with the transparent background is saved. Now you can use it on other images. 


You might also be interested in the answers to these questions related to artboard background. 

How to change the background color of your artboard in Illustrator?

You could change the grid color from Document Setup, but the easiest way is to add or change background color is using the rectangle tool. 

Make a rectangle the same size as the artboard and fill it with the color you want the background to be, either solid color or gradient.

Can you remove background in Illustrator?

Removing image background in Illustrator is not as easy as in Photoshop. There isn’t really a background remover tool but you can remove the background by making a clipping mask. 

Use the pen tool to draw the outline of the image that you want to keep and make a clipping mask to cut out the background. 

Wrapping Up

Making the artboard transparent is basically changing the view mode to show the transparent grids. If your goal is to make an image with transparent background, simply export it as png and set the background color to transparent.

About June Escalada
Graduated from Creative Advertising major, worked more than eight years as a graphic designer focusing in branding and Illustration. Yes, Adobe Illustrator is my best friend and I’m passionate about art and design.

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