Find the area of an irregular object

A sneaky backdoor that will crash Illustrator if you use it wrong (or occasionally, right) so save everything before you use this trick.  My old buddy Mike from Apple Water creative reminded me of this one we used to use when deciding which size choke warning needed to be on toy packages.

(We stopped using it when we realized that the compliance testing places clearly weren’t using it and didn’t care that we had math on our side if they thought the package was bigger. Maybe it will be useful to you though.) It was shown to me by Teri Pettit, an Adobe employee who used to visit the Adobe forums from time to time.

This trick will reveal the area of an irregular object, such as this one:

This is actually tapping into the super-secret debug panel in illustrator so the interface isn’t the greatest. It’s a little cumbersome to dig through all the info shown when you have a complex document, so I always just cut and paste the object I want to know the area of into a new blank document.

Okay, so do that and let’s open that panel – hit command-shift-option-f12.  That should open a panel that looks something like this (it may look different if you have something selected) (oh and if instead, your volume goes up a click, you need to hold the fn key as well to get the function keys to behave as function keys instead of as volume keys)  I have no idea if this works on Windows or how to invoke it.  If it does, I’d imagine the methods would be similar.

So drag the bottom right corner to open that panel up a bit – it won’t show you as it’s resizing, it’s a bit weird to see. You need it to be a bit taller to reveal the line of “buttons” that are in there.

Now, select your object on the artboard and click on the “path” at the bottom of the debug panel.  If nothing happens you may have to click on the “object” button, but normally  a pile of confusing and interesting stuff should fill the panel.  The info we’re looking for today is in the middle, to the right of “area”.

It’s a bigger number than you were expecting, eh?  That’s because it’s shown in points. To convert to inches, divide by 72 twice (I don’t know why twice – I’m not a mathematician, I draw pictures for a living.) Positive numbers are for clockwise objects and negative numbers indicate counterclockwise.

Remember to close this panel when you’re done getting your area!  Don’t do anything silly like delete the selected object. This panel is not meant for you to be playing with – it’s tied to the innards of Illustrator and I don’t know what damage could be done by meddling. As far as I know, it’s harmless other than occasionally causing a crash (we used to use it almost daily), but I make no promises!