13 April 2013

Illustrator - 07 Pen Tool

There are 2 types of Drawing Tools in most vector graphic applications, the Pen Tool and Pencil Tool. Others include Paintbrush Tool, Line Segment Tool, Eraser Tool and etc. But we will focus on the most important tool in drawing vector graphic - the Pen Tool.

Pen Tool

The most important tool in any Vector Graphic programs is the Pen Tool. Pen Tool creates path (stroke) from point to point.

Drawing Straight Lines

Select the Pen Tool and click once to add the first anchor point. Move your mouse to the next position and click again to create the second point. The two anchor points will be connected together. Continue doing this to create a W shape as shown. To draw a new line, click the Selection Tool (the black arrow tool) and click back the Pen Tool again.

Closing a Path

To close a path, click back the starting point to close the shape.

Notice that when you want to close the path, the cursor (pen tool) will appear a small ‘o’ next to the pen tool - close path indicator.

Drawing a Curved Line

Click and drag to put out the handles to create a smooth anchor point.

Changing Path Directions

Click and drag to create a smooth anchor point. Without releasing your mouse, hold Alt and drag the handle up to change the path direction.

Drawing a Circular Path

Click and drag to create a smooth anchor point. Continue adding points and click back the starting point to close the path.

Adding Anchor Points

With the Pen Tool selected, go near the path where you want to add a new anchor point. + sign will appear next to the pen, click on the path to create a new anchor point.

Removing Anchor Points

To remove point, move your Pen Tool close to an anchor. - sign will appear next to the pen. Click on the anchor point to delete it.

Converting Anchor Points

To convert a smooth anchor point to a sharp anchor point, move your Pen Tool near the anchor and hold Alt and your Pen Tool will change to an arrow shape. Click on the smooth anchor to convert it to an anchor point. Click and drag on the anchor point again to change it back to a smooth anchor point.

Moving Anchor Points

Select the Direct Selection Tool and click and on anchor you want to move. Click and drag to change positions.

Changing Anchor Points

With the Pen Tool, you can quickly change the anchor directions. Hold Ctrl to quickly change the Pen Tool to Direction Selection Tool. Select the anchor point you want to edit. The anchor handle will appear. Now release Ctrl and hold Alt to change it to Convert Anchor Tool. Click and drag the handles to change the direction.

Drawing a Key Shape

After learning the concepts of how the Pen Tool works, lets draw a key shape. For the right angles (90°), hold Shift before adding anchor point to constrain it to 90-degree.

Tips for Using Pen Tool

  • Use as little anchor points you need to create your shape. Less anchor points make smooth curve
  • Add anchor points where there is a change in direction of the line/curve
  • Use shortcuts like Alt or Ctrl to quickly swap to other tools to edit your path
  • Hold shift to lock your path while adding new anchor point for 45° or 90° increments

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designer, illustrator, founder of vectorise.net