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Adjusting control handles

From: Up and Running with Illustrator

Video: Adjusting control handles

In this exercise I am going to show you how to work with control handles which allow you to modify the curvature of existing segments. You can also use them to add curvature to previously straight segments. I have gone ahead and created a revised version of this shirt called Updated design.ai found inside the Exercise Files folder and I am going to start things off by showing you the mechanics of a plain everyday average circle. So I am going to go ahead and select the Ellipse tool from the Shape tool flyout menu, and then I will draw a circle by dragging while pressing the Shift key. All right! Now let's take a look at this circle using the Direct Selection tool.

Adjusting control handles

In this exercise I am going to show you how to work with control handles which allow you to modify the curvature of existing segments. You can also use them to add curvature to previously straight segments. I have gone ahead and created a revised version of this shirt called Updated design.ai found inside the Exercise Files folder and I am going to start things off by showing you the mechanics of a plain everyday average circle. So I am going to go ahead and select the Ellipse tool from the Shape tool flyout menu, and then I will draw a circle by dragging while pressing the Shift key. All right! Now let's take a look at this circle using the Direct Selection tool.

I will go ahead and click out the shape and then click on the top anchor point. And notice that in all we have just four anchor points, one at the top, one over here on the right-hand side, one down here at the bottom and then a fourth anchor on the left-hand side. In the center, we've got a center point, which isn't really a point on a path, it just shows us where the center of the shape is, and then we have these levers that are coming off the anchor points, and those are the control handles. Those when I hover over one of the circular ends of the levers I see the word handle and if I drag a handle, I go ahead and modify the curvature of this segment.

So whereas an anchor point actually anchors down a segment, and bear in mind that a segment begins at one anchor point and ends at another, the control handles tug at the segments as you see. So they have a kind of magnetic attraction if you can imagine that. The farther you pull, the more you'll bend that segment. If you bring the lever home, so in other words, you bring the handle closer to its anchor point, then you reduce the curvature of this segment. If you move the handle to the other side of this segment, then you curve it in the opposite direction.

Whenever you have control handles you have curvature associated with the segment. If you get rid of the control handle then the segment flattens out. And that's basically how control handles work. Now of course, coming to terms with them takes a little bit longer. I am going to go ahead and get rid of this path outline by pressing the Backspace key a couple of times. That would be the Delete key on the Mac. The first time you press the key, you delete the selected point, the second time you press the key you delete the rest of the path. All right! Let's take a look at how to apply this information to this shirt right here.

I will go ahead and zoom in on the right-hand sleeve, and notice that it bends out and then back in. If I click on this segment using my White Arrow tool, you can see that I've got a couple of control handles. One emanating from the top anchor point and the other emanating from the bottom anchor point, and that's how control handles work, they actually come out of the points. If I wanted to increase the curvature of the sleeve, then I would go ahead and drag this handle outward, and then I drag the bottom handle inward, like so, and that creates an additional wave.

If I drag this bottom handle outward like so, then I'd exchange that waive for some more uniform curvature. I could curve the path outline inward if I wanted to, by moving both of these handles in, and then I could altogether reverse the wave if I want, by moving the top handle in as it is now, and moving the bottom handle out. So those are your options when you're working with a single segment like this one here. Let's go ahead and try something different here at the bottom of the shirt. I am going to add a little bit of a wave to both the right-hand and the left-hand segments.

Currently however, if I click on one of these segments or if I click on a neighboring anchor point, I am not going to see any control handles whatsoever, and that's because straight segments don't have control handles. If you want to add a control handle, and thereby, add curvature to a segment, then you go ahead and click and hold on the Pen tool here inside the toolbox, and you select the last tool from the flyout menu to Convert Anchor Point tool, which you can also get by pressing Shift+C key incidentally. And now, go ahead and drag to the left from this bottommost anchor point, and I'm going to press the Shift key as I drag to constrain the angle of this lever to exactly horizontal, and I will end up getting this effect here.

Notice that I actually dragged out two control handles, and, by the way, every anchor point can support as few as zero control handles or as many as two. Well, I don't want these symmetrical control handles the ones that I have now, because after all that adds curvature to both of the segments associated with this anchor point. So I am going to go ahead and take this handle right here and put it away. I am going to drag it using the same Convert Anchor Point tool. I am going to drag that handle all the way home that is all the way back to the anchor point and that gets rid of the curvature for that top segment.

All right, let's go ahead and add some curvature to this anchor point too, again, I am going to go ahead and drag to the left and that goes ahead and creates a couple of symmetrical control handles. I want to put the one that actually dragged out away, so the opposite control handles are the one that I want to keep, the left-hand control handles are the ones that I want to get rid off. So I will go ahead and drag it back to its anchor point, like so. So basically what it comes down to is that you have to experiment with this tool and get a feel for how it works in order to gain some comfort with the Convert Anchor Point tool and control handles in general. All right! I am going to going to drag another control handle to the left once again from this top anchor point there, and then I am going to grab this right-hand control handle and move it back home.

And then finally I'll do the same thing over here, but I am going to scroll to left a little and I'll drag the control handle out to the left, and then I will take that very same control handle, the one I just created and put it back by dragging it home, like so. All right! That takes care of the curvature associated with the bottom of the shirt. I do need to adjust that seam a little bit. However, you don't want to start dragging this point downward using the Convert Anchor Point tool, because it doesn't move points, it converts them.

If you want to move the point, you go ahead and switch back to your Drag Selection tool, which you can get by pressing the A key, and click on that anchor point and then go ahead and move it down. But you know what, I'm going to zoom-in, just so I can better see what I'm doing. And I am going to drag that down until I see the word intersect right there. That way I know that I'm intersecting with the path outline and I end up getting a little bit of flattening at this location. If that bothered you, then you could add a couple of control handles in order to ever so slightly modify that curvature, but I am going to go ahead and leave it the way it is, because that little bit of flattening at the bottom of the shirt doesn't bother me. All right! A couple of other things that you can do.

I will go ahead and zoom in on the bottom of this pocket and click on it with a White Arrow tool. Now notice that the control handles on either side of the segment, they don't stray that far away from their respective anchor points and as a result we don't have all that much curvature. Now I could drag each one of these handles independently like so, but another way to increase or decrease for that matter the curvature of a segment is to go ahead and drag it directly. So I went ahead and pressed Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac a couple of times in order to undo those modifications.

And now I'm going to drag the segment down. Notice as I do, I increase the curvature of the segment. If I drag it up, I will decrease the curvature. You can even nudge this segment if you want to by pressing the Down Arrow key in order to in this case increase the curvature or the Up Arrow key in order to decrease the curvature. One more thing I want to show you. I'm going to click on this circle right there in order to select it. There are all kinds of things that you can do to curve segments inside of Illustrator.

For example, we are going to scale these curve segments in order to convert the circle into something wholly different than it is now. So with just part of the circle selected with a White Arrow tool there, I will go up to the Select menu, I will choose Object, and then I'll choose Direction Handles, which is one of Illustrator's several names for control handles inside of the software. As soon as you choose that command, you select all of the segments, notice that. We can see control handles associated with each one of the curve segments, but none of the anchor points are themselves selected.

Now I can transform these segments using something like, let's say, the Scale tool. As nutty as that sounds, I am going to go ahead and grab that tool and then with the origin point set right there in the center of the shape as by default, I'm going to position my cursor up and to the right, so diagonally away from that origin point and I'm going to drag outward while pressing the Shift key in order to scale those segments proportionally and I will release, when I get this effect right here. So now I will press the V key to switch back to my Black Arrow tool.

Click off of the path outline in order to deselect it, and now you have seen a few different ways to modify the curvature of segments by adjusting control handles here inside Illustrator.

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Up and Running with Illustrator

26 video lessons · 20117 viewers

Deke McClelland
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