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Bending segments with the Pen tool

From: Draw Better and Faster with Illustrator CC

Video: Bending segments with the Pen tool

In this movie, I'll demonstrate a few tricks that allow you to access

Bending segments with the Pen tool

In this movie, I'll demonstrate a few tricks that allow you to access the anchor point tool on the fly, anytime that you're using the pen tool. So, I'm going to start things off inside this empty document by changing the fill color, this first swatch up here in the control panel, to black. And then, I'll change the stroke color, the second swatch, to none. And that's just going to allow me to create some black paths with no strokes. Then I'll switch to the pen tool, which you can get by pressing the P key, of course.

And now, let's say I want to draw a wavy, hand-drawn looking letter Z. Or as those of you in England say Z. Well then, what I want to do is create a series of quadrangles, that is four pointed polygons and so I'll click in order to create a first corner point right there and then I'll click again and it doesn't really matter how you do this by the way. Now click down here, click here and then click at the very first point in order to complete that first quadrangle. Again all a quadrangle is by the way, is a rectangle in which the four points don't align with each other.

Now, I'll click right about here in order to start a new path, click down here, here, and here, and then go ahead and close the shape by clicking on the very first point, in order to create that kind of zag right there. And then, let's create a zig down here at the bottom by clicking, and then I'll click, four more times, because I need to create that fourth anchor point, and then close the shape over here in the left hand corner of the document. And now I have a series of four different shapes. Now, let's say that I want to bend these lines after I've drawn them.

I'll go ahead and press the Alt key, or the Option key on the MAC. And you want to press and hold that key, notice that it changes to a little wedge, right there. And that wedge, normally what it allows you to do is drag from an anchor point like so in order to convert it to a smooth point. But that's not what I'm looking for, so I'll press Ctrl+Z, or Cmd+Z on a Mac, to undo that change. And now, I'll hover my cursor over one of the segments right here, one of the straight segments while pressing the Alt key, or the Option key on a Mac, and then I'll drag upward in order to bend that segment and I'll drag this guy in order to bend him as well.

Now, this trick only works on selected paths. So if I want to bend this zag right here, then I need to press the Ctrl key or the Cmd key in order to access the last used arrow tool on the fly. And that happens to be the black arrow in my case. And then I'll just go ahead and click on the path outline in order to select it. So you could use the white arrow tool as well. And now press the Alt key or the Option key on a Mac. And drag up on each on these long segments here, in order to bend them, and then finally, I'll press the Ctrl key or the Cmd key in the Mac.

Click on this top path in order to select it, and Alt drag or Option drag upward. It's very possible that you'll get this alert message, and it's fairly irritating because Illustrator likes to display this one a lot, and it says please use the anchor point tool on a segment. Or an anchor point of a path. So what it's telling me is that I missed the path outline. I'll go ahead and click Ok, and let me show you what the problem is. Notice when I move my cursor back and forth while I have the Alt or Option key down, I have this little wedge cursor.

That's not what I want. That's what I want if I'm working on an anchor point, but if I'm working on a segment, if I want to bend a segment, you need to see this cursor right here. It looks like a black arrowhead with this little arc underneath it. And once you see that, then you can go ahead and drag upward in order to bend the segment. And now, I still have the Alt or Option key down. I'll drag this segment up as well. All right, now let's say I want to complete this path outline, just for the sake of getting something done here. I'll press the A key to switch to my white arrow tool. And I'll press Ctrl+Y, or Cmd+Y on a Mac.

To switch to the outline mode, I'll go ahead and marquee these two anchor points and drag them over to the left a little bit to extend that top edge of the Z. And then I'll drag this anchor point until it snaps in to alignment with this one, and I'll drag let's say this anchor point right there, I'll have to click on it to select it, and then drag it down. So it snaps into alignment with this anchor point. And by the way, if you go to the View menu, if you're working along with me, you want to make sure Smart Guides are turned off in order to make this work properly. Now I'll press the Esc key in order to hide that menu, and I'll drag this anchor point down to there to snap it into alignment.

And I'll click on this anchor point to select it, and then drag it down and snap it into alignment like so. And now I'll press Ctrl+Y or Cmd+Y on a Mac, in order to switch back to the preview mode. I'll press Ctrl+A or Cmd+A on a Mac to select all the shapes. And now let's just go ahead and unite them into one shape using the shape builder tool which is about midway down inside of the toolbox. Go ahead and select it. And then to merge all these shapes, press the Shift key. And drag around all the shapes like so, and that will merge them into a single shape outline.

Now, another way to work with the pen tool, I'll go ahead and press the P key in order to switch to it here. You can also, while Alt dragging, so I'll just go ahead and Alt drag or Option drag. This edge right there if you press the Shift key as you're working. So I've got both the Shift and Alt keys down. But you have to press the Shift key as you're dragging. And that's going to constrain the angle of these control handles, like so. Now you may look at that and say, gee whiz, Deek, that's really ugly. And I agree, which is why I'll press Ctrl+Z, or Cmd+Z on the Mac to undo that change.

And so, let me show you a really great use for this feature. I'll switch over to this document that I created in advance here, and notice that I've got my king that I created in the previous chapter set against this chessboard background. In order to see the whole thing, I'll go ahead and switch to the art boards panel. And I'll double-click on Big Board in order to show you the entire board. So the idea is when we're looking at the chess board straight on, this king piece looks just fine with this straight edge.

But, I'll go ahead and double click on art board one in order to zoom in again. Switch back to the layers panel. Turn off the 24 squares background, and turn on the perspective background. Notice when I set the chessboard into perspective, the flat bottom of the chess piece doesn't look right at all. So what I'm going to do is, with the bend tool selected, I'll go ahead and press the Ctrl key or the Cmd key on the Mac, in order to get that last used arrow tool, which happens to be the white arrow tool. That's okay. I'll just click inside the path outline to select the whole thing, or if that doesn't work for you, just go ahead and Ctrl+Click or Cmd+Click on the outline of the path.

We just need some part of it selected. And then I'll go ahead and zoom in here and notice that we've got this extra anchor point. I don't need it so I'll go ahead and click on it with the Pen tool to delete it. So you want to see the Pen tool with the little minus sign next to it. Then click in order to get rid of that point. And now press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on a Mac and drag that segment downward. So it's very important that you see the black arrowhead along with that little arc next to it. Then drag downward like so.

Now we don't want things to be unaligned like this. Notice that I can move this segment back and forth as much as I want. I want these control handles to emerge exactly vertically. So I'll press and hold the Shift key as I drag. So I've got both the Shift and Alt keys down, that's the Shift and Option keys on the Mac. And I'll release at about this location right there. And you can see that now, what we've got is a base, especially if I press Ctrl+Shift+A or Cmd+Shift+A on a Mac in order to deselect the chess piece, we've got a base that looks more in perspective and so, that chess piece now better matches its background.

And so, that's how you access the new Anchor point tool in order to bend straight segments when working with the Pen tool, here inside Illustrator CC.

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Draw Better and Faster with Illustrator CC

20 video lessons · 8886 viewers

Deke McClelland
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