Draw Better and Faster with Illustrator CC
Illustration by John Hersey

Draw Better and Faster with Illustrator CC

with Deke McClelland

Video: Drawing a base polygon with the Pen tool

In this chapter, I'm going to show you how to

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Watch the Online Video Course Draw Better and Faster with Illustrator CC
1h 52m Appropriate for all Apr 02, 2014

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Illustrator CC does something that few updates to the program have done: It promises to change the fundamental way that you draw. Yes, there was the Pen tool in Illustrator 1, Pathfinder operations in Illustrator 5, and dynamic effects in Illustrator 9. But Illustrator CC changes the entire nature of the game. Deke's not exaggerating; the things he's about to show you are that big. Learn about the "new" Pencil tool, on-the-fly corner rounding, and freeform curve bending. 3 features in 3 short chapters that will change the way you see Illustrator. Then Deke shows how to combine them all in a real-world Illustrator project that proves his thesis: drawing has never been faster, better, or easier than this.

Topics include:
  • Drawing effortless arcs, paths, and lines with the Pen tool
  • Selectively and dynamically rounding corners
  • Drawing complex shapes with round corners
  • Bending segments with the Pen tool
  • Beveling and enhancing artwork
  • Drawing multiple lines at the same time
Deke McClelland

Drawing a base polygon with the Pen tool

In this chapter, I'm going to show you how to combine Illustrator CC's new drawing features, along with some great drawing features from the past, in order to create a real world project, namely, this hand drawn ampersand that you see here. We're going to start things off inside this template, and the idea is that I want to show you how to set up a base polygon that's going to work for the ampersand. And notice that all the anchor points required for that polygon appear in red. So we've got anchor points at all of the corners over here on the right-hand side of the shape.

We're going to create the stems, by the way, at the top and the bottom in a later movie. So for now, we're just going to go ahead and create a smooth point around the side here. So you can see that we need anchor points at all of the extreme edges. So down here at the bottom, at the top, over here on the left-hand sides, and so forth. Really the only extreme area that we don't need an anchor point is right around this bridge here, right round these edges that I'm indicating with my cursor. Now we're not going to create any smooth points using the Pen tool.

Rather, we're just going to click a few times to lay down corner points. So I'll start things off by selecting the Pen tool, which of course you can get by pressing the P key. If you're working with me, make sure that the Top Draw here layer, is selected inside the layers panel, and just start clicking at any place you'd like. I'll start clicking at this anchor point right there, then, I'll click up here, then over on this top left shape. Now, notice that I'm creating a grey path. You may end up with an entirely different fill and stroke. I'll just go ahead and press the D key, in order to establish the default colors, which is to say that we have a black stroke and a white fill.

I don't want the white fill. So I'll go over to the Color Panel, which you can also get by going up to the Window menu and choosing Color, just in case you don't see it on screen. And then I'm going to make sure the Fill is active, as it is in my case. If not, you just click on it, and then click on None in the bottom left corner of the Color panel in order to get rid of that fill. Now, your path outline at this point should still be active, as indicated by a Pen tool cursor with no asterisk next to it. If you have an asterisk, you'll need to click on this point again to light up the path.

In my case, I don't have to though. So, I'll just continue clicking on each one of these anchor points around this shape outline here, and you'll notice every time I click, and I'm not dragging or ALT dragging or doing any of that fancy stuff. Every time I click I lay down a very simple corner point. In fact, I would dare to say that this is absurdly simple at this point. And then I'll go ahead and close off the shape by clicking on the very first anchor point, and you can see that I have a little circle next to my Pen tool to show me that, indeed, I will close off this path outline like so.

And that, my friends, establishes our base polygon, which, believe it or not, is one of the most complex drawing instructions required in order to create this piece of artwork. In the next movie, I'll show you how to precisely curve every one of these segments and establish the necessary smooth points.

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