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Drawing freeform paths with the Pencil tool

From: Illustrator CS5 Essential Training

Video: Drawing freeform paths with the Pencil tool

In learning about the Pen tool, we've come to understand that when we use the Pen tool, we're actually plotting anchor points and Illustrator automatically connects all those anchor points with the path. And it really requires us to imagine where those anchor points are going to go. However, there is another tool inside of Illustrator. It's called the Pencil tool. And it works in the exact opposite way that the Pen tool works. In other words, it allows us to draw the paths and then Illustrator automatically figures out where the anchor points need to go. In other words, the Pencil tool really mimics the way that you currently interact with the pencil on a paper.

Drawing freeform paths with the Pencil tool

In learning about the Pen tool, we've come to understand that when we use the Pen tool, we're actually plotting anchor points and Illustrator automatically connects all those anchor points with the path. And it really requires us to imagine where those anchor points are going to go. However, there is another tool inside of Illustrator. It's called the Pencil tool. And it works in the exact opposite way that the Pen tool works. In other words, it allows us to draw the paths and then Illustrator automatically figures out where the anchor points need to go. In other words, the Pencil tool really mimics the way that you currently interact with the pencil on a paper.

Let's take a look at how the Pencil tool works. I'm going to create a new document. I'll use a Print profile and I'll click OK. And I'm going to switch now to the Pencil tool, which you'll find right over here inside of the Tools panel. Now I'll be honest with you. If you're trying to use the Pencil tool and you have a mouse in your hand, it can be very difficult to get good results. That's because you're not really used to sketching with a big object in your hand. Usually, you have a very slender thing like a pencil for example. For this exercise, I'm actually going to use a pressure-sensitive pen tablet by Wacom. Now the way that you use the Pencil tool is you put your cursor somewhere on the page, and then you click and drag to draw the path.

Illustrator now automatically figured out where the anchor points in that path need to go. But there's some really cool functionality that's built-in to the Pencil tool. You know, normally as an artist, if you think about having a pencil in your hand and sketching something on a piece of paper, you don't always draw things perfectly the first time. Sometimes you'll sketch out basic ideas very lightly in pencil and then you'll go over that sketch again and again with the pencil making darker lines. Well, with Illustrator's Pencil tool, once you create the path, it's there. However, if you want to make small modifications to it, you can simply take your cursor and draw over that part of the path that you want to modify.

And Illustrator will automatically update it as you draw over it. If I wanted to add a little bit of curve here to the end of the path, I could simply come here and drag over to make that happen. If I were making some kind of a flower with some leaves on it, for example, I might draw a stem line down at the middle here and I may create some kind of a leaf here, and if I wanted to now adjust the way that this edge looks for the leaf, I can simply draw over it to make it look a little bit different. Let's say something like that and then I want to create the other part of the leaf on this side. But watch what happens if I try to drag too close to this one. Notice that it replaces that path with the new path that I just created.

That's because Illustrator thought that I wanted to modify my existing path. To understand how to fix this problem, let's take a look at some of the preferences for the Pencil tool. I'm going to go to the Pencil tool directly and double-click on it. That brings up the Pencil Tool Options dialog box. Now the first two settings here for Tolerances, both for Fidelity and Smoothness, help me control how smooth my line is. If you're using a mouse, you might want to increase the Smoothness somewhat so that Illustrator smoothes out any bumps in the path. If you've got a pen tablet though, you might be able to afford to go with something a little bit lower.

More importantly though are the options here towards the bottom. There were two settings that are turned by default in Illustrator. One is called Keep Selected. This means that when I draw a path, that path remains selected. Second, there's a setting here called Edit selected path. This is the feature that allows me to draw over a path and change its shape in doing so. That feature kicks in whenever my cursor is within 12 pixels of the path as defined right here. I'll be honest with you. I really don't want to give up that feature. I like the ability to draw over a path to make a modification to it.

However, I want to have full control of when that happens. As such, what I'm going to do is I'm going to do deselect the Keep Selected option. Now only the Edit selected paths option is turned on. So I'm going to click OK. Now whenever I draw a path, the path is not selected. That means I can very easily draw other paths right near it without any worry about me making modifications to the path. Now let's say I created a path over here and I realize I want to change how that looks. I'll hold down the Command key, which is the keyboard shortcut to temporarily return me to the Selection tool. Now, I'll select this path.

And now that it's selected, I can draw over it to modify its appearance. When working with Illustrator though, we know that there are two types of paths we can create. Both open and closed paths. Everything we've been creating here so far has been an open path. However, when you're trying to create close paths, it can be very difficult to do that with the Pencil tool. You'll notice that right now next to my cursor, there's a little X. That identifies that now the next shape that I draw is going to be a brand-new shape. Similar to the Pencil tool, when I'm about to close the shape, a little O will appear. So if I wanted to create some kind of a shape that was closed, I might come over here and start drawing.

And notice now that as I come close to where I started drawing that might turn into a little O. However, it's really hard to get over that spot and make it appear as if it's closed. So to do so inside of Illustrator, when you're drawing with the Pencil tool, you can hold down the Option key. The Option key tells Illustrator, make sure the path is closed. And if I don't really even come close to where that area is when I release the mouse, or in this case I stop drawing with the pen, Illustrator automatically draws a line to connect and close the path. Now on one level, you might think to yourself, why deal with having to worry about what kind of anchor points there are and where to position the anchor points with the Pen tool, when I could simply draw whatever I want with the pencil tool? The answer is that that Pencil tool itself draws free-form paths, but it's very difficult to control exactly what those paths are going to look like.

If you wanted to create a shape of an exact size, it's hard to eyeball it as you're drawing on the screen. However, with the Pen tool, you can be very precise and click in very specific areas. Due to the nature of most vector graphics that are usually very precise, you'll end up using the Pen tool a lot more often than the Pencil tool. However, when you're drawing something more freeform, the Pencil tool is a great way to get some paths into your design inside of Illustrator.

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This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS5 Essential Training
Illustrator CS5 Essential Training

126 video lessons · 81604 viewers

Mordy Golding
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 3m 35s
    1. Welcome
      1m 18s
    2. What is Illustrator CS5?
      1m 46s
    3. Using the exercise files
      31s
  2. 12m 37s
    1. What are vector graphics?
      6m 3s
    2. Path and appearance
      3m 42s
    3. Stacking
      2m 52s
  3. 32m 6s
    1. The Welcome screen
      2m 23s
    2. Creating files for print
      6m 7s
    3. Creating files for the screen
      2m 55s
    4. Using prebuilt templates
      2m 40s
    5. Adding XMP metadata
      4m 18s
    6. Exploring the panels
      6m 33s
    7. Using the Control panel
      3m 11s
    8. Using workspaces
      3m 59s
  4. 43m 44s
    1. Navigating within a document
      9m 15s
    2. Using rulers and guides
      7m 26s
    3. Using grids
      3m 6s
    4. Using the bounding box
      3m 37s
    5. Using Smart Guides
      5m 56s
    6. The Hide Edges command
      3m 22s
    7. Various preview modes
      3m 47s
    8. Creating custom views
      4m 3s
    9. Locking and hiding artwork
      3m 12s
  5. 28m 46s
    1. Using the basic selection tools
      8m 50s
    2. Using the Magic Wand tool
      5m 22s
    3. Using the Lasso tool
      2m 28s
    4. Selecting objects by attribute or type
      3m 37s
    5. Saving and reusing selections
      2m 15s
    6. Selecting artwork beneath other objects
      2m 13s
    7. Exploring selection preferences
      4m 1s
  6. 1h 16m
    1. The importance of modifier keys
      1m 52s
    2. Drawing closed path primitives
      11m 38s
    3. Drawing open path primitives
      5m 47s
    4. Understanding anchor points
      3m 43s
    5. Drawing straight paths with the Pen tool
      7m 37s
    6. Drawing curved paths with the Pen tool
      9m 47s
    7. Drawing freeform paths with the Pencil tool
      5m 33s
    8. Smoothing and erasing paths
      3m 8s
    9. Editing anchor points
      7m 21s
    10. Joining and averaging paths
      10m 9s
    11. Simplifying paths
      4m 55s
    12. Using Offset Path
      2m 17s
    13. Cleaning up errant paths
      2m 32s
  7. 48m 26s
    1. The Draw Inside and Draw Behind modes
      7m 34s
    2. Creating compound paths
      5m 56s
    3. Creating compound shapes
      8m 0s
    4. Using the Shape Builder tool
      10m 28s
    5. Using Pathfinder functions
      8m 6s
    6. Splitting an object into a grid
      1m 16s
    7. Using the Blob Brush and Eraser tools
      7m 6s
  8. 49m 5s
    1. Creating point text
      4m 2s
    2. Creating area text
      8m 13s
    3. Applying basic character settings
      7m 44s
    4. Applying basic paragraph settings
      4m 28s
    5. Creating text threads
      8m 25s
    6. Setting text along an open path
      6m 29s
    7. Setting text along a closed path
      6m 24s
    8. Converting text into paths
      3m 20s
  9. 18m 55s
    1. Create a logo mark
      11m 26s
    2. Add type to your logo
      7m 29s
  10. 42m 42s
    1. Using the Appearance panel
      8m 21s
    2. Targeting object attributes
      4m 42s
    3. Adding multiple attributes
      4m 25s
    4. Applying Live Effects
      5m 18s
    5. Expanding appearances
      4m 42s
    6. Appearance panel settings
      4m 33s
    7. Copying appearances
      4m 51s
    8. Saving appearances as graphic styles
      5m 50s
  11. 34m 0s
    1. Applying color to artwork
      5m 57s
    2. Creating process and global process swatches
      8m 54s
    3. Creating spot color swatches
      3m 19s
    4. Loading PANTONE and other custom color libraries
      4m 49s
    5. Organizing colors with Swatch Groups
      3m 31s
    6. Finding color suggestions with the Color Guide panel
      4m 24s
    7. Loading the Color Guide with user-defined colors
      3m 6s
  12. 50m 23s
    1. Creating gradients with the Gradient panel
      8m 12s
    2. Modifying gradients with the Gradient Annotator
      4m 37s
    3. Applying and manipulating pattern fills
      5m 33s
    4. Defining your own custom pattern fills
      9m 13s
    5. Applying basic stroke settings
      5m 22s
    6. Creating strokes with dashed lines
      3m 41s
    7. Adding arrowheads to strokes
      2m 45s
    8. Creating variable-width strokes
      4m 35s
    9. Working with width profiles
      2m 36s
    10. Turning strokes into filled paths
      3m 49s
  13. 32m 46s
    1. Creating and editing groups
      8m 18s
    2. Adding attributes to groups
      12m 17s
    3. The importance of using layers
      5m 9s
    4. Using and "reading" the Layers panel
      7m 2s
  14. 12m 13s
    1. Creating and using multiple artboards
      7m 52s
    2. Modifying artboards with the Artboards panel
      2m 2s
    3. Copy and paste options with Artboards
      2m 19s
  15. 31m 10s
    1. Moving and copying artwork
      3m 55s
    2. Scaling or resizing artwork
      6m 47s
    3. Rotating artwork
      2m 44s
    4. Reflecting and skewing artwork
      2m 34s
    5. Using the Free Transform tool
      2m 15s
    6. Repeating transformations
      3m 39s
    7. Performing individual transforms across multiple objects
      2m 10s
    8. Aligning objects and groups precisely
      4m 27s
    9. Distributing objects and spaces between objects
      2m 39s
  16. 35m 40s
    1. Placing pixel-based content into Illustrator
      5m 14s
    2. Managing images with the Links panel
      4m 49s
    3. Converting pixels to paths with Live Trace
      8m 44s
    4. Making Live Trace adjustments
      6m 9s
    5. Controlling colors in Live Trace
      6m 4s
    6. Using Photoshop and Live Trace together
      4m 40s
  17. 14m 42s
    1. Managing repeating artwork with symbols
      4m 38s
    2. Modifying and replacing symbol instances
      3m 8s
    3. Using the Symbol Sprayer tool
      6m 56s
  18. 16m 57s
    1. Cropping photographs
      1m 59s
    2. Clipping artwork with masks
      3m 22s
    3. Clipping the contents of a layer
      3m 31s
    4. Defining masks with soft edges
      8m 5s
  19. 26m 2s
    1. Defining a perspective grid
      7m 48s
    2. Drawing artwork in perspective
      8m 46s
    3. Moving flat art onto the perspective grid
      9m 28s
  20. 25m 8s
    1. Printing your Illustrator document
      3m 26s
    2. Saving your Illustrator document
      6m 39s
    3. Creating PDF files for clients and printers
      7m 30s
    4. Exporting Illustrator files for use in Microsoft Office
      1m 4s
    5. Exporting Illustrator files for use in Photoshop
      2m 31s
    6. Exporting artwork for use on the web
      3m 3s
    7. Exporting high-resolution raster files
      55s
  21. 2m 18s
    1. Additional Illustrator learning resources
      1m 36s
    2. Goodbye
      42s

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