Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
I think one of the most feared things about the Pen tool is drawing curves, but it's not exactly as hard as people make it out to be. In this movie, I'll explore drawing some simple curves inside of Illustrator, and hopefully it'll help ease your mind on using this tool. I'm going to go into the File menu and choose New to create a new blank document, and I'll just commit to the defaults. Once I do that, I'll switch to the Pen tool by pressing the letter P on my keyboard. We've already seen how to draw straight lines. You just click, and click to draw a point. But what if I wanted to make that line a curve? Well let's undo that with Command+Z or Control +Z, and let's see how we can draw a curve.
I'm going to click to set one point, and then I'll click to set a second point, but when I click to set that second point, I'm going to keep my mouse held down, and I'm going to start dragging it one direction or another; either up, down, or sideways. Once I do that, you'll start to see the line curve. So I'll click, and I'll start to drag down, and the line will curve up. If I were to drag upward, the line would curve down. And any degree in between, you can see that it shifts the way the line curves.
It's this relationship of going up versus down that I think scares a lot of people off, because you have to think in terms of opposites. When you drag up, the curve goes down. When you drag down, the curve goes up, and so forth. It can be a little confusing. Let's undo that, and let's see how we can draw a simple S Curve. I'll click with my first point, and I'm not going to release my mouse. I'll simply drag downward, and then I'll release. Now I'll create a second point, and I'll make sure that it intersects at a 90 degree angle by using the smart guide, and this time, I'll click and hold.
You'll notice when I click, it automatically draws the curve down for me. That's because I set a curved point on the other anchor point. When I drag this, if I drag it up, it matches the curve. If I drag it down, I start to draw an S curve, like so. When I release, the S curve is complete. Now, here's the part of the Pen tool that seems to throw a lot of people off. If I wanted to put another point right here, you would think that the Pen tool would draw a straight line between these two points.
After all, when you click and set a point, and click to set another point, the Pen tool draws a straight line. Watch what happens when I click here. It draws a line, but it's still got a little bit of a curve to it. A lot of people, when they make that second point off of a curved line, it actually creates this almost weird whip looking effect on the curve. Let me show you a little trick when you're drawing curves. I'll undo this, and I'll come right back up here. We'll cover this extensively when I talk about using your keyboard a little bit later on, but for now just know that you can always reset the Pen tool to make it draw straight lines, by coming back to the original anchor point that you set, holding down the Option key on the Mac, the Alt key on the PC, and clicking the anchor point.
Notice how that one control handle went away. Now if I were to come straight down, and click, the Pen tool draws a completely straight line. I've essentially reset the Pen tool. I've made it ignore that previous point. Now I can continue to draw curves if I wanted to, by clicking, and dragging out, and they would just curve up away from that. Now let's draw out a little curve here, and I'll reset this point by Option+Clicking or Alt+Clicking, and I'll come back over here, draw another curve, come back in the middle, and once I've done that, you can see here, I've drawn a whale, and I did that simply by creating curved lines and straight lines together, utilizing the Pen tool.
So again, if you go to make curves inside of Illustrator with the Pen tool, remember to click and hold with your mouse, and then drag the handles until you get the curve like you like it. If the curve doesn't turn out perfect -- like for instance, I might go in here, and fix some of these little sharp edges in here, or I might even come back and try to make this a little bit more curved, instead of a straight corner point -- you can always get control of that by utilizing the control handles that surround a curve. Let's grab the Direct Selection tool, and I'll come in, and I'll find one of these anchor points.
When I click on the anchor point, I get the little control handles on each side. The control handles allow me to adjust the curve. I can make it bigger, or I can make it smaller, and the direction I drag it alters the way the curve works. Basically, you just have to slow down your mouse movements, and make small adjustments until it fits exactly like you like it. You may have to adjust multiple handles in order to get exactly what you're looking for, but eventually, you'll get there. Yes, it can be a little tedious, but this is a really precise way to create artwork, and I really like it.
Let's click right here in the middle, and you can see here, I can just keep adjusting all of these different spaces in between these pieces of artwork. This one here, I might move up a little bit, and then I may also adjust the curve; make it little bit more gradual. So as you can see, it's not perfect right off the bat, but these control handles give me a great amount of ability to manipulate this path in any way I see fit.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
119 Video lessons · 51338 Viewers
117 Video lessons · 39192 Viewers
113 Video lessons · 81707 Viewers
65 Video lessons · 12012 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.
Your file was successfully uploaded.