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In Illustrator CS5 Essential Training, author Mordy Golding explains the core concepts and techniques that apply to any workflow in Illustrator, whether designing for print, the web, or assets for other applications. This course includes a detailed explanation of the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of Illustrator's drawing tools. Also demonstrated are techniques for combining and cleaning up paths, organizing paths into groups and layers, text editing, working with color, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.
Perhaps one of the first tools added to Illustrator, the Pen tool really defines the entire application. One of the really nice things that Adobe has done over the years is make sure that the Pen tool, which is present in other applications, for example, Photoshop, InDesign, Flash, Fireworks, acts consistently. Meaning what you learn here can easily be applied elsewhere as well. Now remember with the Pen tool itself, we don't actually draw the paths. We plot anchor points. Since anchor points can be connected by both straight lines and curved lines, we have to create different types of anchor points.
Corner anchor points are connected by straight lines. Smooth anchor points are connected by curved lines. To start off with the Pen tool we will be creating straight lines so we need to create corner anchor points. These are also the most straightforward and simple to create. I will start by coming over here to the Pen tool inside of Illustrator and I'll click on it to select it, and also just to make things a little bit easier to see on the screen, I am going to specify a really thick stroke that we can work with. We will learn more about fills and strokes in another chapter in this title.
But for now, I am going to come here to the top of the Control panel and change my fill volor to none, and I am going to change the stroke weight, meaning the thickness of the stroke, to 4 points. Now I am working in this document. It is called pentool_exercises and I have several artboards in this file. So what I am looking at right now is the first artboard in the document. If I come over here to the Artboards panel, you'll see it is called corner anchor points. I will just double-click on it to make sure that this one is currently in view. The first thing to realize about using the Pen tool is that it doesn't work like a real pen tool.
For example, if you have got a piece of paper in front of you with the pen in your hand, you would press the tip of the pen to paper and then drag across the paper to create a line. However, remember with the Pen tool we are not drawing the path itself. We are just defining where the anchor points live. So for a moment, if you were drawing that same line, close your eyes and imagine how you might draw it if you were creating a connect-the-dots exercise. You would draw a dot where you want to start your path, and then you draw another path, and then you draw another dot where you want to end that path.
So to begin working with the Pen tool, I'm going to first click in one area and then release the mouse. Click and release. What I've just done now is I have defined my first anchor point. I don't see anything on my screen, because Illustrator has nowhere to draw that path. I have one point. I need to create a least two points to have something appear on my screen. So now what I need to do, I am no longer holding the mouse button down. I am going to move my cursor somewhere else on my screen where I want the second anchor point to go. I will click and then once again release the mouse immediately. Now with two anchor points, Illustrator automatically connected those two anchor points with a line.
It is a straight line, because what I've just defined are two corner anchor points. Another important thing to realize about how Illustrator works with the Pen tool is that as I am working, Illustrator now is expecting that I now create a third anchor point. We discussed earlier that anchor points are either hollow or solid. As you can see right now have a hollow anchor point here and a solid anchor point here. When I have an anchor point selected and I have the Pen tool selected, I now just created an anchor point. Illustrator now assumes I'm now going to create a third anchor point.
So if I move my cursor somewhere right now and I click, notice now that Illustrator continues that line to now connect with this third anchor point. This can be somewhat confusing to new users because let's say I now want to start drawing another line. If I move my cursor over here and I start clicking, which I think is going to be a new line, Illustrator actually thinks I am now adding a fourth point to that path. In order for you to create a brand-new line-- I am going to press Undo for a moment here. I need to actually deselect this path. Normally I would have to use the Selection tool, click somewhere on artboard to deselect it, and then move on.
However, using the keyboard shortcut, the Command key on my keyboard or if you are Windows that will be the Ctrl key, you can temporarily switch to the Selection tool, click anywhere on your screen to deselect everything, and then release the Command key to then return back to the Pen tool. Now take a really close look at the Pen tool right now. You can see the Pen tool icon, but it also has a little X that appears just at the bottom right of it. That X indicates that Illustrator's Pen tool is now ready to start creating a brand-new path. In fact, as we use the Pen tool more and more, you will learn to identify small nuances in the Pen tool icon. While subtle in appearance, these little different icons actually help us understand what the Pen tool is about to do.
So now when I click to define a new anchor point, I'm actually creating a new path. Once again, I'll move my cursor elsewhere and click to actually draw that path. So again, the experience is more of me plotting the anchor points and Illustrator connecting the dots. Now that we understand how to create corner anchor points, let's actually create a shape using the Pen tool. I am going to press Command+A to select all and then Delete to remove the paths that we just created. I am also going to Command+Click now my artboard to make sure that my Pen tool is ready to start creating a new path.
Let's create a triangle. I have some basic instructions here in the background of my document which will help us create the shape. But remember, when you start using the Pen tool the hardest part of your job is to visualize where those anchor points need to be positioned. Once you become comfortable with that, you'll find the Pen tool is really not that difficult to use. So let's begin here. Step one, I will click and now I will release the mouse. By the way take a look right now at my icon. It has a little minus sign next to it. That's because Illustrator's Pen tool has a preference, which is on by default, that automatically senses that maybe I actually want to remove that anchor point.
So by clicking on an existing anchor point it will delete it. I don't want to do that here, so I am just going to move my cursor elsewhere. Now that I have plotted my first anchor point, and again my goal is to create a triangle, I am going to visualize in my mind where should that other anchor point go. Well, if you think over here that I have the three dots, right, and that's where my triangle is going to go, the next anchor point should go right over here. So I have step two, click over here. We will click and release the mouse on this point. Don't worry if it is exactly on that area or not. We are not trying to make the world's most perfect triangle here. We are just trying to learn how to use the Pen tool.
So at this point I've now created two anchor points. They're both corner anchor points and therefore a straight line connects the two of them. Now I need to define a third anchor point. I am going to move my cursor on the left over here to where I have this square indicated, and I'll click now to create my third anchor point. Now I am actually going to press Undo for a second. You can see that the line is not so perfect and straight. I just want to share with you a nice way that you can use Illustrator to be more precise in the work that you create. I am going to press Undo and I am going to hold down my Shift key when I click.
When I do so, the Illustrator will make sure that this anchor point is at the same constraint angle as the previous anchor point that I created. As you'll find with many tools inside of Illustrator, the Shift key always acts as a constrain function. Now I have three anchor points. But I haven't really told Illustrator to close off this shape. So what I am going to do now is I am going to return my cursor back to the original anchor point that I created, and notice what happens when I do that. As my cursor comes to that area a little circle appears just at the bottom right of my cursor.
The circle indicates that I am now about to create a closed path. So I'll click and Illustrator now completes my triangle. So at this point you should have a general understanding of how to create corner anchor points inside of Illustrator. Remember, we don't click and drag with the Pen tool. We click to place our anchor points and Illustrator connects those with the paths. Once I have closed my path, Illustrator's Pen tool returns back to the little X icon indicating it's now ready to create a new shape.
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