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Drawing straight paths with the Pen tool

From: Illustrator CS5 Essential Training

Video: Drawing straight paths with the Pen tool

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.

Drawing straight paths with the Pen tool

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.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS5 Essential Training
Illustrator CS5 Essential Training

126 video lessons · 81478 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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