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Adobe Illustrator has long been the most popular and viable vector-drawing program on the market but, for many, the learning curve is steep. In Illustrator CS3 One-on-One: The Essentials , author and leading industry expert Deke McClelland teaches the key features of Illustrator in a way that anyone can understand. He also goes beyond that, showing users how to get into the Illustrator "mindset" to make mastering Illustrator simple and easy. The training covers how to use the core drawing and shape tools, the transformation and reshaping features, text and gradients, and color management and printing features. Even if learning Illustrator has been a struggle in the past, this time it is going to make sense. Exercise files accompany the training.
In this exercise, I'm going to introduce you to the Pen Tool, the famed Pen Tool. It really is the tool that launched Illustrator on its way, back in 1987, long, long, ago, in a galaxy very nearby. And the Pen Tool derives its power from the fact that it's so incredibly methodical. You draw lines and shapes one point at a time, so you need to give it patience, in return it gives you control. That's the bargain. And we're going to start things off here by drawing the simplest things that you can draw with the Pen Tool, which are straight-sided paths or if you prefer, free-form polygons same difference.
All right, I'm going to go ahead and grab the Pen Tool from the palette by pressing the P key, or clicking on the tool, and I'm working inside of a file called Base template.ai. It's the same file that we've been seeing over the course of the last couple of exercises. It's just that this one's loose inside of the 07_pen_tools folder, just so that we're getting out of the Mishipizheu subfolder there and we're going to be tracing this comb item in back of the great-horned lynx/underwater panther here, the big monster. And I presume it's a canoe filled with skinny guys that are in hot pursuit here, but whenever it is it was part of my original photograph of that pictograph there in Bachewana Bay, so I want honor it by adding it to my illustration here. So I'm going to go ahead and zoom in on this detail, and I want you to start things off. First notice the appearance of the Pen Tool. It appears as a little pen nib with an X next to it. That X for what ever reason, that X is Illustrator's way of saying, Hey, you're about to start a new path.
Whenever you start clicking and dragging you're going to make a new path. For now I just want you to click unless I tell you otherwise of course. And I want you to click here in order to lay down a point. Now notice as soon as I move my cursor away from that point, what went away? The X went away. What does that mean? It means that if I click again, which I'm going to do right now, Illustrator will go ahead and join that new point to the previous point with a straight segment. So every time I click, notice this, Illustrator's laying down a new anchor point, and it's joining that anchor point to the previous point with a straight segment. Now at this point, in the process that is.
I'm having a little bit of a problem because I'm covering up, since I have my default fill and stroke active here, I've got a white fill and I'm covering up my canoe so I can't see it anymore, which makes it awfully darn difficult to trace. So in this case I need to switch over to the Outline mode, and I'm going to do that from the keyboard by pressing Control+Y or Command+Y on the Mac, and notice when I do just as I indicated in the last exercise, the template remains visible. So we can still see it, thanks to the fact that the image resides on a template later, on an official template layer. Now I'm going to go ahead and click, of course now I can see through the path because I'm in the Outline mode, so I'm not seeing the fill or stroke, and I'll just continue to click around the shape here.
Now I want to show you some of the pitfalls you can run into, or at least one pitfall. If you accidentally, let's say deselect the path, and one way to deselect the path is to Control-click off the path or Command-click off that path on a Mac, because Control or Command temporarily gets you the arrow tool. If you deselect the path in any way, shape or form, then it becomes inactive and your pen cursor changes back to a little nib with an X next to it, and that means if you click, you're not working on that past path anymore. You're starting a new one. All right, you don't want to do that, of course, so you'd press the Backspace or Delete key to get rid of that new point and you'd reactivate the path by clicking on it. Notice my cursor right now. I haven't clicked yet, I've just moved my cursor over the last anchor point, the end point in the shape.
And I can see a little /, a little sort of tiny line segment next to my pen nib and that means, Do you want to continue from here? And if you click then your answer is, Yes I do. And then you start clicking and notice we're back to the pen nib without anything attached to it, and that means that we're good to go, we're good to add more anchor points to this shape. Now, let's say you click at totally the wrong location. Now I'm clicking and holding. I'm not moving my mouse at all at this point, but I do still have the mouse button down and I notice, it occurs to me, I've clicked in totally the wrong location. Well then you would press and hold the Spacebar and move the point to the location where you want it to be, and then best thing to do is release your mouse button and then release the Spacebar, so that you don't risk dragging with the cursor and creating a control handle, which is something that we'll discuss in a later exercise.
Spacebar along with the Pen Tool means the ability to move a point around as you create it, but I'm just going to go ahead and continue to click around the comb, like so, and eventually I will get to the end of the shape. I'm, you know, I'm kind of being fairly rough about the points that I'm laying down at this point because I can always go back and move them if I want to later. I'll go ahead and click here. Finally I'll click on the very first point in the shape, the end point and notice my cursor now. It has a little o next to it, showing me that I'm about to close the shape. So if I click, indeed I do close the shape. It no longer has any end points and it is now a continuous path outline.
Awesome. You have now created a straight- sided path/freeform polygon using the Pen Tool. In the next exercise we'll see how you can use the white arrow and Pen Tools in order to modify a path and make it look its absolute best.
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