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In this installment of the Illustrator Insider Training series, Mordy Golding shows how to draw vector artwork quickly, precisely, and efficiently—without having to think about technical concepts like anchor points or control handles. The course highlights intuitive drawing techniques using the Pathfinder functions, Live Paint groups, Shape Builder tool, and variable-width strokes. It also describes the sketching workflow and features in Illustrator that use pressure-sensitive drawing tablets, allowing designers to focus more on their creativity.
Before we learn how to draw without the Pen tool, let's actually take a few moments to learn about the Pen tool itself. I think this will also give us a better idea and a better expectation about what we're going to be doing throughout this course. A lot of people think about drawing with a Pen tool, but in reality the Pen tool in Illustrator does not work like a regular pen as you might apply it to pen and paper. For example, when I'm using a regular pen and paper, I'll take the pen, actually place it onto the paper, and drag to actually create paths, but in Illustrator we don't actually create paths at all.
In fact, the Pen tool is used to plot the position of something called anchor points. Anchor points are really the underlying definition for all vector paths that we create. To give you a better idea what I mean by that, I'm actually going to go to this file here called MisterZee.ai. I'm going to hide my artwork layer here in my Layers panel. So all I'm left with seeing right now is my sketch. You can see that right now because I have my sketch layer here, and because this layer right now is hidden, I don't really have any layer that can draw artwork on so I'm getting this icon on my screen like a pencil with a line through it.
So what I'm going to do here is I'm actually going to create a brand-new layer here. Let me call it Layer3. It doesn't make a difference where it is. I'm just using this as an example. I'm now going to take my Pen tool here inside of Illustrator. The keyboard shortcut is the P key. Well, now a lot of people when they first start to use the Pen tool, they think it works just like a pen does, so they will actually click and then drag kind of draw a curve here, and they get these like weird handles here, which are actually called control handles, and then they try to draw backwards and then forwards and then backwards and then forwards to get this kind of shape, and in reality what they get is some kind of weird shape that doesn't match at all with what they're trying to draw.
A lot of people who use the Pen tool kind of start off by clicking and dragging and trying to draw and they get all this wacky paths everywhere, and they run in the complete opposite direction of Illustrator, which is usually towards a program like Photoshop which allows you to draw in a more visual type of fashion. There if you use for example a Paintbrush tool and you're painting with pixels, you're actually clicking and dragging on the screen and creating paths. Now the interesting thing about the way the Pen tool works is that, again, I am not actually drawing the path themselves. I'm plotting these things called Anchor Points, and for those of us who are familiar with Illustrator we know there are different kinds of anchor points.
There are corner anchor points and smooth anchor points and smooth anchor points have control handles. It's actually very technical. Yes, you can sit down and you can learn all the rules for how they work, but it does require some knowledge as far as understanding when you need certain types of anchor points, how to apply and work with control handles, so on and so forth. Now, if you're the artist who actually creates all those connected dots books for kids, then the Pen tool makes a lot of sense, because you're actually clicking where the actual anchor points need to go, and here's the important concept.
We're not even drawing paths at all when we're using the Pen tool; we're plotting the anchor points, but Illustrator connects the anchor points with the paths. So, we're just really kind of understanding better in our heads where these anchor points need to go and then hopefully Illustrator will create the paths in the direction or in the areas that we hope or that we envision. The real secret to using the Pen tool in that case is anticipating the position of each anchor point. If you're really good at using the Pen tool, it means you can understand or at least have an idea in your mind about where those anchor points are supposed to go to create the paths that you want to work with.
So for example, I'm just going to hit Command+A here or Ctrl+A and hit Delete to get rid of these paths, and if I wanted to actually draw and illustrate this part of the path right here, this curve, I might start by clicking here and because I'm somewhat familiar with using the Pen tool, I can actually say click over here and get a little bit of curve going, come down over here, get a little bit more of curve, kind of drag it out, and then come here and maybe finish off that path or even undo, and then click and drag and kind of draw it this way, and I'll set my fill color here to be None so that's easier to see the stroke that I'm working with.
And again, we'll deal more with that a little bit later on the title, but for now I'm kind of getting an idea about where my path is going to go. But again, I didn't like draw the path itself. I kind of plotted the anchor points, and because I have some familiarity with the Pen tool I can anticipate where those anchor points need to go in order to generate the kind of path that I'm looking for. Press Command+A and delete the shape over here. Wouldn't it be nice if you could simply draw the lines where you want the lines to go? It happens to be that there is a tool inside of Illustrator called the Pencil tool, which does allow you to click and drag and draw the shapes and it's basically the reverse of the Pen tool.
The Pencil tool allows you to draw the path, and then Illustrator goes ahead and figures out where the anchor points need to go. However, because we're working here with a mouse, 9 times out of 10 it's very difficult to lay down nice and smooth and clean paths when using the Pencil tool. We'll actually deal with the Pencil tool much later on in this title when we talk about working with a pen tablet. However, the point that I'm trying to make here is that throughout this entire course we want to completely avoid this concept of understanding about where anchor points need to go and how far control handles need to be stretched in order to get the curves that we need.
We want to be able to work in an environment inside of Illustrator where yes, we're working with vector graphics, but we're working in a more visual form. We're looking at our artwork and we're focusing on the paths; we're not focusing on the anchor points that determine how the paths are shaped. We're not going to care about anchor points, we don't care about corner smooth anchor points, we don't care about control handles. All we care about is the artwork that we're trying to create, and I think they'll give us a whole refreshing new look about how we draw artwork inside of Illustrator.
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