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Reshaping a path outline

From: Up and Running with Illustrator

Video: Reshaping a path outline

In this exercise, I am going to show you how to reshape path outlines, by which I mean change the fundamental shape of a path using the Direct Selection tool which is the White Arrow. We'll also see how useful Smart Guides are when trying to align objects on the fly. I'm working inside this file called Hawaiian shirt.ai. It's found inside the Exercise Files folder and I am going to start things off by zooming in to the central portion of the illustration. I want you to check if you're working along with me, go to the View menu, and make sure the Smart Guides command is turned on as it is for me.

Reshaping a path outline

In this exercise, I am going to show you how to reshape path outlines, by which I mean change the fundamental shape of a path using the Direct Selection tool which is the White Arrow. We'll also see how useful Smart Guides are when trying to align objects on the fly. I'm working inside this file called Hawaiian shirt.ai. It's found inside the Exercise Files folder and I am going to start things off by zooming in to the central portion of the illustration. I want you to check if you're working along with me, go to the View menu, and make sure the Smart Guides command is turned on as it is for me.

Also, note this keyboard shortcut; Ctrl+U or Command+U on the Mac. You may want to assign that shortcut to memory, because there are times you want Smart Guides on, and there are times you want them off. Now, whenever I hover over a path outline, it goes ahead and lights up, and that is both the helpful thing about Smart Guides because you can see, hey! This is a path, it's not a group, that kind of thing. The problem with Smart Guides when you're working inside very complex illustrations; you can imagine that the illustration is lighting up like crazy.

So just remember, you can use Ctrl+U or Command+U on the Mac to both turn Smart Guides off and then turn them right back on. I am going to go ahead and scroll up to the top of the illustration and notice this collar here. It's not bad enough, I only have half a collar. But it tapers in the wrong direction. It gets narrower toward the front of the shirt which is the opposite of how real collars work. So I am going to change that by switching to my White Arrow tool, the Direct Selection tool of course, which you can get by pressing the A key, and then notice if I hover over this bottom corner, I see the word anchor.

Now note here, I've changed my Smart Guides to red from the Preferences command to make them more visible inside the movie. Inside your version of Illustrator they are going to be green, just bear that in mind. So anything that appears red inside the movie is going to be green on your screen. Now that word anchor tells me I am hovered over an Anchor Point which anchors down the path outline. You can move the point, but if you do so, then the path will move along with it, and that's a little too much of a 70s collar. So I am going to take it back a little bit.

Now let's say we want to create the other collar and I am going to copy and reflect this path outline in one operation using a special tool that I haven't shown you yet inside Illustrator. I am going to start things off by selecting this collar, by pressing and holding the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac which gives me that little Plus sign which indicates that I'm going to select up the object. In this case, if I Alt+Click or Option+Click on that path outline I'll select the entire thing with the White Arrow tool.

Now then go over to your toolbox and click and hold on what presumably will be the Rotate tool and you'll see a flyout menu that includes the Reflect tool. Go ahead and select it, and now I am going to bring up a dialog box which you can get by pressing and holding the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac. Notice when you do, so, you'll get a little dot, dot, dot next to your cursor which is Illustrator's way of telling you a dialog box is imminent. You want to Alt+Click or Option+Click on the point about which you want to flip the path which would be the right-hand point in this shape.

So go ahead and Alt+Click or Option+Click there. That will bring up the Reflect dialog box as you see here. Now, we know we want to flip this path outline horizontally, so you would think you would select the Horizontal option, but that would be wrong. If you turn on the Preview check box you can see that Horizontal ends up producing a vertical flip, and that's because horizontal refers to the angle of the axis about which you're going to perform the flip. If you want to flip the path horizontally, then not intuitively, you select the Vertical option, like so.

So as a rule of thumb, just make sure to turn the Preview check box on and then select the opposite of the option you want. We want to create a copy of this path, so go ahead and click on the Copy button, like so. Now we need to move the seams of the shirt upward in order to meet that collar, and we're going to do so once again using the White Arrow tool. So go ahead and grab it and then click on the top point in the left-hand path and drag it upward. You don't even have to press the Shift key. When you're working with Smart Guides, Illustrator has a tendency to try to go ahead and align your path outline along a horizontal or vertical axis as you drag.

So I am going to go ahead and take that Anchor Point all the way up until it intersects with the collar, like so. So that red line, which will be green on your screen indicates that I have exact vertical alignment, and then the fact that I'm seeing intersect shows me that I'm intersecting exactly precisely with the collar. I will go ahead and do the same thing with the Anchor Point at the top of the right-hand line as well, and you can see how quickly things come together. All right! Now I am going to go ahead, and scroll downward quite a bit actually until I get to the bottom of the shirt, well we zoom-out a little bit.

You can see that the bottom of the shirt is exactly flat, and even for such a stylized graphic that's not really what I want. So I am going to add some angle to the bottom of the shirt. For starters, I'll click on that segment in order to select it using my White Arrow tool, and then I am going to add a couple of Anchor Points, and you add Anchor Points using the Pen tool, which you can get by pressing the P key. Notice when you hover the Pen Cursor over a selected segment, you see a little Plus sign and that shows you that you're going to add a point to that location.

I am going to go ahead and click right about there, and then there. So I want to add two points in all. Then go ahead and switch back to your White Arrow tool and drag that newest point down until it snaps into alignment, with that left-hand seam line. Then go ahead and grab the other Anchor Point and move it down till it snaps into alignment with that line as well. Notice that both segments have a little bit of an angle associated with them. All right! Now I am going to move the seams down so they snap into alignment.

So I'll grab this bottom Anchor Point, drag it down. I've got full snap into here, and I can even see the word anchor. Then I'll go ahead, and drag this point down until I see the word intersect. Before I was seeing the anchor because I was snapping into alignment with an Anchor Point, now I am seeing that I'm intersecting a path segment. Either way it's good. Now, the problem is that we have this little bit of extra stroke that's popping out here and that kind of stuff happens all the time in Illustrator. Here is one of the many ways to solve the problem.

I'm going to go ahead and take these two paths, join them together, and fill them with the same tile pattern, that is, that Hawaiian shirt pattern in the background there. So currently, I have got this Anchor Point selected. I am going to Shift+Click on the other Anchor Point. This is the bottom of that left-hand vertical line, and then I am going to join those two points together by going up to the Control panel and notice all these icons here that let you split points and fuse them, and so forth. Notice this one says Connect selected end points. Go ahead and click on it, and that goes ahead and draws a new segment between those two points. All right! That in and of itself doesn't solve our problem, we're still seeing the thicker stroke from the big outline around the shirt.

So I'm going to switch to my Black Arrow tool. I'm going to click on the path in order to select the whole thing and that will change the contents of that context-sensitive Control panel, and now I'll go to the Fill Swatch, click on it, and I'll go ahead and select this flower swatch inside the Swatches panel and that goes ahead and fills that open path with that Hawaiian shirt tile pattern. All right! Press the Escape key to hide that panel. I am going to zoom-out. We've got one last sort of problem here; we're covering up the buttons as you can see.

So what we need to do is select both the outer shirt path, and this newly filled seam path, and I am going to do that by marqueeing like so with my Black Arrow tool. So just marquee along the base of these two paths in order to select them, then right-click anywhere inside the shirt to bring up the Shortcut menu, choose Arrange, and then choose Send to Back, and that will go ahead and send those paths in back of the buttons. All right! So that takes care of our artwork as you can see. Looks way better, thanks to our ability to reshape path outlines using the White Arrow tool combined with Smart Guides here inside Illustrator.

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This video is part of

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Up and Running with Illustrator

26 video lessons · 19940 viewers

Deke McClelland
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