Start your free trial now, and begin learning software, business and creative skills—anytime, anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts.

Start Your Free Trial Now

Smooth points and Bézier curves


Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals

with Deke McClelland

Video: Smooth points and Bézier curves

All right, now that we have had a chance to experience spline curves, in which just to sum things up here, a little bit of oversimplification where the spline curve is concerned. When you have two anchor points that are close to each other, then you end up getting something that resembles a corner. So, it's a very quickly curving corner, in any case. And when the points are spread farther apart from each other like so, you end up getting a more fluid curve. Now, I say more fluid because it is difficult to get truly fluid curves out of splines. Whereas when you are working with Bezier curves, which we are about to do here, you can achieve much more predictable results.
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 42m 8s
    1. Welcome to One-on-One
      1m 58s
    2. The Welcome screen
      3m 3s
    3. Creating a new document
      5m 6s
    4. Advanced document controls
      4m 43s
    5. Saving a custom New Document Profile
      8m 46s
    6. Changing the document setup
      4m 21s
    7. Special artboard controls
      4m 58s
    8. Accepting artboard changes
      2m 19s
    9. Saving a document
      4m 33s
    10. Closing a document
      2m 21s
  2. 1h 0m
    1. Adobe Bridge
    2. Opening an illustration
      4m 45s
    3. Modifying an illustration
      6m 27s
    4. Saving changes
      4m 58s
    5. Introducing Adobe Bridge
      8m 41s
    6. The all-important file type associations
      3m 20s
    7. Navigating inside Bridge
      4m 23s
    8. Previewing and collecting
      5m 55s
    9. Using workspaces
      6m 41s
    10. Customizing a workspace
      6m 14s
    11. Cool Bridge tricks
      8m 17s
  3. 1h 4m
    1. Preferences, color settings, and workspaces
    2. Keyboard increments
      5m 12s
    3. Scratch disks
      3m 48s
    4. Changing the user interface and setting Appearance of Black
      4m 14s
    5. Best workflow color settings
      9m 17s
    6. Synchronizing settings across CS4
      3m 2s
    7. Working inside tabbed windows
      7m 6s
    8. Organizing palettes
      5m 4s
    9. Saving a custom workspace
      4m 12s
    10. Zooming and panning
      4m 19s
    11. Using the Zoom tool
      3m 3s
    12. Navigating the artboards
      5m 5s
    13. Nudging the screen image
      3m 3s
    14. Scroll-wheel tricks
      2m 8s
    15. Cycling between screen modes
      4m 35s
  4. 1h 22m
    1. The Wedjat (or Eye of Horus)
    2. The line tools
      2m 57s
    3. Introducing layers
      5m 10s
    4. Creating ruler guides
      6m 18s
    5. Creating custom guides
      5m 16s
    6. Snap-to points
      5m 25s
    7. Organizing guides
      5m 44s
    8. Making a tracing template
      3m 42s
    9. Drawing a line segment
      4m 29s
    10. Drawing a continuous arc
      5m 28s
    11. Drawing a looping spiral
      6m 5s
    12. Cutting lines with the Scissors tool
      6m 20s
    13. Joining open paths
      7m 31s
    14. Aligning and joining points
      6m 34s
    15. Drawing concentric circles
      4m 41s
    16. Cleaning up overlapping segments
      5m 34s
  5. 1h 4m
    1. The anatomy of a shape
      1m 1s
    2. Meet the shape tools
      3m 5s
    3. The traceable Tonalpohualli
      2m 52s
    4. Drawing circles
      4m 38s
    5. Enhanced Smart Guides
      4m 1s
    6. Aligning to a key object
      4m 29s
    7. Creating polygons and stars
      5m 4s
    8. Using the Measure tool
      3m 47s
    9. The Select Similar and Arrange commands
      3m 56s
    10. Rectangles and rounded rectangles
      6m 8s
    11. The amazing constraint axes
      5m 26s
    12. Grouping and ungrouping
      3m 35s
    13. Flipping and duplicating
      4m 12s
    14. Combining simple shapes into complex ones
      5m 24s
    15. Cutting and connecting with Scissors and Join
      3m 31s
    16. Tilde-key goofiness
      2m 53s
  6. 1h 41m
    1. The ingredients of life
    2. Fill and Stroke settings
      4m 22s
    3. Transparency grid and paper color
      5m 47s
    4. The None attribute
      5m 4s
    5. Color libraries and sliders
      3m 39s
    6. Industry-standard colors
      4m 38s
    7. Using CMYK for commercial output
      6m 39s
    8. Using RGB for the web
      7m 23s
    9. Color palette tips and tricks
      7m 18s
    10. Creating and saving color swatches
      4m 35s
    11. Trapping gaps with rich blacks
      6m 46s
    12. Filling and stacking shapes
      5m 39s
    13. Dragging and dropping swatches
      5m 0s
    14. Paste in Front, Paste in Back
      4m 54s
    15. Filling shapes inside groups
      5m 28s
    16. Pasting between layers
      4m 41s
    17. Joins, caps, and dashes
      6m 50s
    18. Fixing strokes and isolating edits
      7m 12s
    19. Creating a pattern fill
      4m 57s
  7. 1h 50m
    1. The power of transformations
      1m 20s
    2. From primitive to polished art
      2m 42s
    3. Using the Blob brush
      5m 46s
    4. Resizing the brush and erasing
      4m 15s
    5. Selection limits and methods of merging
      6m 39s
    6. Cloning and auto-duplicating
      6m 45s
    7. Customizing keyboard shortcuts
      3m 7s
    8. Moving by the numbers
      5m 15s
    9. Using the Reshape tool
      7m 47s
    10. Modifying, aligning, and uniting paths
      7m 14s
    11. Using the Offset Path command
      4m 43s
    12. Styling and eyedropping
      5m 29s
    13. Making a black-and-white template
      2m 27s
    14. Scale and clone
      4m 57s
    15. Enlarge and stack
      5m 46s
    16. Positioning the origin point
      6m 59s
    17. Using the Rotate tool
      3m 55s
    18. Using the Reflect tool
      4m 15s
    19. Series rotation (aka power duplication)
      6m 48s
    20. Rotating by the numbers
      6m 12s
    21. Transforming the tile patterns
      7m 52s
  8. 2h 4m
    1. Next-generation text wrangling
    2. Placing a text document
      5m 38s
    3. Creating a new text block
      6m 1s
    4. Working with point text
      3m 57s
    5. Selecting the perfect typeface
      5m 44s
    6. Scaling and positioning type
      8m 57s
    7. Leading, tracking, and lots of shortcuts
      5m 54s
    8. Adjusting pair kerning
      6m 55s
    9. Eyedropping formatting attributes
      3m 54s
    10. Flowing text from one block to another
      8m 28s
    11. Creating and applying a paragraph style
      7m 39s
    12. Rendering the text in graphite
      5m 55s
    13. Creating a scribbly drop shadow
      5m 17s
    14. Advanced formatting and bullets
      7m 43s
    15. Setting Area Type options
      4m 57s
    16. Justification and the Every-line Composer
      5m 52s
    17. OpenType and ligatures
      7m 19s
    18. Fractions, numerals, and ordinals
      9m 7s
    19. Swashes and small caps
      5m 40s
    20. The amazing Glyphs palette
      8m 12s
  9. 1h 18m
    1. Points are boys, handles are girls
      1m 20s
    2. Placing an image as a tracing template
      6m 56s
    3. Drawing a straight-sided path
      6m 8s
    4. Moving, adding, and deleting points
      6m 50s
    5. Drawing spline curves with Round Corners
      9m 7s
    6. Smooth points and Bézier curves
      8m 29s
    7. Defining a cusp between two curves
      6m 59s
    8. Replicating and reshaping segments
      8m 31s
    9. Converting anchor points
      7m 55s
    10. Deleting stray anchor points
      5m 1s
    11. Separating and closing paths
      5m 43s
    12. Eyedropping template colors
      5m 55s
  10. 1h 40m
    1. Paths never rest
      1m 34s
    2. Exploring the Appearance palette
      9m 54s
    3. Snip and Spin
      8m 3s
    4. Adding a center point
      4m 12s
    5. Keeping shape intersections
      3m 42s
    6. Lifting fills and selecting through shapes
      5m 54s
    7. Saving and recalling selections
      6m 20s
    8. Rotating is a circular operation
      8m 32s
    9. Lassoing and scaling points
      5m 28s
    10. Using the Transform Each command
      4m 11s
    11. Using the Magic Wand tool
      8m 1s
    12. Eyedropping live effects
      9m 58s
    13. Merging strokes with a compound path
      6m 50s
    14. Selecting and scaling independent segments
      7m 59s
    15. Scalloped edges with Pucker & Bloat
      5m 16s
    16. Expand before you merge
      4m 17s
  11. 1h 26m
    1. The new pleasures of printing
    2. Outlines and artboards in CS4
      7m 35s
    3. Setting trim size and bleed
      7m 17s
    4. Creating custom dynamic crop marks
      3m 41s
    5. Working with the Separations Preview palette
      7m 42s
    6. Trapping an object with an overprint stroke
      8m 20s
    7. Placing multiple artboards into InDesign
      5m 17s
    8. Working with the Print Tiling tool
      4m 56s
    9. Setting the General Print options
      6m 9s
    10. Setting printer marks
      5m 16s
    11. PostScript-only output and graphics
      9m 10s
    12. The Color Management options
      6m 56s
    13. Adjusting the Flattener settings
      7m 32s
    14. Setting the Raster Effects resolution
      5m 33s
  12. 1h 32m
    1. Illustrator does pixels
    2. Illustrator, PDF, and Save As formats
      8m 15s
    3. Saving an illustration for the web
      6m 13s
    4. Saving a continuous-tone JPEG image
      10m 2s
    5. Saving a high-contrast GIF graphic
      6m 27s
    6. The versatile PNG format
      4m 45s
    7. Saving a scaleable Flash (SWF) graphic
      11m 0s
    8. Opening and placing an Illustrator file in Photoshop
      12m 44s
    9. Exporting a layered PSD from Illustrator
      12m 57s
    10. Exporting to Microsoft Office and PowerPoint
      7m 24s
    11. Sharing with InDesign, Flash, and Photoshop
      12m 12s
  13. 1m 4s
    1. Until next time
      1m 4s

please wait ...
Watch the Online Video Course Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals
16h 48m Beginner Feb 06, 2009

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Adobe Illustrator has long been a popular vector–based drawing program, but for many the learning curve is steep. In Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals, author and leading industry expert Deke McClelland shows users how to get in to the Illustrator mindset and overcome this learning curve. He covers the application's key features in a new way, making it simple and easy to master Illustrator. Deke teaches viewers how to use the core drawing and shape tools, the transformation and reshaping features, text, and the Pen tool. He also explains how to export and print. Even if learning Illustrator has been a struggle in the past, this training can help make sense of it. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Creating continuous arcs and looping spirals
  • Building with geometric shapes
  • Selecting, placing, and scaling type
  • Creating spine curves with round corners
  • Using the new Blob brush to quickly draw and merge paths
  • Working with flattener and raster effects
  • Saving illustrations for the web
Deke McClelland

Smooth points and Bézier curves

All right, now that we have had a chance to experience spline curves, in which just to sum things up here, a little bit of oversimplification where the spline curve is concerned. When you have two anchor points that are close to each other, then you end up getting something that resembles a corner. So, it's a very quickly curving corner, in any case. And when the points are spread farther apart from each other like so, you end up getting a more fluid curve. Now, I say more fluid because it is difficult to get truly fluid curves out of splines. Whereas when you are working with Bezier curves, which we are about to do here, you can achieve much more predictable results.

That's not to say that Bezier curves are easier. They are actually a little more difficult to come to terms with. But once you grok the Bezier, you are really going to get how to draw inside of Illustrator. So, I'm going to go ahead and undo my most recent changes to this very valiant secondary warrior right here. Anyway I'm working inside Finished, so called because I have finished the spline canoe right there. Let's move over to this fellow right here and I should say before I embark on the Bezier curves, these are named after a fellow who is a car designer named Pierre Bezier, who I believe is still alive.

Let's grab the Pen tool here and let me show you how to draw a Bezier. I'm going to go ahead and zoom in on the creature's head. This of course is the Mishipizheu himself, the mythical underwater panther of Ojibwa origin. Here is what I'm going to do. We have seen that clicking with this tool delivers corner points that are connected by straight segments. We don't want that shape right there, so I'm going to go ahead and press Backspace key a couple of times to get rid of it. That's delete twice in a row on the MAC. If you want to draw a smooth point in which the curve fluidly arcs through that point, then you drag with the Pen tool like so. So I clicked and I dragged, essentially.

Notice as I'm clicking and dragging, I set the position of the anchor point and as I drag away from it, I'm positioning two symmetrical Bezier control handles or just plain old control handles. And notice that they are symmetrical about the anchor point to start with and what they do is they will be tugging at our curve, as we will see. So I'm going to go ahead and release there. The anchor point actually sets a location in the path. So the path always goes through the anchor point, unlike with the spline curve where it's just sort of going back and forth around the points. Whereas the control handles never exist on the path. They are pulling at the path rather. We will see how that works as we continue here. So if I was to click and drag again with this tool, notice that Illustrator goes ahead and connects my two points with a curving segment, the curvature of which is determined by these control handles pulling one direction, or the other direction like so.

Notice, however, the crazy thing when you are first coming to terms with this is you are controlling the opposite control handle. So notice I'm dragging away. I'm not dragging over the segment I'm trying to control. I'm dragging away from the segment I'm trying to control. I'm controlling it with that opposite symmetrical control handle right now. Now you can always go back later and drag that control handle directly, but when you are creating it for the first time, you are indirectly controlling it. Now, I'm going to create another point right there and drag again away. So I'm dragging in the direction that I'm creating the path, always on the other side of things as I'm moving along here. I'll just go ahead and add a couple of other points to this grouping here.

Now, let's say at this point you decide, hey, I want to go ahead and modify my points a little bit, my control handles, then you can switch over to the White Arrow tool and go ahead and click on those points and you can then drag them to different locations like so. So standard stuff but notice when you drag the anchor point, you are going to move the path around. In other words, the path is actually anchored by that anchor point. It has to go through the anchor point, whereas the control handle of course is just tugging at it playfully. It's just teasing it, one direction or the other direction, like so.

I am going to go ahead and put that anchor point back where I want it to be. So this is what makes the Bezier curve drawing model so much more predictable than the spline curve model is that these guys, the anchor points, the path has to go through. These guys are control handles; the path never goes to them. So you always know what's up. You are not just sort of monkeying around with three different or four different points since you are with the spline curve to try to get things right. Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and move this anchor point up a little bit and then of course, if you wanted to tug the path in a different direction, you could, using the control handle.

Now, something to note about control handles. When you are first coming to terms with the Pen tool, there are a couple of rules you should know about. One is that you either want no control handles associated with this segment, in which case you are going to have a straight segment. So if you don't have any control handles, you have a straight segment. Or you want two control handles to be associated with that segment, so that it curves fluidly. Because notice what happens if I were to take this control handle right here and drag it so close to the anchor point that it basically disappears like so.

That means what I end up getting is this sort of chopped off segment right there. The segment that curves rather fluidly at the beginning and then ramps away, and so we have a lot less control over what's going on when we work that way. So I'm going to go ahead and press Ctrl +Z a few times in a row there. That's Command+Z, Command+Z a few times in a row in order to get that control handle back. All right, so either zero control handles or two on either side of this segment. Another thing to note about control handles, how far do you pull them out, how far do you want them to extend from the anchor point? The rule is if you go too far, like we're seeing right here, you're going to end up with this sharply transitioning curve here. It's not going to be fluid once again.

If you want it to be nice and fluid, then you want the control handles to consume together about two-thirds of the length of the segment. So in other words, you could either have one control handle be pretty short and another control handle be pretty darn long, by comparison, and then about a third of this segment is not covered by control handles or you can have each of those control handles be a pretty similar length so that we have one third covered by control handle, one third with that anything and another third covered by control handle.

So that's the two-thirds rule right there. These aren't hard-and-fast rules, obviously, you can violate these rules all the time if you want to, but when you're first coming to terms with this tool and drawing control handles, it's a good thing to watch out for. These are some good rules to bear in mind. All right, another thing that you can do, you can of course move a point if you want to, by pressing an Arrow key or Shift with an Arrow key. This is Shift with an Arrow, just so that we can really see that anchor point moving around. You could click multiple points and move them around if you want to. If I were to Shift-click on this anchor point and Shift-click on this one, for example, then I can move them together by Shift+ Arrowing around, in this case, or just nudging with the Arrow keys, just nudging in smaller increments like so.

You can also however select and nudge a curving segment. So if I were to just marquee the segment, for example, just some random portion of this segment, without getting either the anchor points. We can see both of its control handles thereby telling me that it's selected and then I can actually drag that. Watch this. you can drag that segment around directly if you want to in order to change its curvature. It doesn't give you a whole lot of control, but you can't do it. There are other times where you might find it helpful to nudge from the keyboard. You can actually nudge that segment. So this is what's happening if I'm pressing Shift+Up Arrow and I'm just pressing the Shift key so we can see those changes happen very easily here, and this is Shift+Down Arrow. I could also press Shift+Right Arrow and Shift+ Left Arrow with different effects here.

So, it takes a little bit of time to get used to what kind of changes, what you're doing when you're nudging a segment from the keyboard like that? But it can sometimes be terribly useful. All right, looking good, so far we've got this nice curving segment, very organic, going down the side of the animal's head and notice that at every point here, at every one of these smooth points, because we have symmetrical control handles, we are ensured a fluid smooth arching curve through that anchor point, and that's the whole point of smooth points is to keep things smooth.

In the next exercise, I'm going to show you how to create a special combination of a smooth point and a corner point that's known as a cusp, stay tuned.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals .

Expand all | Collapse all
please wait ...
Q: Adobe Bridge CS4 is not previewing files in the same way for me as it is in the tutorial. All I am seeing is a low-quality thumbnail of the image, not previews of each artboard.  Why is there a difference between the tutorial and what I am seeing?
A: There is a different view in the tutorial because the author used a beta version of Bridge during the recording. The final release of Bridge CS4 displays thumbnails as you describe.
Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.

Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

Join now Already a member? Log in

* Estimated file size

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.

Mark all as unwatched Cancel


You have completed Illustrator CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.


Upgrade to View Courses Offline


With our new Desktop App, Annual Premium Members can download courses for Internet-free viewing.

Upgrade Now

After upgrading, download Desktop App Here.

Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member ?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Start your FREE 10-day trial

Begin learning software, business, and creative skills—anytime,
anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts. provides
Unlimited access to over 4,000 courses—more than 100,000 video tutorials
Expert-led instruction
On-the-go learning. Watch from your computer, tablet, or mobile device. Switch back and forth as you choose.
Start Your FREE Trial Now

A trusted source for knowledge.


We provide training to more than 4 million people, and our members tell us that helps them stay ahead of software updates, pick up brand-new skills, switch careers, land promotions, and explore new hobbies. What can we help you do?

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.