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In Illustrator CS5 Essential Training, author Mordy Golding explains the core concepts and techniques that apply to any workflow in Illustrator, whether designing for print, the web, or assets for other applications. This course includes a detailed explanation of the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of Illustrator's drawing tools. Also demonstrated are techniques for combining and cleaning up paths, organizing paths into groups and layers, text editing, working with color, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.
When using the Pencil tool inside of Illustrator, you may find it difficult to get really nice looking smooth paths. This happens more often when you're using a mouse with the Pencil tool, but it can happen when using a tablet also. After all Illustrator is simply trying to keep up with the paths that you create. But the truth is you really don't need to worry about this because there is a tool inside of Illustrator to help you modify that. Let's take a quick look. I am going to jump into a new document. I'll use the Print profile and I'll click OK. And I'll use the Pencil tool here to draw a few paths to my screen.
May be I'll create some kind of a basic outline of a flower here. So let's create this. Let's create some nice looking leaves here for now. I'll hold down my Command key to select all these elements and just move this down just a little bit here. Command+Click to deselect them, and add some kind of a daisy type of flower here. Now say I want to focus on making some of these paths a little bit more smooth. If you click and hold the mouse on the Pencil tool, you'll see that there are two additional tools grouped together with the Pencil tool. One is called the Smooth tool and one is called the Path Eraser tool.
For now, let's go ahead and work with the Smooth tool. The Smooth tool only works on selected paths. So if I want to focus on the stem for a moment, I'll go ahead now and I'll click on this. Notice now that my cursor has changed to the Selection tool. That's because I'm now pressing the Command key on my keyboard to select that. Upon releasing the Command key I am returned back now to the Smooth tool. And I'll simply draw over this path to smooth it out. See how those anchor points went away? That's because Illustrator adjusted the path as I painted over it. I am going to hold down the Command key once again to switch to my Selection tool and select this path right over here.
And now I can go and start dragging on this one to smooth this one out. Just by dragging over different areas I'm smoothing out that part of the path. In fact, smoothing is something that you do so often that Illustrator gave us an additional keyboard shortcut to help us work faster. For example, I'll deselect this path right here. I'll switch now to my Pencil tool and I'll draw a shape. I'll Command+Click to actually select that shape. And now with my Pencil tool active, I am going to press the Option key on my keyboard. Notice that when I hold down the Option key, my Pencil tool changes temporarily into the Smooth tool.
Now I could smooth over this path, get it to look just how I want it to, and when I'm done I can let go and I'm back to using the Pencil tool. I also have the ability to delete parts of a path using the Path Eraser tool. Notice by the way it's called the Path Eraser tool because there is another tool inside of Illustrator down here which is the Eraser tool itself. Since we are dealing directly with paths here, I want to use the Path Eraser tool. And I can now simply draw over any part of the path to remove it. If I draw over the middle part of the path, it will remove that part of the path as well.
When I'm ready to start drawing again, I'll switch back to the Pencil tool and I can create new paths. Now I just want to point out one thing here. The Smooth tool and the Path Eraser tool will work on any path, whether or not those paths were created with the Pencil tool or otherwise. So even if you have never used the Pencil tool, you may find that the Path Eraser and the Smooth tool are valuable in the work that you will do inside of Illustrator.
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