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Understanding anchor points

From: Illustrator CS5 Essential Training

Video: Understanding anchor points

The next drawing tool that we are going to cover inside of Illustrator is the Pen tool. But before we learn how to use the tool itself, we have to understand what the Pen tool creates. You see at the very core of vector graphics is something called an anchor point. These anchor points are connected by paths. However, when we use the Pen tool we don't really draw paths at all. What we end up doing is plotting where these anchor points go and Illustrator then connects these dots by drawing the paths. When we use the primitive shape tools, for example, the Rectangle tool inside of Illustrator, we are just drawing the rectangle and Illustrator automatically creates both the anchor points and the paths for us.

Understanding anchor points

The next drawing tool that we are going to cover inside of Illustrator is the Pen tool. But before we learn how to use the tool itself, we have to understand what the Pen tool creates. You see at the very core of vector graphics is something called an anchor point. These anchor points are connected by paths. However, when we use the Pen tool we don't really draw paths at all. What we end up doing is plotting where these anchor points go and Illustrator then connects these dots by drawing the paths. When we use the primitive shape tools, for example, the Rectangle tool inside of Illustrator, we are just drawing the rectangle and Illustrator automatically creates both the anchor points and the paths for us.

But when we use the Pen tool we are free to draw any shape that we desire and we do so by plotting these anchor points. The analogy that I would like to use when thinking about how the Pen tool works is something called string Aart. It is where you take a block of wood and you tap these nails into the wood but you leave parts of the nails sticking out of the wood and then you take string and you wrap the string around those nails. In that example, each of the nails would be anchor points and the thread that you put around those nails could be the path. When drawing the Pen tool in Illustrator, imagine you had a hammer in your hand and you were tapping these nails into the wood.

You're not drawing the paths. You're not working with the string. You're just creating the structure for where those paths are eventually going to go. So let's talk a little bit more about these anchor points. First of all it is important to realize that there are really two different types of anchor points inside of Illustrator. The most basic and simple one is something called the corner anchor point. This is where two or more points are connected by a straight line. For example, as you see here a rectangle would have four different anchor points and Illustrator would connect all those anchor points with straight paths.

When we start working with anchor points, you will also notice that when an anchor point is a filled solid, that means that it is currently selected. Hollow anchor points, however, indicate that those are not selected. Now corner anchor points are used to create straight lines. But what happens when you want to create a curved line? Well, an anchor point that has a curved line running through it is called a smooth anchor point. When you are using smooth anchor points, Illustrator doesn't connect those points with a straight path. Rather it connects them with a curved path. These smooth anchor points have an additional attribute called the control handle.

The position of these control handles control exactly how that curve is drawn between the anchor points. To get a better idea of how that works, imagine as if these anchor points were actually connected with straight lines. The control handles act as if they have some kind of magnetic or gravitational pull. By adjusting these control handles, you can specify exactly how each curved line connects to each smooth anchor point. Another thing to note about smooth anchor points is that the path travels directly through the actual anchor point itself and the anchor point acts as a tangent to that curve.

As we start using the Pen tool, we will learn two things. First of all, it will take some practice to figure out exactly where we should be plotting the anchor points. Second, we will learn how to adjust the control handles to get the curve to match exactly what we are looking for. So we know what a corner anchor point is and we know what a smooth anchor point is. However, there's also one other kind of anchor point, which is called a change direction anchor point. That's where you have a curved path that enters the anchor point, but when that path leaves that anchor point, it is traveling in a completely different direction.

It's really actually kind of a hybrid between a smooth and a corner anchor point. It acts as a corner anchor point because the path changes direction, yet it acts like a smooth anchor point because it has control handles to help you define a curve to that path. Now that we know all about anchor points and control handles, we are ready to start drawing with the Pen tool.

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This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS5 Essential Training
Illustrator CS5 Essential Training

126 video lessons · 83151 viewers

Mordy Golding
Author

 
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  1. 3m 35s
    1. Welcome
      1m 18s
    2. What is Illustrator CS5?
      1m 46s
    3. Using the exercise files
      31s
  2. 12m 37s
    1. What are vector graphics?
      6m 3s
    2. Path and appearance
      3m 42s
    3. Stacking
      2m 52s
  3. 32m 6s
    1. The Welcome screen
      2m 23s
    2. Creating files for print
      6m 7s
    3. Creating files for the screen
      2m 55s
    4. Using prebuilt templates
      2m 40s
    5. Adding XMP metadata
      4m 18s
    6. Exploring the panels
      6m 33s
    7. Using the Control panel
      3m 11s
    8. Using workspaces
      3m 59s
  4. 43m 44s
    1. Navigating within a document
      9m 15s
    2. Using rulers and guides
      7m 26s
    3. Using grids
      3m 6s
    4. Using the bounding box
      3m 37s
    5. Using Smart Guides
      5m 56s
    6. The Hide Edges command
      3m 22s
    7. Various preview modes
      3m 47s
    8. Creating custom views
      4m 3s
    9. Locking and hiding artwork
      3m 12s
  5. 28m 46s
    1. Using the basic selection tools
      8m 50s
    2. Using the Magic Wand tool
      5m 22s
    3. Using the Lasso tool
      2m 28s
    4. Selecting objects by attribute or type
      3m 37s
    5. Saving and reusing selections
      2m 15s
    6. Selecting artwork beneath other objects
      2m 13s
    7. Exploring selection preferences
      4m 1s
  6. 1h 16m
    1. The importance of modifier keys
      1m 52s
    2. Drawing closed path primitives
      11m 38s
    3. Drawing open path primitives
      5m 47s
    4. Understanding anchor points
      3m 43s
    5. Drawing straight paths with the Pen tool
      7m 37s
    6. Drawing curved paths with the Pen tool
      9m 47s
    7. Drawing freeform paths with the Pencil tool
      5m 33s
    8. Smoothing and erasing paths
      3m 8s
    9. Editing anchor points
      7m 21s
    10. Joining and averaging paths
      10m 9s
    11. Simplifying paths
      4m 55s
    12. Using Offset Path
      2m 17s
    13. Cleaning up errant paths
      2m 32s
  7. 48m 26s
    1. The Draw Inside and Draw Behind modes
      7m 34s
    2. Creating compound paths
      5m 56s
    3. Creating compound shapes
      8m 0s
    4. Using the Shape Builder tool
      10m 28s
    5. Using Pathfinder functions
      8m 6s
    6. Splitting an object into a grid
      1m 16s
    7. Using the Blob Brush and Eraser tools
      7m 6s
  8. 49m 5s
    1. Creating point text
      4m 2s
    2. Creating area text
      8m 13s
    3. Applying basic character settings
      7m 44s
    4. Applying basic paragraph settings
      4m 28s
    5. Creating text threads
      8m 25s
    6. Setting text along an open path
      6m 29s
    7. Setting text along a closed path
      6m 24s
    8. Converting text into paths
      3m 20s
  9. 18m 55s
    1. Create a logo mark
      11m 26s
    2. Add type to your logo
      7m 29s
  10. 42m 42s
    1. Using the Appearance panel
      8m 21s
    2. Targeting object attributes
      4m 42s
    3. Adding multiple attributes
      4m 25s
    4. Applying Live Effects
      5m 18s
    5. Expanding appearances
      4m 42s
    6. Appearance panel settings
      4m 33s
    7. Copying appearances
      4m 51s
    8. Saving appearances as graphic styles
      5m 50s
  11. 34m 0s
    1. Applying color to artwork
      5m 57s
    2. Creating process and global process swatches
      8m 54s
    3. Creating spot color swatches
      3m 19s
    4. Loading PANTONE and other custom color libraries
      4m 49s
    5. Organizing colors with Swatch Groups
      3m 31s
    6. Finding color suggestions with the Color Guide panel
      4m 24s
    7. Loading the Color Guide with user-defined colors
      3m 6s
  12. 50m 23s
    1. Creating gradients with the Gradient panel
      8m 12s
    2. Modifying gradients with the Gradient Annotator
      4m 37s
    3. Applying and manipulating pattern fills
      5m 33s
    4. Defining your own custom pattern fills
      9m 13s
    5. Applying basic stroke settings
      5m 22s
    6. Creating strokes with dashed lines
      3m 41s
    7. Adding arrowheads to strokes
      2m 45s
    8. Creating variable-width strokes
      4m 35s
    9. Working with width profiles
      2m 36s
    10. Turning strokes into filled paths
      3m 49s
  13. 32m 46s
    1. Creating and editing groups
      8m 18s
    2. Adding attributes to groups
      12m 17s
    3. The importance of using layers
      5m 9s
    4. Using and "reading" the Layers panel
      7m 2s
  14. 12m 13s
    1. Creating and using multiple artboards
      7m 52s
    2. Modifying artboards with the Artboards panel
      2m 2s
    3. Copy and paste options with Artboards
      2m 19s
  15. 31m 10s
    1. Moving and copying artwork
      3m 55s
    2. Scaling or resizing artwork
      6m 47s
    3. Rotating artwork
      2m 44s
    4. Reflecting and skewing artwork
      2m 34s
    5. Using the Free Transform tool
      2m 15s
    6. Repeating transformations
      3m 39s
    7. Performing individual transforms across multiple objects
      2m 10s
    8. Aligning objects and groups precisely
      4m 27s
    9. Distributing objects and spaces between objects
      2m 39s
  16. 35m 40s
    1. Placing pixel-based content into Illustrator
      5m 14s
    2. Managing images with the Links panel
      4m 49s
    3. Converting pixels to paths with Live Trace
      8m 44s
    4. Making Live Trace adjustments
      6m 9s
    5. Controlling colors in Live Trace
      6m 4s
    6. Using Photoshop and Live Trace together
      4m 40s
  17. 14m 42s
    1. Managing repeating artwork with symbols
      4m 38s
    2. Modifying and replacing symbol instances
      3m 8s
    3. Using the Symbol Sprayer tool
      6m 56s
  18. 16m 57s
    1. Cropping photographs
      1m 59s
    2. Clipping artwork with masks
      3m 22s
    3. Clipping the contents of a layer
      3m 31s
    4. Defining masks with soft edges
      8m 5s
  19. 26m 2s
    1. Defining a perspective grid
      7m 48s
    2. Drawing artwork in perspective
      8m 46s
    3. Moving flat art onto the perspective grid
      9m 28s
  20. 25m 8s
    1. Printing your Illustrator document
      3m 26s
    2. Saving your Illustrator document
      6m 39s
    3. Creating PDF files for clients and printers
      7m 30s
    4. Exporting Illustrator files for use in Microsoft Office
      1m 4s
    5. Exporting Illustrator files for use in Photoshop
      2m 31s
    6. Exporting artwork for use on the web
      3m 3s
    7. Exporting high-resolution raster files
      55s
  21. 2m 18s
    1. Additional Illustrator learning resources
      1m 36s
    2. Goodbye
      42s

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