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Understanding how the Pen and Pencil tools differ

From: Illustrator Insider Training: Drawing without the Pen Tool

Video: Understanding how the Pen and Pencil tools differ

At first blush, we might be able to say that the Pen tool was really created for mouse-based input, but the Pencil tool was added to Illustrator and focused more on pen tablet based input. Let's understand a little bit about these two different tools and understand what makes them work. Then we'll start to find better ways that we can actually use these tools as well. Now, as we kind of defined way back in the beginning of this course, the Pen tool is really used for plotting anchor points. We don't actually draw with the Pen tool. We create anchor points, we actually define where anchor points need to live in our document, and Illustrator connects those anchor points with paths.

Understanding how the Pen and Pencil tools differ

At first blush, we might be able to say that the Pen tool was really created for mouse-based input, but the Pencil tool was added to Illustrator and focused more on pen tablet based input. Let's understand a little bit about these two different tools and understand what makes them work. Then we'll start to find better ways that we can actually use these tools as well. Now, as we kind of defined way back in the beginning of this course, the Pen tool is really used for plotting anchor points. We don't actually draw with the Pen tool. We create anchor points, we actually define where anchor points need to live in our document, and Illustrator connects those anchor points with paths.

Based on the kinds of anchor points that we create, whether they are corner anchor points or smooth anchor points, and where we position these control handles, Illustrator will connect the dots with these curved paths. So for example, if I wanted to draw a shape, I would start with the Pen tool and I would click to define where an anchor point was. I would click again where I want another anchor point to go. So I'm not really drawing that curved line. Illustrator is drawing the curved line. I'm just kind of defining the contraints that control that line.

If I draw let's say over here, and click-and-drag, I'm starting to draw what looks like a shape. But all I'm really doing is plotting exactly where the anchor points go and as we have discussed also, the real secret to using the Pen tool is just to be able to anticipate where the anchor points and the control handles need to go. Illustrator then connects the dots with these paths. I'll press Delete a few times though. Now, I'll switch over to the Pencil tool. At the same time, I am also going to go ahead now and pick up my pen which is a Wacom pen.

For this course, I'm actually using the Intuos4 tablet. I highly recommend it only because I'm a lefty. So it's a great tablet because you can flip it around for lefties and righties. With the Pencil tool, we actually do the exact opposite of what we do with the Pen tool. The Pen tool is what we use to plot anchor points and Illustrator connects the dots with paths. However, with the Pencil tool, we actually create the paths ourselves; we don't plot any anchor points and Illustrator is the one that figures out where the anchor points need to go.

So if I wanted to draw a shape for example like this, I'm just drawing where I want the path to go. But when I release the mouse, Illustrator now goes ahead and creates the anchor points along the path that I've already defined. So again, the contrast is with the Pen tool I'm creating anchor points and Illustrator creates the paths. With the Pencil tool, I create the paths and Illustrator creates the anchor points. So it's a complete opposite way of looking at how we create artwork. More importantly, if you're a visual person who wants to be able to sketch something and many times our hands are a little bit more creative than our mind is, if I want to quickly sketch something out of my screen, I may find it easier for my hand to make this motion, and let Illustrator figure out the underlying anchor point problem and this way I don't have to deal with the Pen tool.

So the nice thing about working with the Pencil tool in this way is that I'm focusing on what I want to draw. I'm not focusing on trying to anticipate where anchor points need to go in order for me to get at the artwork that I want to create. Traditionally, working with the Pencil tool has always been a little bit of a problem only because normally inside of Illustrator, for us to create filled artwork we need to have closed shapes. But we've already learned throughout this entire title about things like Pathfinder and more importantly, things like Live Paint and the Shape Builder tool, that we don't need to work with close paths.

We can just draw a whole bunch of paths that are open, and later on using the Shape Builder or using Live Paint or even Pathfinder, we can combine those together to create the shapes that we need. So for example, if I wanted to create some fluid shapes, all I would need to do is kind of work like this and I know that later on I can combine these overlapping shapes, get rid of the parts that I don't want, and color it in to my heart's content. So the Pencil tool when you think about it this way becomes incredibly valuable. If you have a tablet in front of you, it's easy to create these fluid paths and if you've mastered the use of building artwork inside of Illustrator using the three methods that we discussed so far, meaning Pathfinder, Live Paint, and Shape Builder, Illustrator suddenly becomes this wonderful creative environment to work in.

We're not bogged down with things like the Pen tool or thinking about anchor points or control handles. So pick up your pressure sensitive pen and get ready to have fun drawing inside of Illustrator, because that's what this chapter is all about.

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This video is part of

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  1. 7m 4s
    1. Welcome
      1m 21s
    2. The evolution of vector drawing
      3m 46s
    3. Getting the most out of this training
      1m 30s
    4. Using the exercise files
      27s
  2. 39m 2s
    1. Plotting points vs. drawing paths
      5m 36s
    2. Drawing artwork vs. building artwork
      7m 59s
    3. The keyboard shortcuts you HAVE to know
      8m 52s
    4. Groups and layers really do matter
      3m 11s
    5. Taming Smart Guides and the Bounding Box
      10m 53s
    6. Do you need a drawing tablet?
      2m 31s
  3. 47m 51s
    1. To sketch or not to sketch?
      2m 32s
    2. Setting up a template layer for your sketch
      3m 37s
    3. Optimizing default settings for drawing
      5m 27s
    4. Using the primitive shapes tools
      5m 7s
    5. Mastering the modifier keys
      2m 8s
    6. Mastering the transform tools
      6m 37s
    7. Creating curves with the Reshape tool
      6m 44s
    8. Using the Smooth tool
      3m 35s
    9. Using Simplify to create smooth paths
      3m 2s
    10. Recording an action for the Simplify command
      5m 2s
    11. Mirroring art for speed and accuracy
      4m 0s
  4. 50m 18s
    1. Deconstructing the Pathfinder panel
      1m 56s
    2. Using the Shape Modes functions
      12m 4s
    3. Using the Pathfinder functions
      13m 4s
    4. Understanding how compound shapes work
      11m 45s
    5. Understanding why compound shapes exist
      7m 32s
    6. Exploring additional Pathfinder options
      3m 57s
  5. 52m 51s
    1. Why Live Paint was created
      10m 45s
    2. Creating a Live Paint group
      4m 21s
    3. Using the Live Paint Bucket tool
      7m 8s
    4. Using Live Paint with open paths
      5m 6s
    5. Detecting gaps in Live Paint groups
      3m 42s
    6. Adding paths to a Live Paint group
      5m 34s
    7. Using the Live Paint Selection tool
      6m 28s
    8. Releasing and expanding Live Paint groups
      2m 59s
    9. Understanding how Live Paint works
      6m 48s
  6. 27m 37s
    1. Why the Shape Builder tool was created
      4m 18s
    2. Focusing on the big three: Add, Subtract, and Divide
      2m 27s
    3. Using the Shape Builder tool to add and subtract artwork
      9m 50s
    4. Using the Shape Builder to divide artwork
      3m 48s
    5. Building and coloring artwork at the same time
      3m 50s
    6. Using Gap Detection with the Shape Builder tool
      3m 24s
  7. 23m 2s
    1. Understanding how variable widths work
      8m 25s
    2. Modifying width points along a path
      7m 9s
    3. Saving time with width profiles
      5m 14s
    4. Turning variable width strokes into filled paths
      2m 14s
  8. 28m 21s
    1. Understanding how the Pen and Pencil tools differ
      4m 41s
    2. Adjusting the behavior of the Pencil tool
      7m 5s
    3. Using the Path Eraser tool
      1m 17s
    4. Drawing with the Calligraphic Brush tool
      5m 43s
    5. Drawing with the Blob Brush tool
      5m 53s
    6. Using the Eraser tool
      3m 42s
  9. 3m 44s
    1. Looking at the VectorScribe plug-in
      2m 16s
    2. Next steps
      1m 28s

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