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Up and Running with Illustrator
Illustration by

Using the Pen tool


From:

Up and Running with Illustrator

with Deke McClelland

Video: Using the Pen tool

In this exercise I am going to introduce you to the most flexible drawing tool in all of Illustrator and that's this one right here, the Pen tool. Now it also happens to be the oldest drawing tool in the program. It's that tool that first put Illustrator on the map more than 20 years ago. The reason that it's so great is that it allows you to draw pretty much any path outline you like one anchor point at a time, which means that it's a technical tool, it's a very capable tool as well, but it takes a little bit of time and effort to come to terms with it.

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Up and Running with Illustrator
2h 52m Appropriate for all Jul 19, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

This course is a streamlined introduction to Adobe's popular vector drawing application. Expert Deke McClelland shows how to create professional-quality illustrations for print and electronic output, in the shortest time possible. The course covers the basics of setting up artboards, formatting type, drawing and combing path outlines, and applying dynamic effects.

Topics include:
  • Getting around an illustration
  • Drawing shapes and brushstrokes
  • Applying fills and strokes
  • Designing custom gradients
  • Creating type on a path
  • Working with the Layers panel
  • Scaling and rotating artwork
  • Drawing with the pen tool
  • Saving and exporting artwork
Subject:
Design
Software:
Illustrator
Author:
Deke McClelland

Using the Pen tool

In this exercise I am going to introduce you to the most flexible drawing tool in all of Illustrator and that's this one right here, the Pen tool. Now it also happens to be the oldest drawing tool in the program. It's that tool that first put Illustrator on the map more than 20 years ago. The reason that it's so great is that it allows you to draw pretty much any path outline you like one anchor point at a time, which means that it's a technical tool, it's a very capable tool as well, but it takes a little bit of time and effort to come to terms with it.

And I want you if you're working along with me, to bring up the Layers panel and notice that I have got three layers in all. There is a background layer called Tracing, which is locked down. It will serve as our Tracing template, and I've also got this Pieces layer that's also locked, so we don't mess up any of the existing details inside this illustration. Right there in the middle is an unlocked Shirt layer. I want you to go ahead and click on it to make sure it's active, so that we can draw on that later. Then go ahead and zoom-in to the top of the document, which features this collar. I am now going to select the Pen tool, and if you were working along with me in the previous exercise, then you may see the Convert Anchor Point tool at this location.

Go ahead and click and hold on that tool and choose the Pen tool from the flyout menu, or you can press its keyboard shortcut, which is the P key. Now notice the appearance of the cursor. One of the things that is important to understand about Illustrator as well as pretty much all of Adobe's programs is that there are hundreds of cursors which are designed to communicate with you. In this case, we are seeing a little pen nib with an x next to it. That shows you that we have no active path outline at the moment, and if you begin clicking or dragging with the tool, you'll create a new path.

I am going to position my cursor over this top anchor point and we are seeing the word anchor, because Smart Guides are turned on, and I'm tracing an existing template. I am going to go ahead and click on that location in order to set my first point in place, and you can see this tiny little square anchor point. Notice now that my pen nib appears with no x next to it; that shows me that I have an active path outline and I'm in the middle of drawing it. That D value there shows you the distance for what it's worth between your cursor and the last anchor point you created.

I am going to go ahead and move my cursor down to this position and click once again, and because I have an active point, I go ahead and draw a straight segment between my two anchor points. That's the function of the fact that I'm clicking. Every time you click with this tool, you create what's known is a corner point that has no control handles. So as a result, your segment is absolutely straight. I am now going to click at this location at the intersection of the two collars in order to create yet another anchor point, and connect it with yet another straight segment, and then I will click up at this location here in order to create my final anchor point, and that completes my open path outline.

Now at this point, I want to start a new path. However, if I move over to the other collar and click, notice, because I still have an active path outline that Illustrator once again goes ahead and connects those two points with a straight segment. That's not what I am looking for so, I will press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo the creation of that latest point. What I want to do is deactivate this path, so I can start a new one, and the easiest way to do that is to go up to the Select menu and choose the Deselect command, or you can just press the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+A, Command+Shift+A on the Mac.

As soon as I do that, notice that my pen nib once again has an x next to it, showing me that there is no active path outline and I can begin creating new paths with the tool. Before I do however, I want to go ahead and select this existing path and get rid of its fill. So I am going to switch to my Black Arrow tool and I am going to click on the path outline, so that I can see my Fill swatch up here in the Control panel. I will go ahead and click on it, and then I will choose None from the list and that gets rid of that fill and leaves the stroke in place.

I will press the Escape key to hide that panel, and then I'll switch back to my Pen tool. I have got an x next to my cursor, so I will begin drawing a new path. Now of course, I can just take that existing collar and flip it, as we did a couple of exercises ago, but I want you to gain some comfort with this tool, so why don't we go ahead and draw this other collar? Click at the top anchor point then click down there at the intersection of the two collars, click down there at the bottom and finally click over here on the right-hand side. All right! That takes care of that open path outline, I want to go ahead and deactivate it as well so I can start a new path.

So I will press that keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+A or Command+Shift+A on the Mac and now I have an x next to my Pen tool cursor again. The next thing that I want to draw is this guy right here. This sort of stylized dough that doesn't have a hole inside of it and notice that it bends and so we are going to need some control handles in order to add some curvature. In order to draw an anchor point with control handles, you drag, so you start your drag at the point where you want to fix the anchor point, and then you drag to the point where you want to end your control handle.

So I am going to start at this point right there, and I'm going to drag up into the right like so, and notice that I am creating two symmetrical control handles. This will result in what's known as a smooth point, because the path outline bends continuously through that point. Now you can see that my cursor no longer has an x next to it, so I have got an active path outline in progress. I'm going to go ahead and click here and drag up like so in notice that I'm continuing the drag in that same direction. In other words, I had established from the outset that I'll be dragging out my control handles in a counterclockwise direction, just because that's the way I started, and now I will continue in a counterclockwise direction.

Now here's something interesting. If you don't get that anchor point exactly where you want it, you can press and hold the spacebar while you're dragging in order to move that anchor point to a better location and I think I want it let's say right about there. Then I will go ahead and release the spacebar in order to drop the anchor point at that location. So there is the anchor point and these guys right here are the symmetrical handles both on top and at bottom. Now I will go ahead and drag from this point here again in a counterclockwise direction because that's the direction I'd established in the first place and next I will click and drag from this location down staying counterclockwise in order to create these too symmetrical control handles.

And then finally I'm going to close the shape. Now notice as soon as I position my cursor over that first anchor point I see a little 'o' next to the cursor and that shows me that I'm about to close this path outline. I need to drag as I'm closing because after all if I just click I won't get a control handle and I will flatten off that curve. That's no good. I still have an active path outline, because I am not seeing the x. I will move over that first point and instead of clicking I will just go ahead and drag.

Now if you drag on that final point, then you will establish yet another smooth point, and so you will create this continuous arc right there through the smooth point. It maybe a little lumpy as it is in my case, but it's still continuous. That's not what I want either. So I will press Ctrl+Z key to undo that change. Notice what I've got there is a little bit of a corner at the bottom right corner of that o, and that's what's known as the Cusp point. So a Cusp occurs anytime you have two control handles associated with a point but the control handles point in opposite directions.

So create a Cusp point and this is probably the trickiest thing you'll do with a Pen tool. You press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and then go ahead and drag. And here's what's tricky about it. Notice that the control handles not moving in the direction of my drag, it's moving in the opposite direction of the drag and that's something you just have to get used to as you are working inside the program. Anyway, you can see now that I have a correlation between that newest segment that's over there on the left-hand side of the o, and that Tracing template in the background.

So I've got two independent control handles as you can see here associated with a single anchor point; that's what makes it a Cusp. As soon as I release, I will end up with a corner essentially between two curving segments. All right! I want to go ahead and fill that o, as supposed to stroke it. So I will move down to this little double arrow icon that you can barely see on screen, but it will appear near the bottom of your toolbox. You can go ahead and click on it in order to switch out the fill and stroke like so, or you can press Shift+X. And notice, by the way, because I closed the shape, I've also made it inactive so I've got an x key once again next to my Pen tool cursor.

I will press Ctrl+Shift+A or Command+Shift+A in order to deselect that path and those are the basics of not only drawing a path outline but also creating Corner, Smooth and Cusp points using the Pen tool inside of Illustrator.

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