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One of the most basic ways to draw paths and shapes inside of Illustrator is to freehand draw them utilizing the Paintbrush and Pencil tools. In this movie, I'll walk you through using both of these, and how you can create some really simple, hand-drawn pieces of artwork. I am going to start off by creating a brand new document, and in order to do that, I am going to hit Command+N or Control+N on my keyboard. Once I do that, I will accept the defaults, and hit OK. Once I get my new document created, I am going to come over to find the Paintbrush tool, and the Pencil tool. The Paintbrush tool can be accessed by hitting the letter B on your keyboard, or simply by clicking it in the Tools panel.
The Pencil tool can be accessed by hitting the letter N on your keyboard. You'll notice the keyboard shortcuts when you hover over them. I am going to first start off with the brush tool, and with the Paintbrush tool selected, I can either come out here and start painting, or I can set up some options. I will worry about the options in just a second. Let me show you exactly how the Paintbrush tool works. Basically, you just come out here, and it's like you have a paintbrush in your hand. Your mouse cursor is controlling the paintbrush. You just come out and start making shapes. So in this case, I will just make, like, a cursive J. There we go. Very simple; very easy.
It doesn't select the path after you get done drawing it, though, but you can set that up inside of the Illustrator options. Let me grab my Selection tool, and select this piece of artwork, and delete it. Let's go over now to the brush, and double-click on the Paintbrush tool. When I double-click on the Paintbrush tool, you are going to see that there are several different options available to you. Fidelity; this controls how far you have to move your mouse or stylus before Illustrator adds a new anchor point to the path. Basically, when you are moving your hand around, and drawing with the Paintbrush tool, Illustrator is automatically dropping anchor points every four pixels, let's say.
You can increase or decrease this amount by adjusting the Fidelity. The Smoothness controls the amount of smoothing that Illustrator applies when you're using this tool. When you are drawing with a mouse, you might want to turn up the Smoothness just a little bit. If you are drawing with the drawing tablet, you're probably to be okay here, but you might want to crank up the Smoothness if you find that your paths are a little too jagged. You also have several options here at the bottom. Fill new brush strokes; basically this means the new path that you draw is automatically going to have a fill color associated with it. In most cases, though, you might not want this unless you are drawing a completely closed path.
If you are just drawing strokes, there's no need for a fill. Keep Selected; this determines whether or not Illustrator keeps the artwork selected once you have draw it. I am going to go ahead and turn this on. You can also choose to Edit Selected Paths, which determines whether you can change an existing path with the Paintbrush tool. Basically, this means if you have a path already on your screen, you can use the Paintbrush tool to add brushstrokes to it. And then finally, you get a slider that says Within. This means how far away from a path do you have to be before Illustrator allows you to add to it? In this case, you have to be within 12 pixels of this.
You can ask a reduce this to make sure you are more precise, or you can increase it to make it a little bit more loose. If you want to reset this dialog box after you have made any changes in here, you can simply hit the Reset button. I am going to hit OK, and keep going. When I am drawing with the Paintbrush tool, I can do lots of different things. I can draw freeform paths, like this, and as you can see, they remain selected after I have drawn them, simply because I made that change in the options. In addition to the freeform paths, I can also draw closed paths as well.
As I'm drawing with the Paintbrush tool, I can hold down the Option or Alt key, and a circle appears. Once I go around, and I'm ready to complete my path, I can let go of my mouse, and Illustrator automatically completes the path for me, then I can let go of my Option or Alt key. Let's try that one more time. I am going to start drawing a shape, and I will just draw something wacky, kind of like a star. When I am ready to complete this, I hold down the Option or Alt key, let go of my mouse, and then let go of my Option or Alt key.
Illustrator has drawn the shape for me, and closed the path. Otherwise, if I don't hold down the Option or Alt key, it's very difficult to draw a closed path. If I zoom in to the shape I just drew, you will notice these didn't join up. So I would have to use something like Join or Average in order to get them to make one single path. Now let's select all of these, and we will get rid of them, and let's go over and grab the Pencil tool.
The Pencil tool, much like the Paintbrush tool, has options associated with it as well. Let's double-click the Pencil tool to open those up. Again, you get Tolerances at the top; Fidelity, and Smoothness. Fidelity controls how for you have to move your mouse or stylus before Illustrator drops a new anchor point. In this case, it's set to 2.5. It's a little bit lower than the Paintbrush tool is, by default. Smoothness; smoothness with the Pencil tool is very important, because the Pencil tool is just like a pencil, it's very fine pointed, and it's kind of hard to draw a really nice curved line with it.
You might want to crank up the Smoothness if you are drawing a lot of curves. You also have Options: to fill the new pencil strokes; that means you add a fill as you start to draw with the Pencil tool. You can also choose to keep it selected afterwards, Edit Selected Paths, which means, if you already have paths on your artboard, you can add pencil strokes to it, and again, the Within slider at the bottom, indicating how close to the existing path you have to be before you're allowed to add to it. Let's go ahead now and hit OK. Now I will come out here, and I will just start drawing with the Pencil tool.
As you can see, it's very simple just to come out and draw. But I can't make very nice curves; you see there, it's kind of jagged in certain areas. Same way here. So the Pencil tool without the Smoothness cranked up is a little bit difficult to use, in my opinion. Let's double-click that, and I will crank up the Smoothness quite a bit; something like 50%. Hit OK, and watch the difference. See how nice and smooth that is? It really simplifies the path, and makes it a lot more smooth.
Same way here. If I draw that, not as many anchor points; not as many corners. Let me select all of this, we will press Backspace or Delete. When you are drawing with the Pencil tool, or the brush tool, you always have the option to create open or closed paths, and it's totally up to you. But remember, you had to hold down the Option or Alt key while you are drawing it in order for the path to know that it's supposed to close itself when you're done. All in all, freeform drawing inside of Illustrator is best served when you're using a tablet drawing device or a stylus.
Drawing with a mouse is pretty difficult unless you have a really steady hand. So my recommendation is to go out and try to find some sort of drawing device if you're going to be doing a lot of freehand drawing. Once you've mastered drawing with your device, you can actually come back in and start practicing with the Paintbrush and Pencil tools, and see what develops. You will be amazed that what you can create with one of those devices, compared to how it works with the mouse.
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