Tutorial: Illustrator CC Basics – Basic Shapes

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VECTOR PATHS

In this tutorial I will be teaching you how to create and edit Basic Shapes within Illustrator.

In Illustrator we use Paths or Vector Paths to make shapes. There are three basic types of Vector Paths: straight paths, curved paths, and closed paths.

The most basic form of a path is a straight line path. This basically means a straight line that is comprised of two anchor points and a path.

The anchor points are the little squares at the end of the path. The anchor points indicate the starting point or stopping point for a particular path. The path is the line that connects the anchor points.

A curved path is a path with anchor points and a path connecting them but these types of paths also have a control handle. The control handle is a small dot coming off the anchor points where the path curves. These control handles permit you to adjust the curvature of the lines between two anchor points.

It is possible to “fill” a curved path but it will only fill in the area inside the curve.

The last path type is called a closed path. A closed path is what you will have when you have drawn out shapes like this star. A closed path has anchor points and paths but this type of path also has a starting and ending point that encompasses the entire area.

Closed paths permit you to add a fill color to the path which will fill up the entire inside shape – unlike what happens when you “fill” a curved path.

LINES AND CURVES

Now that you have a basic understanding of Vector Paths I will show you how to make basic lines and curves.

Let’s move to Artboard 2 and choose the Line Segment Tool. The basic way of drawing inside Illustrator is to simply click and drag. You can always hold down the Shift key while you are drawing in order to draw straight and proportional shapes.

For this example we will draw a simple line to start with. Holding down your Shift key simply click once and then drag out a line. When you have the length of line that you want, release your mouse button and then your Shift key.

You can also draw on angles. Holding down the Shift key begin drawing a straight line and then move your cursor to any angle you desire. By holding down the Shift key you snap into different angles. Once you are done drawing release your mouse and then the Shift key.

Now we will learn how to draw a simple arc.

Go back to your Line Segment Tool and click and hold down your mouse button until you see the fly-out menu and then choose the Arc Tool. Hold down the Shift key and click on the artboard and drag to draw out the arc. By moving your mouse up and down you can change the direction of the arc.

The Curvature Tool allows you to start drawing curved lines. Choose the Curvature Tool and click on the Artboard. If it is trying to starting drawing from your last shape simple hold down the CTRL key on a PC or the CMD key on a Mac and click anywhere outside that shape.

Release your CTRL or CMD key and begin drawing. Instead of dragging as you do with the other tools your simply click and then click at another location to start the curve. When you click at the second location move your cursor and Illustrator will show you a preview of the curve. Once you like the curve shape simply click again.

Once you get back to your starting point you will see a small circle appear next to the tool. Once you click back on the starting point you will close the path.

SPIRALS

Now that you know how to draw basic lines and curves I will show you how to make spirals.

Let’s move to Artboard 3. Go back to your Arc Tool and click and hold down your mouse button until you see the fly-out menu and then choose the Spiral Tool.

To make a spiral, click on the artboard, and drag out a spiral. When you are done, release your mouse button.

In order to move the spiral around the artboard, hold down your Shift key as you are drawing.

In order to add rings to the spiral hold down your mouse button and press the up-arrow key on the keyboard. In order to remove rings hold down your mouse button and press the down-arrow key.

RECTANGLES AND ELLIPSES

Now that we know how to draw basic lines in Illustrator let’s learn how to start using shapes.

Let’s move to Artboard 4 and select the Rectangle Tool. Simply click and drag on the artboard with the Rectangle Tool and you will see a preview of the rectangle you are drawing. If you hold down your Shift key while dragging you will draw a perfect square.

If you hold down your ALT key on a PC or the OPT key on a Mac you can draw a rectangle from the center out. If you add the Shift key you can draw a perfect square from the center out.

After you draw your square or rectangle you will notice small dots in the corners of the squares or rectangles. These small dots are Corner Controls. If you click and drag on one of the Corner Controls you are able to round off the corners of the square or rectangle. If you accidently rounded the corner you can simply click on the Corner Controls and drag outward.

If you want to have more control over the rounding that you apply, double-click one of the Corner Controls to open the Transform panel. Under the Rectangle Properties you will find the controls for each of the Corner Controls.

To apply an even rounding keep the chain link active and change one Corner Control. For example, if I change the upper-left control to 10 and hit my Tab key, you will notice that all of the controls change to 10 and the rectangle now has 10 pixel rounded corners.

You can also apply un-even rounding by unchecking the chain link and changing the Corner Controls separately. For example, if I change the lower-left and lower-right controls to 20 and the upper-left and upper-right controls to 0 you will see the affects appear on the rectangle. It will have 20 pixel rounded corners on the bottom and no rounded corners on the top.

In addition to squares and rectangles you can also draw circles and ellipses inside Illustrator.

Go back to your Rectangle Tool and click and hold down your mouse button until you see the fly-out menu and then choose the Ellipse Tool. Simply click and drag on the artboard with the Ellipse Tool and you will see a preview of the ellipse you are drawing. If you hold down your Shift key while dragging you will draw a perfect circle.

If you hold down your ALT key on a PC or the OPT key on a Mac you can draw an ellipse from the center out. If you add the Shift key you can draw a perfect circle from the center out.

POLYGONS AND STARS

Now that we know how to draw rectangles and ellipses in Illustrator let’s learn how to draw polygons and stars.

Let’s move to Artboard 5. Go back to your Ellipse Tool and click and hold down your mouse button until you see the fly-out menu and then choose the Polygon Tool. Simply click and drag on the artboard with the Polygon Tool and you will see a preview of the polygon you are drawing. If you hold down your Shift key while dragging you will draw a polygon that sits on its flat bottom.

You can add or subtract sides from the polygon as you draw it by using your up and down arrows on the keyboard. For example, if I wanted to add another side to the polygon I will simply start dragging the polygon and hit my up-arrow once. And then, using the Shift key, I can continue to draw out the octagon shape. If I wanted to subtract sides from the polygon I will simply start dragging the polygon and hit my down-arrow three times. Then, using the Shift key, I can continue to draw the pentagon shape.

Go back to your Polygon Tool and click and hold down your mouse button until you see the fly-out menu and then choose the Star Tool. Simply click and drag on the artboard with the Star Tool and you will see a preview of the star you are drawing. If you hold down your Shift key while dragging you will draw a star that sits on its bottom points.

You can change the look of the star’s points by holding down the CTRL key on a PC or the CMD key on a Mac while you are drawing out the star. You will get a star that looks like a bunch of spokes. If you hold down your Shift key while dragging you will draw a star that sits on its bottom points.

You can also change the star’s look by holding down the CTRL key and ALT key on the PC or the CMD key and OPT key on a Mac while drawing out the star. You will get a star that has sharper, more uniform lines. If you hold down your Shift key while dragging you will draw a star that sits on its bottom points.

If you want a chubby star all you need to do is start drawing out a star and hole the CTRL key on a PC or the CMD key on a Mac and drag inwards. Once you release the CTRL or CMD key you can hold down your Shift key while dragging and you will draw a star that sits on its bottom points.

Just like the Polygon Tool, the Star Tool can also be manipulated by using the up and down arrow keys on your keyboard. For example, if I start drawing out a standard five-pointed star and hit my up-arrow three times I now have an eight-pointed star. If I then draw another, now eight-pointed, star and hit my down-arrow three times I go back to a five-pointed star.

FREEHAND PENCIL

Now that we know how to use the tools to create basic shapes in Illustrator let’s learn how to draw freehand.

Let’s move to Artboard 6. Go to your Shaper Tool and click and hold down your mouse button until you see the fly-out menu and then choose the Pencil Tool. In order to draw with the Pencil Tool simply click and drag your mouse on the artboard.

You have the ability to choose the Fidelity of the Pencil Tool by double-clicking on the tool. By default it is set to be in the middle but you can choose to make the pencil strokes more Accurate or more Smooth.

If you choose Accurate then the Pencil Tool will pick up on the subtle movements you make with your hand. For example, let’s change the Fidelity to Accurate and draw out a wavy line. You will notice that even though I used a smooth action to make this line it is very rough looking. The choice of Accurate is really only helpful if you are using a drawing tablet or a touchscreen monitor.

If you choose Smooth then the Pencil Tool will smooth out the stroke as you draw. For example, let’s double-click on the Pencil Tool and change the Fidelity to Smooth and draw out a wavy line. You will notice that the wavy line is very smooth looking. The choice of Smooth is really helpful if you are using a drawing tablet or a touchscreen monitor but it is especially helpful if you are drawing with a mouse.

One other option I want to show you for the Pencil Tool is the Close Paths option. Double-click on the Pencil Tool to bring up its options. Place a check mark in the box next to “Close paths when ends are within:” to turn on this option. What this does is it tells Illustrator that when you are within so many pixels – in this case 15 – of the beginning of your path you want to close the path.

For example, if I draw a very crude circle, when I get to within 15 pixels of the beginning of the path you will notice that a small circle appears by my cursor. This indicates that I am within the 15 pixel threshold for closing this path. All I need to do is release my mouse button and Illustrator will automatically close the path.

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