Tutorial: Illustrator CC Basics – Pen Tool

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PEN TOOL BASICS

In this tutorial I will be teaching you how to use the Pen tool in Illustrator.

There are basically four tools at your disposal when it comes to this tool: Pen tool, Add Anchor Point tool, Delete Anchor Point tool, and Convert Anchor Point tool.

For now we will skip the Pen tool and look at what the Add Anchor Point tool allows you to do. In order to add an anchor point, hold down the Pen tool icon until you see a fly-out menu then click on the Add Anchor Point tool. Then, simply click on the path of the object to add a new anchor point.

The Delete Anchor Point tool does just the opposite of the Add Anchor Point tool. In order to delete an anchor point, go back to the Pen tool icon and click and hold it until you see a fly-out menu then click on the Delete Anchor Point tool icon. Then, simply click on an anchor point to remove it.

The Convert Anchor Point tool converts a curved segment into a corner and a corner segment into a curve. In order to convert an anchor point, go back to the Pen tool icon and click and hold it until you see a fly-out menu then click on the Convert Anchor Point tool icon. Then, simply click on an anchor point to convert it. In order to change a corner segment into a curve, hold down your left-mouse button on a corner anchor point and drag out.

DRAWING CURVES

Now that we know how to use three of the tools available under the Pen tool let’s learn how to use the Pen tool to draw curves.

In order to draw curves with the Pen tool you need to start with a single anchor point and then as you click for a second anchor point you need to click and drag. It is important to note that you need to drag in the opposite direction you want the curve to go.

For example, let’s grab the Pen tool and make a single anchor point. Then, move straight down from that first anchor point and click and drag down and to the right to make a second anchor point and a curve. By clicking and dragging down and to the right you will notice that the curve bowed out to the left between the two anchor points.

If you want to make an open path like this curve when you are finished simply hold down the CTRL key on a PC or the CMD key on a Mac and click anywhere on the empty artboard.

If you need to change from a curve to a straight line you can do this by clicking on the anchor point. For example, it I want to start drawing a curve and the I decide that I want to go immediately into a straight line, I just simply click on the anchor point and remove the handle and then I can make a straight line.

DRAWING COMPLETE SHAPES

Now that we know how to draw curves with the Pen tool let’s learn how to use the Pen tool to draw complete shapes.

Let’s start off by drawing a simple square. First, make sure your Smart Guides are turned on as this will make lining up the anchor points much easier. You do this by going to View and Clicking on Smart Guides.

Click on the artboard to make your first anchor point. Then, holding down your Shift key move straight down from this anchor point and make a second anchor point. Then make another anchor point to the right then make a fourth anchor point straight up – using your Smart Guides to make the stroke long enough. Then go back to the very first anchor point and when you get close to it you will notice that a small circle appears next to your cursor. This lets you know that you are about to close a path. Now, simply click on the original anchor point and you have a complete square made with the Pen tool.

Now let’s make a circle. This time we will use the Grid to help us. You can show the grid by going to View and click on Show Grid.

Place your first anchor at a point where the grid pattern lines cross one another. Next, click and drag on a spot to the left of this first anchor point and then drag your path out until it touches the top and bottom crossed lines. Now, click on the next spot on the bottom of the circle. You do not need to drag out this time. Now click on the next spot to the right and drag until the handles touch the top and bottom of the crossed lines. Now simply go back to the original anchor point and click on it to close the shape.

If you want to become proficient at using the Pen tool it is best to practice. Use the Grid to help you and start making your own curves and shapes. I have also provided a second artboard that has shapes for you to copy and practice using the Pen tool.

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