Leaning Adobe Illustrator's Pen Tool

Introduction: Leaning Adobe Illustrator's Pen Tool

These instructions will help you understand how to use the pen tool in Adobe, Illustrator correctly. If you are going to use Illustrator, it is very important that you understand the pen tool. If you don’t, a vast majority of what Illustrator is used for will be unavailable to you. If you have used Adobe Photoshop before, some of this instructable will sound more familiar, but even if you haven’t, I’m sure you will pick up on the pen tool quickly if you know how to use a computer. This tutorial should take roughly 30 minutes to complete. Once you are done you will be able to create logos, custom graphics, line art and much more! Let’s get started.

Step 1: Items Needed

You will need:

Mac or PC computer (with mouse and keyboard)
Adobe Illustrator (any version will do)

Step 2:

Open the Adobe Illustrator program. 

The icon should look similar to these.

Step 3:

Go to File, New Document.

Step 4:

In the New Document window, name your document. I named mine “learningPenTool”.

Step 5:

Under Number of Artboards type “1”.

You can use multiple artboards/pages, but I'm just going to use one right now.

Step 6:

Under “Width”, type “11 in”.

Under height, type “8.5 in”. 

This is just an average paper size to keep things simple.

Step 7:

Hit okay.

Your document is ready to go. Everything else in the window should already be preset correctly for this exercise. 

Step 8:

Locate the Pen Tool icon in the Tools bar on the left side of your screen and click, or press “P” on your keyboard (this is the first of many helpful shortcut keys that I will be using).

Step 9:

Drag your cursor (now shaped like a little tip on a ball point pen) over to your art board and click anywhere. A small blue dot will appear.

Step 10:

Click somewhere else on the page. You will see another blue dot appear and there will be a straight black line in between the two blue dots. These dots are referred to as anchor points.

Step 11:

Click somewhere below the anchor point that you just made, but this time hold the mouse down once you have clicked, and move it around. You will see the black line curve. Notice that you can “pull” the line to make it curve more or less, and in different directions. Release the mouse once your line has a curve that you want to keep.

Step 12:

Experiment by creating other anchor points around the page . Do a mix of straight lines, and curved lines until you are ready to return to the first point that you created.

Step 13:

Click on the first point that you made. You will notice that you now have a completely closed shape.  Good job!

Step 14:

Use the Carrot Tool, accessed by hitting “Shift, C” on your keyboard, to now add curves where there are only straight lines. With the Carrot Tool selected  click on an anchor point along the path and pull. This will create your curve. Your cursor will look like a small inverted "v". 

Use the Direct Selection Tool, accessed by hitting "A", to add or change those curves.You will do so by pulling on the blue dots at the end of the thing blue lines(called handles) extending from the point that you selected. Your cursor will look like a white arrow.

Step 15:

If you want to add or take away anchor points along your path (the shape you just created), hit “-“ on your keyboard (to take away points), or “+” on your keyboard (to add points).

From here, you can again use the Carrot Tool and the Direct Selection Tool to add/subtract/alter the curves on that segment of your path.

Step 16: *Remember

Remember to save your work frequently! Go to File, Save As, and save your file to the directory of your choice.

After you have saved your file once, the easiest way to keep it saved is to hit "Ctrl, S” (for PC) or “Cmd, S” for Mac. This will save an updated version of your file. Do this often. There are few things worse than loosing all of your work and having to start over.

Step 17: Congratulations!

You’re done! Now it’s your turn to experiment and practice on your own.

Don’t worry if your shape isn't as perfect as you would like it to be. The Pen Tool is something that takes practice. With time, you will be able to form perfect shapes all the time, every time!

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