Illustrator pen tool

by Design Workshop Sydney

The Pen tool in Adobe Illustrator is possibly the trickiest tool to get a handle on – initially, that is! But if you follow a few simple guidelines it becomes the easiest and most versatile tool in the toolbox. We show you how in our Illustrator coursesIllustrator-pen-tool
First create a new document and select the Pen tool, or hit P on your keyboard. Make sure that your colours are set to the default black & white on the bottom of your toolbox.
Then click on several points around your document. Note that you have created a geometric figure. If you want to constrain the lines to the horizontal, vertical or 45 degree increments, press Shift as you click. You could also turn on a non-printing grid: View > Show Grid, and View > Snap to Grid.
Creating a more organic shape is slightly trickier: this time, instead of simply clicking on various points on your canvas, you click & drag to pull out handles – keep them relatively small to begin with. The trick is to create a set of handles then move away from the handles & create a new point. Often beginners will try to click on the end point of a handle instead of moving away from it. So – ignore the handle as soon as you create it.
The shape does not have to be perfect first time – go now to the Direct Selection tool (the white arrow) to move either anchor points or handles. Press on the Pen tool to reveal a few tools stacked behind it – the Add Anchor Point tool, the Subtract Anchor Point tool and the Convert Anchor Point tool. Using these tools you can easily modify a shape by adding points or deleting points. Or click on a smooth point to convert it to a corner point. Or vice versa, click & drag out handles from a corner point to convert it into a smooth point.
With a bit of practice you can create any shape you want, either drawing directly on the canvas, or by tracing over an imported sketch or photo.
Whether you’re a complete beginner or self-taught, our courses will help you gain self-confidence in your Illustrator workflow, as well as adding to your professional skill-set. See many examples of our Illustrator clients’ work on our Facebook page.
Other related Illustrator Blog Posts:
Illustrator workspace
Illustrator basics
Illustrator clipping masks
Illustrator live trace
Illustrator brushes