A beginner's guide to Adobe Illustrator: get out your pen and pencil

Feb 27 2011 Published by under [Education&Careers], [Et Al]

If you want to review the basics of Adobe Illustrator before getting into this session, go check out the first and second posts in this series. I'll wait.

Ok, today we're going to get into a couple more tools that allow you to make some complex shapes - the pen and pencil tools. You'll see them in the second section of your tool bar, one at the top and one at the bottom of that second set of tools. We'll start with the pen tool.

The pen tool allows you to make points that will be connected by a line. Simply click the pen tool in each spot you want an anchor and it will draw a line, like so:

Notice that this one only has three anchors, but you can make as many as you like:

The trade off is that fewer points gives you straighter lines, but more points gives you more adjustability down the road. A greater number of points allows you to pull out the line in a variety of ways:

The pen tool can also allow you to make an odd shape that you want to fill. Simply draw the anchors of the shape and then click back on the first anchor to close the object.

You can use the color tools we discussed previously, to purty it all up.

Now, that is all well and good if you want to make straight lines, but what about making adjustable curved lines? That's where the pencil tool comes in handy. Grab the pencil tool and draw up some random shape.

I'm no artist, but this looks random enough. Now, select an anchor with the white arrow tool and you should see that anchor get a handlebar mustache.

I have no clue what the real name is for these things, but mustache works for me, so we'll go with it. These serve two key functions: they allow you to change the curve at an anchor point and the depth of the curve. Grab one side of a mustache and twist it around. you should see something like this:

Now if you twist AND pull, you will see the depth of the curve change, giving you a different effect:

Alright! So now you should have the tools you need to make complex shapes, color them and arrange them in front to back space. Perhaps next well do some alignment of elements and give you the final set of tool you'll need to make kick ass figures for your too-hot-for-PowerPoint data.

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