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Post by discovery on Mon May 28, 2012 7:20 am


The Pen Tool
The pen tool is probably the most essential device used in any vector
based illustration/drawing software. You could get away with using
brushes or pencils, but the pen tool allows you the most efficient
control over your linework. For rookie illustrators using the software,
it appears to be a daunting task, but after playing around with the
mechanics of it, the Pen Tool will become your best friend. For the
examples below, I will use Adobe Illustrator, since its generally viewed as the industry standard – other software such as CorelDraw and FreeHand
offer the same type of controls with their pen tools, so you can apply
the same knowledge you’ve learned here to those programs.

Here’s how it works.
To use the pen tool effectively, the key is to master the control of the way paths can bend and curve.

1) Try clicking on your screen. You will create a dot – this is an anchor point.
This point acts as a base and depending on where you place your second point, will allow you to modify the line segment between.

2)Now click anywhere else on your screen and you will create a second anchor point
- notice there is a line segment connecting the two points. This is the basis for creating lines using the pen tool.

3) Now click and hold at another location and slowly move to the left
or right and you will notice a pair of arms that extend from your
anchor point. These lines are known as ‘handles’ and are the tools used
to modify the curve of your line segment in between your anchor points.

you hover over certain areas of your line segment, you will see the pen
cursor change depending on the function it is able to perform.
For example: if you hover over an anchor point, you should see a minus
sign beside the pen head. This indicates that if you click with the
mouse you will subtract that point.

If you hover over any other portion of the line, you will see a plus
sign appear. This indicates that you are able to add an anchor point at
that specific location if you click the mouse button.

If you have made a series of line segments and anchor points and want
to close the shape, hover your cursor over the first anchor point you
made when creating that linework, and a small O will appear. This
indicates that you will close the shape if you select that point. These
are the basic functions of the pen tool – addition/subtraction/closing

Now if you hold down the ALT (option for Mac) key and hover over your
anchor point, you will see the cursor change into an arrow head. This
tool allows you to modify the anchor points by creating a set of handles
if you click and drag away from the point. These handles allow you to
modify the linework that is attached to that particular anchor point.
You can create smooth, flowing paths called Bezier curves by altering
the linework with the handles.

If you hold down the CTRL key (Command Key on the Mac) you will
receive the white arrow or selection tool. Click and hold on any one of
the anchor points and you can move the point around to the position of
your choosing.

Try this exercise:
1) Select your pen tool and make four points
2) Select your starting anchor point to be your fifth point to close off and create your shape.

3) Hold down the ALT (or Option) key and select one of the anchor
points. Click and drag outwards until you have created handles for your
Bezier curve.
4) Select the endpoints of the handles and modify them by moving them
around in different directions. Get used to how the movement works.

5) Hover over one of the anchor points and subtract it.
6) Hover over any part of the line segments, and add an anchor point.
7) Hold down the CTRL key and click and hold on an anchor point. Move it to another area and watch the shape modify.

That is the basic gist of the Pen Tool. The next lesson will show you
how to effectively trace an outline of an image as reference, using the
pen tool. Grab yourself an image of an item you’d like to attempt to
trace and check out this tutorial (number 6 on the list) on creating vector tracings.

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