Illustrator Intro Course: Intro to Pen Tool & Straight Lines

Adobe Illustrator Intro Video Tutorial

In this video, we'll show you how to use the Pen tool. The Pen tool is a very powerful drawing tool in Illustrator but it is not the easiest tool to master! In this video, we'll begin with straight lines.

Video Transcription

Let me show you how to use the Pen Tool, which is a very powerful drawing tool in Illustrator. But it is not the easiest tool to master. I'm going to show you how to start creating straight lines. In another video, I'll talk about how to create curved lines, which is kind of a different thing, but it's easier to start with straight lines using the Pen Tool. So here we have the Pen Tool. I like to say that there's nothing in real life that prepares you for this Pen Tool; this is nothing like a regular pen that you've used in real life. This is an Illustrator vector drawing concept, so if you've never seen vector curves or lines been created before, this is going to be a new thought process, a new way to think of it. The straight lines are easier than the curved lines, though, so we're going to focus on the straight lines here.

Think of this as like playing connect the dots - so from Point A to Point B we're going to click, and then move somewhere else and click again. I'm not dragging the mouse, I'm not pressing down holding and dragging, which starts to create curves which is not what I want to talk about right now. I want to get, again, just a starter here with the straight lines because it's easier to think about these straight lines. So we are clicking and letting go of the mouse and moving it over. It does show a preview here of how it's going to look when you go to click that next point.

And so we're creating these things called anchor points, and they anchor the line where you click, so you can anchor it any place that you want - you just have to move there and click, and it will connect one point to the next for you. You don't drag from one point to the next - that is not how we create that line. If you try to do it, you're going to create curves which are not the kind of curves that you want. It's not that's not the way you do it; it's not like the Pencil Tool, for example. With the Pencil Tool, you drag a line and it follows the path that you do - that is not at all how the Pen Tool works. If you try to do that, you're going to be like, "What is going on here? This is not what I expected." So, that's not what I want to do.

Let me hit Delete to delete that. Straight lines - click, click, click - goes the straight line. You're going from Point A to Point B; they connect it for you. Have to have trust that they are making that connection - you have to let them do it. You just click your start, you click the end, and they will fill in the gap. If you come back to your first point, you'll see a little circle appear to the bottom right of the Pen icon, and that will complete that shape.

So, if I switch over to my Selection Tool here and I have this shape selected, I can fill it with a shape, and I can crank up the Stroke there, so you can see that that stroke around it. All right, you don't have to finish it, though. So, if I'm using the Pen Tool and I'm clicking, clicking, clicking, see now I have a fill, and because it's residual, you kind of kept that over from the previous shape that I drew. When you do have a fill on an uncompleted shape, it'll take your straight line and kind of go to your inline; it'll make a straight line from your starting point to your ending point.

So, as I keep moving, that connection keeps changing around, which is rather annoying while you're drawing. So, probably a good idea when you're first getting started with this to start off with a fill of none, so if you have no fill and just a stroke, that's going to make it nicer for drawing those those strokes. Even if you do plan on adding a fill, you probably want to add it after you've drawn it, rather than beforehand. It's going to be nicer for while you're drawing. So, let me hit Delete again on that.

You're clicking, you're clicking, you're clicking. Now, when you're done, let's say I'm done with this - somehow I need to move on, and I could do that by switching to a different Selection Tool and coming back to the Pen. That has dropped that previous line. So, you can switch tools and come back. It can be any other tool - it doesn't matter which the tool is; you just switch to any other tool, it drops the Pen. You go back to the Pen, and you can draw another line. The asterisk at the bottom right of the cursor implies that I'm going to create a new line, rather than work with the existing lines that I have. So, let me select all and hit Delete here.

Another faster way to do this: you can click, click, click, click. If I hit Escape, that's a real quick way to drop a line - just hitting Escape. It's actually my favorite way - probably doing that, just hit Escape. Another way you can do it is by holding the Command Key on the Mac or Control on Windows and clicking off of that, because temporarily what that will do is, when you hold that Command Key on the Mac or Ctrl Key on Windows, that'll give you your Direct Selection Tool temporarily. So, you could use that tool to click off your shape, and then when you let go, you're still back in the Pen Tool.


That's a good keyboard shortcut to know, even if you don't use it for ending your path - maybe you like hitting Escape to cancel it to go onto the next one - hitting Escape and continuing on. But that Command Key on the Mac or Control Key on Windows, that is useful stuff, because as you're drawing, if you want to go back and edit a point that you've already done, you can hold that Command or Control Key, go back, and refine that previous part of the line.

When you let go you're still drawing this line that you were at 5:36, so you can temporarily go back and refine it and then keep drawing from where you left off. That's the Command (Mac) or Control (Windows) key. When you let go, you're still in the Pen tool, unless you clicked off. If you held the Command/Control key and deselected the path, then you deselected it. To pick it back up again and continue drawing, decide which end you want to draw from. Go to the anchor point at the end and click it to pick it up from that point.

To move individual points, you have to be careful, because if you select your object with the Selection tool, that will select all of the path, including all the anchor points. When you switch to the Direct Selection tool, it doesn't deselect any of those points. They're all blue selected points, which means if you try to grab one, they're all selected, and they'll all move. To move an individual point, click on it to deselect all the other points, and then move that individual point. If the path wasn't selected, you can just go right in with the Direct Selection tool and move it around. To activate the points, click on the path somewhere.

The Pen tool is for drawing, and while you can technically do a couple of things, it's not an editing tool. The Direct Selection tool is your editing tool. The Selection tool is your moving tool. With it, you can add a new point by clicking in an area that doesn't have a point, or if you use the Pen tool and hover over an existing point, you'll see a minus or plus cursor. If you click on an existing anchor point, it'll delete it. The Pen tool is an auto add and delete - you don't have to use the add and delete tools.

Let's say yeah, I think that's good. All right, so now we can go over here. Yeah, this will be good. Now, all right, so here I've got some kind of tracing guides that I'm going to use to demonstrate some concepts here, and this will kind of show you what in my mind I want to create. Also, sometimes you might hand sketch something and bring it into Illustrator because you can actually sketch it and scan it or take a picture on your phone and import it. So that is a way to do it, but in this case I'm just going to use these kind of things to kind of trace over just to kind of talk about the mental approach for drawing some of this stuff.

I'm going to zoom in on this area here. I'm going to use my zoom tool, drag over here to zoom in. Oops, dragged in a little bit too much. Let me zoom back out a little bit. There we go. All right, I'm going to use my pen tool and for straight lines it's just click, and then click, and when you want to be done you can either hit Escape to finish that line, or let me delete that. I can hold the Command key on the Mac or Control key on Windows and click off of the line and that deselects it, so that I can move on.

I'm going to hold my spacebar to slide over. It is very useful to know the spacebar trick because if you're getting the hand tool you can hold the spacebar to move around within your file. Because let's say that's an area that you want to draw is off your screen, and you're in the middle of drawing you need to be able to move somehow and you don't want to really have to drop the line to choose the hand tool to go back, pick up your line. It's kind of annoying, so while you're in the middle of drawing to be able to hold the space bar to move around is going to be very, very useful. So spacebar and drag, when you let go you're still in the midst of drawing. Here is a glass.

Once you learn things like reflecting, you might draw half the glass and reflect it, but just to kind of go over the idea of drawing with the pen tool, if we're going to draw it all from scratch, I can click and I can really technically start anywhere. But here I want to create a straight horizontal line, so I want to hold shift. If I don't hold shift I might put a little angle to it, so I'm going to hold shift and click. Now this is not a 45 degree angle, see it's a little bit off, so I'm not going to hold shift in this case, because for a straight line, that's what I'm doing here. I don't need to do anything for a straight line, I just need to hold shift for a 45 or 90 degree angle line, and then I'm just going to do a regular click here. I do want it on the perfect vertical 90 degree angle, so I'm going to hold shift when I click. Oh, now you see how some things started getting covered over here. I wanted you to see that because right now I have a fill color, and I can also change fill color over here in properties. This is another place I can change fill color. I've got a white fill, so it's kind of seemingly mysteriously disappeared but actually, if I change the fill color to something else, we'll see it's actually just filling over with a white color in this case. So I don't want any fill color right now as I draw, so I'm going to choose none, so I only have my stroke.

This is what I talked about earlier that getting rid of your fill is actually good when you're drawing. I just wanted you to see why, and then here I can click because that's not a 45 degree angle. I can hold shift because that is a 90 degree angle. I don't hold shift, I do hold shift, and when I'm all done here, I can come back to my beginning point, make sure I see the circle and click to finish that shape. That has finished that shape. I don't have to do anything else before moving on, because when you finish a shape you're automatically going to move on to another shape when you finish it. When you do that completion lines you have to do something different, but if it's a filled shape or filled bowl shape you don't have to do anything, you can just keep moving on.

Now, here's the Manhattan skyline. This is going to be a lot of clicking. Here just a lot of different click, click, click, click. So, most of these are going to be shift clicks because they are 45 or 90 degree angles, mostly 90 degree angles in this case. There's not quite a 45 degree angle, it's a little bit steeper, so I'm not going to hold shift for those, but then I'm back to holding shift for drawing this. Oops, now, oh that's good.

I made a mistake. Uh, what happens if I do make a mistake? Well, you just go to edit undo, and then you can keep going. So, you can feel free to undo, you know, Command Z or Control Z on Windows. You can undo multiple steps and it's still drawing this line, so I can go back and redo things. Just holding shift, I'm not being perfect about this tracing here just because I want to do it kind of quickly and I'm not going to do all of these little things.

If I did let's say let me zoom in a little bit more on this. Knowing keyboard shortcuts for moving around, zooming in and out are useful because you want to stay in the pen tool while you're working. I can do Command (Mac) or Control (Windows) plus to zoom in, so I can see things a little closer and I'm still holding the line. When I'm all done, I'm not going to hold shift because that was not a 45 or 90 degree angle. Not holding shift, I can either hold Command (Mac) or Control (Windows) and click away from the artwork to deselect or I can hit escape and that will also finish that as well.

Since I haven't talked about drawing curves here, we basically have like an already created shape that has a little bit of a curve pre-drawn. If I use my Direct Selection Tool and select this point and this point, there's no points in between, so I can't get this over there unless I add another point which I could do either by using the Add Anchor Point Tool or the Pen Tool, which will auto-add or delete. I can click on an area of the path that doesn't already have a point, and when I click, it automatically adds that point. Then I can use the Direct Selection Tool, and that's now a point that I can move, and you can see how you can reshape that area.

Now that I've got all these paths created, I don't really need this path right here, so I'll just click on that and delete that path. I'm going to click on this one, hold shift, click on this one, hold shift, click on this one. Holding shift either deselects or selects - it's a toggle. Then I can copy them and switch to this other file that I've started and paste in those, and start arranging these. I'm going to put the Manhattan skyline here in the background, put the martini glass there, move this on top like so.

Zooming in by doing Command (Mac) or Control (Windows) plus if you select something, it'll zoom towards what you have selected. Pull these parts of the toothpick in and you can see that this one is behind and this one is in front. The order in which you create your shapes determines the order, the stacking order. If I draw one shape here and another shape there and another shape there, all these new shapes stack on top of the previous shapes. You can change that front-to-back order by selecting that shape and saying Object > Arrange, and we can send it all the way to the back behind everything else, or all the way to the front in front of everything else, or one step back or one step forward at a time.

If I look in my Layers panel and open up my layers here, I can see a visual of this. Now I can say Step Backward and that goes one step back and then I can say Step Backward again, and that goes another step back. You can see a visual of this if I look in my layers panel and open up my layers here now if you don't see the layers panel over here.

By the way, there's this little button here for layers. I've been using Illustrator long enough that I know that icon, but let's say you don't. You can find these panels here under Window in alphabetical order, so here, I can choose layers. You might not have that button there if you're using a different workspace, but if I choose this, it will show that panel wherever it happens to be.

So, we have this layer; ignore the template layer—that's something else that we did. But, we're going to focus on this one here; this is the top object, and this one's behind that, and this one's behind that. I can drag this up to move it in front, or I can drag it down to move it behind. So, what's on top is in front; what's on the bottom is behind. Alright, so let me delete those things by hitting delete, so that's why this was in front, so I could send that to the back and I could take this one and bring that to the front—if I want to reverse those, I don't actually want to do that, so I'm going to undo, and undo, because I like it this way now.

These are three different things that we have created; I want to group them together. I can drag a selection area over those three, or I can click on one, shift-click on the other ones, and then they're all selected, and then I can group them together. And, by grouping them, it just ensures that when I click on any one of them and move that, they all move together. Alright, so let's zoom back out; view fit artboard in window. There we go, and I'm going to position this here into the martini glass, and I'm going to zoom in a bit more. So, I'm going to use my zoom tool and drag to the right just a little bit like so. Alright, I do want to color this, so we'll put a little bit of a blue color or something in there.

Whether you use the Appearance panel over here under Appearance, or the button up here, it's going to be a similar process, but just a little bit different. I'll show you in both places how you can change the color. If you're doing it in the Properties panel over here on the right, when you click on that, there's actually two ways you can input color: you can choose between pre-existing swatches that are built in the document, or you get a color mixer that you can mix up however you want. And, in this case, you can click on any of those color sliders, or click on a color down here to get started, and then you can kind of mix up whatever color you want. That's the color mixer.

If it's not in the color mode that you want it to be, you can go into the panel menu over here on the right and switch it into the color picker that you want to input your colors into. The color will be converted into your document mode. So, right now, I can tell that this is a CMYK color by looking up here at the tab bar. I can see it's a CMYK file. If I look under File > Document Color Mode, I can see that it's a CMYK file. If you want to do something for video or on-screen, you want RGB; if you're doing print, you want CMYK. So, no matter what my color picker is, the colors get converted into a CMYK color.

But, you can input colors however you want. So, if somebody gives you an RGB color, you can input it as RGB, but it's going to be converted ultimately to CMYK. So, which color picker you want to play around with and input is up to you, but the overall document colors are going to be your document color mode. So, in this button right here, you can switch between your swatches and your color mixer. However, up here, if you click on this, the default is it always shows your swatches. It doesn't have a button to switch to the other color picker.

When you hover over it, it does say, "Hold shift key to bring up alternate color UI," as in user interface. So, if I shift-click, then I get the color picker. So, a regular click shows swatches; a shift-click shows the color picker. Like the other color picker, I can go into the menu and choose which color picker I want to see to input my color as, and I can input the color the way that I want it. If I don't want a stroke, I can go to the stroke and I can say, "None,"—the red slash means none, like so.

Now, the olives are behind that; I want to bring it in front. So, I'm going to say, "Object > Arrange > Bring to Front," and bring them all the way to the front, because they were already in the document, and so when I pasted the new things, they were pasted on top of those, so I had to bring those to the front. The martini glass, I really don't like the line going right through that. Maybe I want to make it a solid martini glass, so I can fill that with white. Right now, the color of that is the red slash means none, so there is no color to that. Um, let's say I want to mix up white. I don't have a swatch for white here, so I'm going to shift-click, and then I can choose white. So, we got a black swatch and a white swatch.

I'll click on white and that will give me a white fill here and I covered over the liquid for my martini here. So I'm going to do this a couple of ways. I can select this and say "Send to Back" so that sends it all the way to the back. That's one way I could do this, but what if I wanted to see the martini liquid in there? I know it's there, how do I see that? This is a great little intro to Outline Mode.

In Outline Mode, we can see the outlines of everything whether or not it prints that way. It gets rid of all your fills and strokes and you can see through things. It's like a wireframe mode. We have Preview Mode, where you see how everything prints or outputs. We can switch to Outline Mode and then switch back to Preview and bring this to the front. I could also select this and say "Arrange, Bring to Front". I put this as white, but I'm still seeing the skyscraper on top. It's on top, not behind it, so I can say "Object, Arrange, Send to Back" and then it will actually be behind the glass. So the glass is covering over it. If the white doesn't make sense, I can give it a color so you can see. It's a color covering over it as opposed to something that would be see-through.

If I want to scale the skyline, like make it bigger or smaller, I can use the Scale Tool. If I double click on the Scale Tool, I can enter a numeric scale. I can choose to make this 125. To keep the line quality the same, I have to make sure "Scale Strokes and Effects" is not turned on.

Finally, when I save my Illustrator file, I'm going to do a "Save As" and save it to my computer. I'm going to call it "Dan's Manhattan Martini" and save it as an Adobe Illustrator file. This has been an introduction to the Pen Tool and creating straight lines. In another video, we'll talk about creating curves, but I hope this has gotten you started with understanding the Pen Tool.

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