Skip to main content

Pen Tool in Illustrator

Lesson 3 of 8

Creating Curves with the Pen Tool in Illustrator

Jason Hoppe

Pen Tool in Illustrator

Jason Hoppe

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

3. Creating Curves with the Pen Tool in Illustrator

Lesson Info

Creating Curves with the Pen Tool in Illustrator

So I've gone in and I've just drawn straight lines from point to point. I've added points of delete deleted points and I've taken line segments away. I would like to go in and I would like to add or draw with some curved points. So a curve point is no different than using depend tool just like we have. The only difference that we have with this is I'm still gonna click It's just that I'm going to click and I'm gonna pull So I still end up clicking toe land by points The only difference is when I click Instead of letting go I simply pull the direction that I pull in the distance that I pull I will now get handles And those handles that come out the distance tells me how far I am So it tells me how much of a curve I'm going to get And the distance I pull that handle is the direction the curve is going to go. Let me show you I'm gonna click and I'm gonna pull to my left. I happen to be left handed so I draw around circles to the left. I'm pulling the handle to the left, but I get handles ...

coming up both sides. But pulling the handle to the left is important because now, with my rubber band effect, I see that the next point that I draw out of here, the curve is always going to follow the direction of the handle. Now the Bori pull the handle, the more of a curve I get. And even if I put another point over here, the curve comes out and goes the direction of my handle and then is going Teoh then hit the point that I then set. So if I come out here and I click again and I pulled my handle this way, then the direction that I'm pulling the handle controls the direction by curve is going to go. The distance I pull the handle dictates whether I'm gonna have a slow curve or a faster. The more I pull, the more of a curve I get the direction I pole is the direction I get. So now I've pulled the handle to the right. If I come back here and I clicked down here and I pull the handle to the left, I will now get a curve Nebari pull the more curve and back and forth, and I can create a zigzag like so I can add any points along here that I want to. In this case, I may want to go in and just simply start clicking and add straight points or corner points. I can also click and pull it any point on. Then they can add a point here, point their point there, click and poll, change the direction and reconnect so straight points. I simply click, click, click. If I want a curved point, I click and pole and that's going to get me my handles. And the direction of the handle dictates the direction of the curve. The distance I pull the handle is how much curve I'm gonna go in, and I'm just going to draw a fairly close circle. I'm gonna go in and I've drawn And then I'm going Teoh, click on the left hand side, come down to the bottom click and pull going to drop another point on the right hand side. Come up to the top there and I click and pull and I have a circle pretty close to a circle, and now I'm gonna go to my command key and get my selection tool. And I'm gonna click on these points here, and I see that this is a curve and it has a handle on it. This is a curve, but it doesn't have a handle, and this does. And in general, a curved point is going to have handles. So I have handles on this, and with those handles comes curves. The more I pulled handles, the more of a curve I get. Now I have my selection tool active on a click on these points and up here in my control bar. I see all these things that I could do with my anchors. Now, Right now, I have a smooth point because I have handles and up here in my control bar, I see that I can convert that to a corner point, which is going to suck the handles back in or it's already a smooth point, says handles. So there's my handle selected. My point. I come up here and I convert that, and that's going to take the handles away and is going to convert those points to a corner point. On a corner point is nothing more than a point. That's just simply a point with no handles. So this is essentially my circle here doesn't seem very intuitive, but this is essentially what a circle is. It's basically four points, and in this case there's no handles. If I have a corner point like this and I take my command key and I select that with a direct selection tool or a click and hover over it and no handles appear, that means it's a corner point. If I would like to make handles, I am then going to make that into a smooth curve and I can take my point that I have selected. I can click on my convert and it's going to give me handles. If I do that with all my points and I convert that all the handles, you can see that I get handles and therefore every place that I have handles. I have curves. Now, with my direct selection tool active, I'm gonna go in and I can control my curves. Very simple. I can do it two different ways. If I take my selection tool and I click on my object here, I can only get my actual object. I can't actually get my handle's. So I definitely need my direct selection tool gonna click on that and I have handles. I can click on the little poll handles right here. And the more I pull that handle, the more of a curve I get. The less I Paul, the less of a curve I get now. These handles are connected to this point, and because they're a smooth handle or their smooth corner point here, this means that it's always going to give me a curve going in and going out. Now, if I pull on one of these, it'll handles and I pushed down. I'm going to get the other side to go up. This is a smooth corner, so I am going to always have a smooth corner, and it's always going to give me a curve. So I kind of call this little seesaw effect. If they pushed down on one side, it's going to push the curve up up the other side because I want that smooth curve. Okay, now I can always pull this handle further to get mawr or less of a curve out that side or this handle further to get more of a curve off the other side. But I'm gonna pull those to get the curve that I want. You'll notice that when I select this point, I only see handles coming out of these little points here. Maybe I go win and I select this line segment of my circle. And now we noticed that I only get the handles coming out of this point in this point where right before I selected this point and now I see all these handles. The reason for that is if I select a line segment, the two handles that control this line segment are the handles coming out of this point and the handles out of this point? I pull this handle, I get more of a curve going up and down. I click on this handle and I get more of a curve going left to right and those of the only relevant handles for that line segment. If I were to click on this upper point here, well, that is going to encompass both this line segment and this line segment from this point here. Therefore, I'm going to get the handles coming out of both sides of this point, and I'm going to have my handles that will also control this entire line segment. If I select multiple points, all I get is multiple points, and I don't actually see multiple handles. And that could be confusing to people because they look at this and they're like, Why is there only one handle? Well, there's only one handle because the only relevant part of this line segment are these Arch right here is this handle to just this one now jumping back to our preferences here and going back to our selection and anchor display. One of the preference is that we can set is show the handles when multiple anchors air selected. So if you do want to see all of your anchors all the time, you can select that in your preferences. And now when I select multiple points, I will see multiple handles. It works just fine. I mean, we can only work with one set of handles at a time, but some people like to see this. That's a preference you can turn on and turn off. I'm gonna leave it on just because we can. It doesn't affect how we work. It just makes it different for you. However, you like to set up your preferences. So now I have my point selected. I can see all my handles. If I click on one handle, I can adjust thes and I congrats my handles and I can tell my handles back and forth to control how fast or how slow they come out. A little word of advice. When you go through when you're doing something curved like this, keeping your handles vertical or horizontal, we're going to give you symmetrical curves. If I push one handle down, the other handle goes up and then I'm going to have the rise and fall of the curve. So if I do a horizontal or vertical pull handle right here, I'm going to get a curve coming in and a curve coming out without any excess lump on one side or the other. But really, this particular circle is nothing more than our triangle or a diamond that we started. It's just that we went ahead and we pulled the handles out. So here's a little tutorial on how we go in and we pull the handles where we pull the handles And how much so I can pull this handle out as far as I want to go. Maura, pull the more of a curve I get. But keep in mind that this curve is governed by two handles. One that I can control How fast or slow it comes off the top and the second how fast or slow it can come down to the side. Now, I don't need to handles here because check this out. When I'm doing this, I could take this handle and I could make this handle very short, and I could then go ahead and use this handle to basically create the entire curve. I like to use what I call the 50% method. And when I'm doing a curve here, I pull the handle about halfway between my point that I've created and I pull it about halfway out between the point that I want to land. So if I do that and I draw this point, this handle will then be about 50% between the distance between this point and this point right there. This is what I call the 50% method. This gives me a really good balance. So when I look at handles, when I see something really long and something really short here, I know that I'm not going to get a perfect curve that's going to come much more into a perfect curve. If I balance thes handles halfway between here and this point right down here and this handle gets balanced halfway between here and this point here, we're gonna show you more of that when we create more of these files. When I do that, I end up with a much more rounded, pleasing shape and something that's going to be much more realistically round than trying to pull these handles different distances. And that looks pretty good overall, just for a kind of winging no little 50% distance right there.

Class Description

The Adobe Illustrator Pen tool can be difficult to pick up, but mastering it gives you enormous creative flexibility. Learn the best way to work with it in Pen Tool in Illustrator with Jason Hoppe.

Jason has spent nearly two decades teaching professionals how to get the most out of their creative tools. In this class, he’ll dive deep on the Adobe Illustrator Pen tool. You’ll learn which projects to tackle with the Pen tool and how it’s used. Jason will teach you best practice techniques for strokes and working with paths.

The Pen is an indispensable creative tool – if you could use a little help wielding yours, don’t miss Pen Tool in Illustrator with Jason Hoppe.

Software Used: Adobe Illustrator CC 2014 (18.1)



This tool is a bit in the ..., however Jason's inimitable style and affable character makes the class a delight to watch. I *MUST* learn to use the Pen and Pencil tool because I can't draw; not at all, not even a little bit. I say this literally, there are modest people and there are people who should be more modest and there are people who are poor at drawing, there are all colors and flavors and I say hands down, I cannot draw, write or even make an approximation of a straight line (literally, not an exaggeration) and my hand will not do what my eye and brain tell it. I can see where I want something to go and can't make my hand do it, I can't even trace something on tracing paper - the lines go every which way and this is something mastered by a six-year-old. So when I say I *MUST* use these tools, it's because I have no alternatives. Jason's class has been a Godsend because I can actually make plausible sketches, drawings and convey ideas through the use of these tools. I highly recommend this class if you want to learn how to get started using this tool. It's even fun once you learn a little bit about it.

Fuzzy Piglet

I would consider myself as an intermediate illustrator user, having been around it for many years but only needing to use a minimal amount of the software. I also an advanced photoshop user with around 22-23 years experience so Ive made my share of clipping paths etc. This course provides all the technical information about the tools, paths, points and handles and Jason presents it in a very easy to understand way. I learned a few things from it but its also good to know the 'hows and whys' which is not something you might learn from a user manual or even necessarily from experience. Well worth the cost!

Adrian Chorlton

Great course used as revision on using the tools. Well presented, interesting, waffle free. Be useful if there was a section on closing and opening paths