Subscribe or Login to watch video

Login or Subscribe to watch video

9 - How to draw using the Pen Tool in Adobe Illustrator CC

Questions & Comments

Ron Doran - 9 months ago

Hey Dan,
I was trying to complete the pen tool owl outline and when I start selecting points (as per the attached snapshot) the owl is slowly disappearing as if it was being masked.
Any suggestions on how I am able to fix this, please.

Administrator Tayla Coman - 9 months ago

Hi Ron, at 2:34 of this video, Daniel goes over to turn off the fill.

Michael Shea - 8 months ago

I won't really bother with a side by side but you can see how far more difficult it is to use the PEN TOOL vs the CURVATURE TOOL

Administrator Tayla Coman - 8 months ago

Curvature tool is awesome isn't it

Jon Hart - 7 months ago

I've tried to use the pen tool in the past but gave up pretty quickly with frustration. But once again your clear and concise instruction makes it understandable. (still how good is that curvature tool :) )

Administrator Tayla Coman - 7 months ago

Wow! They're both great, awesome work, Jon.

Cheryle Hargett - 7 months ago

The curvature tool creates smoother and more even shapes. I wish Illustrator had drawing tools like Animate has!

Administrator Emma Norton - 4 months ago

Great completed image Cheryle. Curvature owl is my fav

AHT JOHN - 6 months ago

Hi ! Dan This is my 6th Project in this course ! & Hopefully You'll review my work!

Administrator Emma Norton - 3 months ago

I can't see you project of the owls Aht John

Luke - 3 months ago

I found the curvature tool far better to use. I do however feel like there could be some situations that the pen tool could be very useful.

Administrator Emma Norton - 3 months ago

Great result on both!

Harmony Kane - 2 months ago

Here are my owls! I think they're pretty similar.

The circles were easier to draw with the circle tool, but overall I think I preferred the Pen Tool. I've just started drawing with a stylus, so the click-and-drag of the Pen Tool was easier/more natural for me than the double-tap (double-click) of the Curve Tool.

My initial pass at the Curve looked better than my initial pass at the Pen, but I think the practice I got with the Direct Select Tool helped more in cleaning up the Pen Tool drawing... If I went back and did the last exercise again, I think I'd find the Curve Tool easier as well.

Charlene Logan - 2 months ago

Hi Dan what is the best way to ensure smooth transitions between the points? I can see bumps on my artwork where the anchor point is. Thanks for the great tutorial.

Daniel Kyriacou - 1 month ago

I know which one I prefer

ALL ACCESS: $19.95 per Month + Cancel anytime   

Video Transcription

Hi there, it is time to learn the Pen Tool. The Pen Tool is the hardest thing to learn in Illustrator. We're going to do it together. We're going to make this Ninja, make an owl, we're going to make an alien, we're going to make a crown. Let's draw those now together, in Adobe Illustrator.

To get started-- no, I'm not going to make you import it again, and make this a template. I'm going to save you some time. Go to 'Exercise Files', open up one called 'Pen Tool'. I've kind of done that for you. Just make sure, under 'Layer 1', go to 'Properties' panel. Now we're going to zoom in on this alien. We're going to build the same things so there's kind of differences between the Pen Tool and the Curvature Tool. Basically the Curvature Tool does a little thinking for you. It's pretty good, and pretty intuitive, but there's times when we just need to get the Pen Tool to do exactly what you want. so grab the 'Pen Tool', it's just above the Curvature Tool here. And what we'll do is, you can see, mine's set as a cross, 'x' here, it's because I've got Caps Lock on. Some people prefer to use the Pen Tool like this, and it comes out of that tip of that pen, or you can hit 'Caps Lock' on your keyboard and you can see, it becomes our cross heads. I'm going to do it just like this. I'm going to zoom in, see my whole guy.

So what happens with Pen Tool is that by default, it wants to do corners quite the opposite of the Curvature Tool. So I click once, click once, click once, it's only going to give me-- it's giving me a very interesting octopus. So, clicking once gives you corners. I'm going to undo all of that, get it back. So what you do with the Pen Tool is you click and drag to get a curve. So at the top here, I click and drag. This is probably the hardest thing to do, to get it started, because I click and drag out, but there is no curve, but I'm on my Apex, but once you get out here you can see, it's kind of, you can see, it's a curve, because it's connected, plus you can see those handles instantly. It was the Curvature Tool, they were hidden.

So same thing, on the Apex here, I click. People just click once, and clicking once gives you a corner, for the Pen Tool. So it's not going to work, so I'm going to undo. So, click and drag down. I know, dragging down-- because you want to continue the lines, follow the line, drag that way. That can be a little confusing so most people drag this way, and move it around. You get a bit of sense for it after we've done our full alien. Dragging it out to get this to kind of line up. Don't worry if you don’t quite get it. You can fix it up afterwards with the White Arrow, it's quite easy.

Next thing I want to do is, before I carry on, I want to give it No Fill. So I'm going to the 'Fill' here, 'red line'. Click off. Remember, I'm going to look for the same kind of technique as the Curvature Tool, for this Apex here. Click, hold, and drag down for the corner. This is going to be clicking and dragging for the whole thing because there's no curves, sorry, no corners. So here, I'm going to click and drag, and you're like, "Oh no, I can't get it." So don’t worry too much about getting it perfect on the first go around. You can fix it with the White Arrow, and add, and remove Anchor Points afterwards. Same thing here. Click and drag, and you're like, "Ah, it's too big, it's not working." It's okay, we can adjust these afterwards. Get it kind of close. I'm just going to click, hold, and drag on all the Apex of these curves. Click and drag. It's more with the Apex, it's just kind of where the curve changes the most.

So the curve changes quite a bit across here, clicking and dragging. Clicking and dragging. Clicking and dragging. Clicking and dragging. If yours is going horribly wrong, and it's still attached, not wanting to work, and you're like, "Dah." What you can do is, go either, undo, so 'Edit', 'Undo', or 'Command Z' on a Mac, or 'Control Z' on a PC, or you can hit the 'Esc' key, the Esc key says, detach, stop trying to draw lines everywhere. I'm going to undo, back to here. Again, if you click off, and it's like half finished, what you can do is-- watch my cursor, I've got my Pen Tool, kind of just hovering above, see that little change in the icon there? It gets a bit of a straight line, it is like, "You mean this?" and I'm like, "Yes, that's what I mean."

So I'm going to click and drag that to get a curve. Click and drag you, click and drag you. Another one there. I'm just going to work my way around this alien. You, back to here - This is another kind of got to know for people that are new - Is you come back here, and you're like, "Great, it's clicked once." And unlike the Curvature Tool, it doesn't kind of automatically adjust, it kind of went "You clicked once, you meant a corner, and I put a corner in." I'm going to undo. It's going to click and drag because I made a curve.

Now, yours might not look anywhere near like mine. Mine's not that good either but yours might be looking a little worse. What we can do, remember is the White Arrow Tool, the Direct Selection Tool. We can click on these guys, and we can adjust them. So I can click on the Anchor Point., move the Anchor Point along to make sure it's on the flow of the line and grab these Handles. They influence the way the line passes through. I can kind of just wave a little around. Don't be afraid to move it around to get a feel for what it does. And kind of start doing these adjustments. In here as well. I'm going to tuck him in. I'm just going to work my way around just to kind of fix this up a little bit. I'm not going to spend too much time on it. I say that every time, and then I spend loads of time trying to make this thing look beautiful. As much as I'm quickly on that naff alien. Beautiful, Dan.

With this one as well, I've got my Smart Guides off. Just because there can be a little hassle in using the Pen Tool, trying to free form stuff. Smart Guides, remember, under 'View', 'Smart Guides'. There it is there, I've got them off. Let's do the inside one, click and drag. Remember, that's the hard one, because you're like-- when you follow whichever way you've dragged, if I drag up, I've got to follow the line this way because it's coming out that way. If I drag down, it comes out over there, you can drag. And with a circle it needs at least four points to kind of look half decent. You can see, with the Curvature Tool, it does a load of fixing up for you which is quite cool, but sometimes you just don’t want that as well, so the Pen Tool's a lot easier because it gives you a lot more control, a lot more manual. All right, that will do. Yes, I just used the Ellipse Tool. Probably, to get it looking very nice.

I'm totally going to cheat now, because I'm bored of this alien. I'm just going to grab my 'Black Arrow'. Click off, click on, copy, paste. My terrible circle is now just going to be a bit smaller. Let's look at the crown, that's where it becomes easy. Pen Tool loves this stuff, don’t have to hold anything down. Just click once, click once, click once. So, with the Pen Tool, clicking and dragging gives you a curve, clicking once gives you a corner point. Awesome! So then we get to our Ninja. Hello, Ninja.

I'm going to zoom out a little bit. You'll notice that when you zoom out, and you've got something else selected, it goes, "Hey, did you mean this?" So it kind of zooms out, and moves back up there and you're like, "No, no, down here, please." You can turn that off under 'Preferences'. We're going to start down the bottom right hand corner with the Pen Tool. And that is a corner, nice sharp corner, click once. Now where is the curve, the curve here is-- the Apex of it is half way through here, so I'm going to click and drag. This is a bit hard, because you're like, "Just need a subtle one." So you end up kind of-- give it a wiggle around, give it a feel for it as you drag it with the Handles, and when you get it to here, that's it.

Now, this is going to be a corner because it's a change of direction. And this is going to be a corner, so just click once. Corner, click once, corner, click once. There's a little curve in here, and click, and drag. Curve. Curve it once for a corner. We've got curves again. How many? Like, do I just want one? I could try and do one. Just never going to get the right shape with just one of them. So the final, helmet thing. I'm looking for a perfect circle though. This happens lots. If you get close to the edge, it really wants to jump out. You can let go, give it an 'undo'. Then, zoom in or out, and it will kind of jump back to the center again.

So what do I want? I want-- I know through experience that a circle needs four. We kind of did it four, the alien up here. So I need one there, one there, and one there. There's no bit down the bottom, so I don’t need him. We're clicking up and down. That's another one, like, drag down, and you're like, "Which way does it go?" Remember, you want to drag and follow the line. A little one there. Clicking and dragging. Clicking and dragging. Click once for a corner. If you get it wrong, you come around here, and you click once and you're like, "Now what do I do?" You can just leave it, and we'll show you how to fix those up in a second. Just kind of leave it there, or leave it there.

Go to curve, I'm dragging it out. I'm going to try and fix it but there's a bit of a problem here, so I'll come back and do that. Click once for a corner, click once for a corner. Curve, click and drag. Click once for a corner to get this straight line started. I got a straight line, click and drag for a curve. So that one's a corner, it should be-- so that one's a curve, when it should be a corner, and this one I'm going to draw is a curve. It should be a corner. Go back to here, click once. Now I've got a full shape. Now to do some adjustments, there's two major things I need to fix. I need to change these two.

There's a full tool to do it, it's called the Anchor Point Tool. So I click on this. If you're using an earlier version, I think it's called the Anchor Conversion Tool, something like that. So it looks like that in both versions. Click on this guy. And what we're going to do, is we're going to zoom in, and if we look at this guy, and if I click on him once, he was a curve, and now he's a corner. And this guy here is a curve. Both of these are curves, when they should be corners. Let's change something else. Let's click on him, now he's a corner. Let's say I want to make this guy a curve. All I do is click, hold, and drag him. Might have to move him around a little bit. You can see now, he is a curve. So there are-- yes, this tool does both. Click it once to get rid of the curve, and if it's a corner, and it should be a curve, click and drag it out. Give that a practice.

Now there's a few things that need tidying up. Grab my 'White Arrow'. There's this guy here. You can see, well you might not be able to see why, but-- I've got this Anchor point here, there he is, he's down here. And the handle's come out quite far, and actually kind of past the point here. And that's trying to force the line to go, like-- I'll show you kind of an exaggerated version. It's trying to go back towards itself. So often with these handles they can't go past, kind of the next Anchor Point, otherwise they start doing some weird stuff. So both the new guys can be dragged in closer to the home here. Closer to the Anchor Point, and get it like this. And I should go through and fix the head. It is a little bit off.

Now if you are looking at things, and you're like "Man, why isn't it symmetrical?" because it looks just a little bit wonky. Often, if I click on this point here to make a perfect circle-- I'll show you what a perfect circle looks like. The 'Ellipse Tool', drag it out. It's made up of the same points, grab the 'White Arrow'. I click on one of them, you can start to see, right? I'm going to select on them all, actually, click on one of them. You can see, I click on this top one, that one's flat, and these handles are exactly the same link and these one's parallel, so that's kind of what we're looking for. You can see here, click open this top point, this guy's flat, which is awesome, but these guys are kind of both, heading off, and an angle.

So what I'm going to do is first get them to line up roughly the same kind of points, so it's roughly kind of about there from each other. And I want to be kind of straight up and down. Watch this, if I'm dragging this guy around, if I hold 'Shift', it does lock it into, like a nice little thing there. Same with you. Straighten up, buddy. I need both of these top bits. I want to drag in a little bit, and a little bit. Don't be afraid to move the Anchor Point as well, maybe just a bit high in the line. Better. Better. Not perfect, but better.

So I would like you, your next mission is to draw the owl. So I want you to go through, draw the owl, it's complete shapes, and then see if you can use your amazing new Illustrator skills, and show me a version of your owl. If you've done the previous tutorial, just kind of side by side, just copy and paste them from one document to another. I want to see what you did with your Curve Tool and what you did with your Pen Tool. If they're both perfect, awesome. If one's better than the other, I'd like to hear your feedback about which tool you like the most. Are you a precision Pen Tool person? The Pen Tool is the one that's been around forever. The Curvature Tool is new, and is it cheating? It's not cheating. You're still drawing, but it's helping you out a little bit. I want to know which you found better. So get them side by side, give me a screen shot. I'd love to see what you're doing.

All right, that's it for this tutorial. I will see you in the next one.

ALL ACCESS: $19.95 per Month + Cancel anytime