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31 - Drawing icons & logos in Illustrator using the pen tool


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In this exercise, we're going to draw this little Kiwi, and this clover leaf down the bottom here, and we're going to draw a crown, and they're all vector, they're nice, and vector bits, and we're going to show you how to use this lovely pen tool. There he is there. Let's go do that.

Okay, so first up, what we'll do is, we'll draw these on its own document, and copy and paste them in later on, just to not get too confused with this document. Let's go to 'File', 'New'. It doesn't really matter, we’ll be on print, let's use A4, or Letter, I'm not worried about the size. We're going to bring in some things to draw. Now, most of the time, if it's a reasonably complex shape, I would hand draw it in my book, in my notebook, and then take a photo of that and bring it in, because I'm a lot better drawing with my hands than I am with the pen tool. If it's a simple shape, like a heart, or a star, or something like that, or an arrow, I'll just try and freehand it with the pen tool, but let's look at bringing in some of the stuff we've drawn, so 'File', 'Place'. In your exercise files, download the pen tool exercise files. If you don't have these exercise files there's a link on the page somewhere to download them. I'm going to click and drag it out, so it kind of fits within here, and this is the stuff we're going to be drawing, just the nice little progressive things to draw. I've hand drawn these. That is - if you're wondering what that is - that is a Kiwi, it's our little native bird. It's a terrible Kiwi. It took me ages to draw that one as well. Kiwis are hard to draw, like footballs with legs. 

So what we're going to do is-- So you've hand drawn the little thing that you want. Now, what we want to do is draw over the top of that, and we want to lock this background layer, so it doesn't move half way through drawing. The easiest way-- we've done this before in layers. See layer 1, we're going to lock it, that's the little icon, kind of appears in this little empty box here. We're going to call this one 'Background'. We're going to make a new layer. Just got to make sure that-- we've got this layer selected, and this is going to be our 'Drawing Layer'. 

Just make sure, on this layer we're going to grab the pen tool. Where is our pen tool? There he is there. We're on this one called the 'Pen Tool'. So, the basics are-- let's zoom in. Let's make sure that we've got-- If I start drawing now, watch what happens, you end up with this kind of like white box, kind of filling that up, that happens often to people starting. Let's give it 'No fill'. So that's the first one here, no fill, and the stroke around the outside, something that contrasts this background. It doesn't matter what color it is, because we're going to change it later on. I’m going to use bright green. The weight, the stroke's going to be 1 pixel. 

So, drawing shapes like this, like arrows, and crowns are really easy because when we're using the pen tool you just click once for a corner, and we'll do curves in a second. So what you got to do is work your way around, so click once, and you can see this thing's kind of attached to it. Dah! Don't worry about that. Just kind of previewing where the lines going to go. I'm going to click once again here, click once again here, and we can see that line, green line starting to appear. Click once again here, once again here, once again there, there, there, there, there. We've got ourselves a terrible irregular crown, but it's just like a drawing exercise, so let's not worry too much about it, let's give it a fill. So grab our black arrow, with it selected, click off in the background, click on it. I can give it a fill color. Give any of the fill color. And give it a stroke of maybe 'none'. Awesome, we've got a crown. To see it by itself, you can turn the artboard off on this background layer, and that is our, really kind of crown.

So, let's look at our clover. So, what I want to do is, it's kind of like-- I'm living in island now, I'm a Kiwi. So, we're going to draw this, and we're going to draw almost three separate parts, and then kind of combine them, because a clover obviously doesn't have these gaps in, but we're turning it into a drawing exercise. So, what we're going to learn now, is we've worked out that corners, you click once. To get a curve, you click and drag. It's best to start at the corner because that makes it easy, so I'm going to click once. You see, that line's still attached, but instead of clicking again, which is going to give us a corner, what I want to do is, I've undone him, so I've clicked once down here, and what we want to do is find kind of like half way through this curve. This curve goes from here all the way around, and literally, half way is around there, but what you want to find is the apex, where it changes the most. You can see that there is that point of the corner, or the apex. 

Watch this, if I click and drag, you get this little handle that comes out. We saw them earlier. I'm clicking, and holding, and dragging, and we can wiggle it around, so don't be afraid to drag it. Watch this, I can drag it in, so it's really tight, and really sharp corner, or I can drag it out, and it can be a really long exaggerated corner, so in and out, and we twirl it around to get it to any angle you want. Now what you'll find is you'll never get it right the first time, you kind of wiggle around, you spend ages, don't worry, this is kind of like phase 1, we can fix it up afterwards using the white arrow. So I'm going to drag it until I find there. And then, is this a corner or a curve? That is a corner. So people have a tendency to click and drag this one as well, which is not what I want. I'm going to go here, and just click once, because that is a corner, it’s a big change of direction. Can you see, the big hoop off the top here though, and you’re like, “Oh, no.” That's just part of drawing with the pen tool, we can fix this up later on easily enough.

I'm going to undo, that there was a corner, click once, this thing here is a curve, click and drag, and down here, is this a corner or a curve? It's a corner, so I'm going to click once. I'm kind of getting there, right? Yes, that's what we've drawn. So, once you've got the corners, I guess the points, roughly in the right point, then you can fix it up with the white arrow. There's always a bit of a touch up at the end. You click on this anchor point here, this is the guy that needs fixing, and watch this, I can kind of wiggle him around, so I fix him, but then, this guy's not quite right, so I grab this handle and I give him a wiggle. Now, I can move him up and down, but see this, I can move it tighter into-- Can you see, it's getting a little better. And I can start wiggling this around, and what you'll find is, you'll get this guy perfect, but you’ll wreck this other side, there is definitely a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, it's like a see-saw, they have to kind of balance out to look nice and smooth, but you're going to figure it out-- a kind of an even Steven between the two. 

Okay, this guy's the same, this guy here though is, maybe not out far enough-- I'm going to zoom in. Can you see, there's no matter of bending these handles to kind of get him to come out, so physically I need to move this guy here out, and then, I can drag him out a little bit there, this guy here, I try and fix. There's always a bit of to-ing and fro-ing between the two. So I'm going to zoom out, yeah, it's looking all right for my first one. So let's go through and it’s just the step, and repeat. So I'm going to grab the pen tool, click once for corner, out here, click and drag for curve, click once for corner, click and drag for a curve, click once for corner, and after a little while you can see, I didn't wreck this one as much as the last one, there's still a little bit of a touch up to be done. Lovely. 

Now, let's try the third one, and hopefully, as you go along, your first one will look terrible. Imagine, it will be this big kind of ugly thing. That's okay, just forget about him, you had a crack, try the next one, and by the third one, it will still probably be reasonably bad, it depends on your skills towards drawing with the pen tool. Some people grab that-- Now, I've thought thousands of people the pen tool, and I promise you, everyone is terrible for a long time. It takes a lot of practice with the pen tool to get the hang of it. So, here we go, you can adjust them up. Now you might find it's easier-- So if I click off, and click back on it, say, actually I wanted to have 'no fill', then I have that  green stroke around the outside. Just while I'm working, to make it a little easier to see the thing underneath. Don't be afraid to move the anchor points as well. If you're not finding they're working-- 

Now, let's look at this last part, the little stroke. I'm going to grab back to my pen tool. Watch this, I'm going to click once. If you're finding it really hard, can you see this sort of jumps around, and join, and link, and do all of that sort of stuff, that can be helpful, but in terms of the pen tool, often it's not, so I'm going to undo to get rid of that point, and I'm going to turn off my 'Smart Guides'. 

Pen tool, so click once for a corner. And you can see here, this is just a really slow curve, so, what I need to do is, half way through it, about there, I click and drag, and this is where it gets a little weird, you can kind of see. You see here, I'm just going to kind of bring it in, click once there, I'm going to make this a flat end, and then there's just a slight curve in here, so I'm going to wade about half way, click and drag. Which way you drag? People do this all the time, they drag it this way, and they try to—it’s not working. This guy needs to go over there. And if it goes horribly wrong, if you do do that, and let’s go this one, and you go this way, and you're like join it, and-- Dah, that doesn't look right. What you can do is grab the white arrow-- I'm going to zoom in a bit. And I'm going to say, this guy here, you need to be switched around. That's switched around. You can start adjusting it. I'm going to select this guy, give him the same fill color, I'm going to use the Eye Dropper tool, we learnt that in the earlier exercise, the Eye Dropper tool. Nice! Alright, that guy's pretty terrible.

You could cheat, I'm not going to know. I'm going to copy and paste him. If you get one of them, good, just go and repeat him. And what we'll do now is, before we move on to the Kiwi, we're going to kind of join these guys up, so just get them so they overlap. This guy here, I want to stick it up, but maybe not like that, maybe like that. So, all overlapping, and remember our amazing tool that joins things. I'm going to select them all though they are separate shapes. You could leave it like that, there's no real problem with that, but say you want to join them all, let's use the Shape Builder tool, and you can draw across all of these, can you see, I can drag across to join these two, join those guys, join those guys. I have to zoom in a little bit. So I want all these guys to be part of the same gang, along with the stroke here. And you can see, now they’re one complete shape. Lovely! How awesome are we!

Now, the ugly football bird. I love this bird, but not my drawing of them. So, this guy's going to be more complicated. Pretty much, just a long version of this. So let's go and do that. Let's grab the pen tool, and let's start with the corner. I'm going to start with this one here. Click once. And which way I'm going to go? Now, I'm going to go this way. Now, this guy here, he’s not just one complete circle across here, so if I try to adjust it with this one, I get there mostly, but because it's got kind of like an arc there, and a different arc at the back, what we might find is we're going to use two little handles to make it go around. 

Now, don't be – What a lot of people would do is, they will go like this, and I’ve had lots of them, to get the curve. And that's fine, and it kind of works, but you'll end up with the shape-- let me turn the background layer off. You'll end up with a shape that's never that smooth, there's always like a little jinx in it, so I’m going to turn my background layer back on, so it's always better to use the least anchor points as possible. But when you’re new, it's hard to know, but at least you can do, but in this case it’s probably going to need two, so I'm going to go one, just for corner, click once, then over here, I'm going to go, maybe about there, click and drag. I'm kind of aligning it up. I'm going to come down here, and maybe another curve around, by his bum. And I don't need much there. You can see it was kind of working. And you'll have the inclination just to go click once, but then, because it's a corner point it's going to be very hard to get that to look smoother there. Can you see that little junk? So don't worry if you get to here. You just need a little bit of the handles. We can fix this up afterwards by tucking him back in, but at least it's going smoothly through the curve, and you can click here once. You'll be like, "That looks terrible, Dan." That's okay, remember, that white arrow afterwards, we can fix it up.

Now, these terrible feet, I don't know what I was doing with these, they are terrible. What you might do as well-- Can you see that, I’m only kind of guessing what’s in there? What I might do is, I’m going to switch him out to have no fill, and have a stroke. I'm bringing the stroke to the front. I'm using this one over here because while you're using the pen tool, that thing we love, disappears, so I'm using the swatches panel. I'm going to use green for my stroke, that still continues on with the pen tool. So, click in here, click in here, that's my terrible foot. Now, half way through this curve-- I'm going to zoom in a bit. Click and drag, and here's my corner, click once, click and drag, click once, click once for the tiny little feet. I don't even know how many toes it might my bird has. Oh, my terrible Kiwi!

So, lots of corners. Now this one's kind of cool, it curves that way, then curves that way, then curves that way, so it's going to be three. So it's going to be this one, and it's going to be this one, and it's going to be this one. Now if yours look nothing like that, don't worry, kind of get them in the right positions, and we can use the white arrow afterwards. Down here is the corner, but in the middle here-- Great, curve, click once. Big curve, click once, curve, click once. And let's go fix up this. It's okay. My drawing's not good, so the drawing on top of it can't be much worse, right?

So I'm going to select it with my black arrow, there we go, and then I'm going to give them no stroke, I'm going to give my fill color. Now I don't have my swatches from the last exercise, so what I'm going to do is probably just color him in a random color, and then change it when I drag him to my other document, because those colors will exist there. But what I'm going to do now is grab my white arrow, click on any of these anchor points, and start messing about with it to try and get some sort of dignity in my little bird. That's' bad. I'll try and fix up his head while we're there.

Now, I always find it’s easy just to draw over the top, hand draw it first, and then draw over the top and fix it up afterwards. You might be different, you might just start hand drawing it. So, the pen tool-- One last thing I’d like to share with you about the pen tool is, say there is a curve where there should be a corner, and a corner where there should be a curve, we did this a little earlier when we started adjusting existing vectors, check out that video. Let's say I want this to be a corner now, he's some sort of ridge back bird. So I've accidentally put a corner where I wanted-- sorry, a curve where I wanted a corner. So what I'm going to do is click on this, you can see, it's got a nice little point now. It's like a camel bird thing. And if I want to turn it back to having a curve, you can see, I can click curve. So I put it exactly back, so I'm going to have to drag it out. Nice! Awesome!

Say there's a point that you don't want. Say that I want to do this all on one point, there's this extra one that I don't want. You can select down any of the anchor points, and you can see up here, it says, 'Anchor', and there's one that says, 'Remove selected anchor points', and he'll disappear, and you might just try and actually move this one around, and try and get it at one big go, because it’s smoother. You can see, it kind of works, actually looks better. I'll leave him like that. I don't like him. I'm going back. That’s if you want to add an anchor point-- So what you can do is, you can grab the pen tool again, and if you decide you need another anchor point in about here, so, with just the pen tool selected, I can just click on there, and I got an extra one, because we have a little bit of extra control, just start moving around, and start playing with these guys. I'm going to undo it because I don't want it.

Now, we're going to move it to our other document, so I'm going to zoom out, I'm going to-- I don't need the crown, I just need these two, I'm going to select them both, I'm going to get a copy, so 'Edit', 'Copy', jump over to Illustrator, and what I'll do is I'll bin these guys, lovely as they were, I don't need them anymore. I've actually drawn my logo. You can re-use yours, you can delete the logo. Delete the logo, and then here's your new one that you've made, but I'm just going to paste these guys in. 

Interesting thing, can you see that bit that came along, it’s because I think I only had the white arrow, I only had that bit selected, so grab it with your black arrow, click off, select both of these guys, copy, and paste, here they are. Now I can go into my swatches and pick my fill color, I'm going to pick green, and what I'm going to do is I'm going to align them down the bottom, just kind of like a-- I don't really know why they're here, they’re more of the pen tool exercise, though I love them. I’m loving the Kiwi more, he's my Kiwi. And my little clover. Alright, I might grab them down the bottom here, this is like a cool little graphic thing. Kiwi's a little big.

Alright, that's it for the pen tool for the moment, and yeah, you might have to re-watch this one a couple of times. Pen tool can be hard, don't get discouraged, it is hard, I promise you. You ask any graphic designer that knows the pen tool, they'll hate it for a long time, until they had to use it for a little while, and then they'll kind of bridge that gap and start being able to use it, and then it becomes their best friend. I love it, you probably hate it at this stage. Just use the Shape Builder tool, and pen tool, when you have to. Alright, that's it for this video.

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