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Drawing curves

In this part of the lesson, you'll learn how to draw smooth curved lines with the pen tool. In vector drawing programs such as Adobe Illustrator, you draw a curve, called a Bézier curve, by setting anchor points and dragging to define the shape of the curve. Although drawing curves this way takes some getting used to, it gives you the most control and flexibility in computer graphics.

You'll draw the pear, its stem, and a leaf. You'll examine a single curve and then draw a series of curves together, using the template guidelines to help you.

Selecting a curve

Choose View > Curved Line to display a view of a curved line on the template.

Using the direct-selection tool ,click one of the segments of the curved line to view its anchor points and its direction lines, which extend from the points. The direct-selection tool lets you select and edit individual segments in the curved line.

Figure . A. Anchor point B. Direction line C. Direction point (or handle)


As their names imply, the anchor points anchor the curved segments, and the direction lines control the direction of the curves. You can drag the direction lines or their endpoints, called direction points or handles, to adjust the shape of the curve.

Anchor points, direction points, and direction lines are aids to help you draw. They always appear in the current layer color—in this case, red. Anchor points are square, and, when selected, appear filled; unselected, they appear unfilled, like hollow squares. Direction points are round. These lines and points do not print with the artwork.

By selecting the curve, you also select the paint attributes of the curve so that the next line you draw will have the same attributes. For more on paint attributes, see Lesson 3, "Painting."

Drawing the leaf

Now you'll draw the first curve of the leaf.

Choose View > Leaf or scroll down to see the guides for Leaf step 1.

Instead of dragging the pen tool to draw a curve, you drag it to set the starting point and the direction of the line's curve. When you release the mouse button, the starting point is created and two direction lines are formed. Then you drag the pen tool to end the first curve and to set the starting point and direction of the next curve on the line.

Select the pen tool ( ) and position it over point A on the template. Press the mouse button and drag from point A to the red dot. Then release the mouse button.

Next you'll set the second anchor point and its direction lines.

Figure . Drag to start the line and set direction of first curve.


Figure . Drag to end first curve and set direction of second curve.


Figure . Drag to end second curve and adjust its direction.


Press the mouse button and drag from point B to the next red dot. Then release the mouse button. Illustrator connects the two anchor points with a curve that follows the direction lines you have created. Notice that if you vary the angle of dragging, you change the amount of curve.

If you make a mistake as you draw, you can undo your work by choosing Edit > Undo. Adobe Illustrator by default lets you undo a series of actions—limited only by your computer's memory—by repeatedly choosing Edit > Undo. (To set the minimum number of undoes, choose Edit > Preferences > Units & Undo.)

To complete the curved line, drag the pen tool from point C on the template to the last red dot and release the mouse button.

Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) away from the line to indicate the end of the path. (You must indicate when you have finished drawing a path. You can also do this by clicking the pen tool in the toolbox, or by choosing Edit > Deselect All.)

Drawing different kinds of curves

Now you'll finish drawing the leaf by adding to an existing curved segment. Even if you end a path, you can return to the curve and add to it later. The Alt key (Windows) or Option key (Mac OS) lets you control the type of curve you draw.

Scroll down to the instructions on the template for Leaf step 2.

You'll add a corner point to the path. A corner point lets you change the direction of the curve. A smooth point lets you draw a continuous curve.

Position the pen tool over the end of the line at point A. The slash next to the pen tool indicates that you'll continue the path of the line rather than start a new line.

Hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) and notice that the status bar in the lower left corner of the window displays "Convert Anchor Point." Now Alt/Option-drag the pen tool from anchor point A to the red dot. Then release the mouse button.

Figure . A slash indicates pen tool is aligned with anchor.


Figure . Alt/Option-dragging creates corner point.


So far, all of the curves you have drawn have been open paths. Now you'll draw a closed path, in which the final anchor point is drawn on the first anchor point of the path. (Examples of closed paths include ovals and rectangles.) You'll close the path using a smooth point.

Position the pointer over anchor point B on the template. A small open circle appears next to the pen tool indicating that clicking will close the path. Press the mouse button and drag from this point to the second red dot.

Notice the direction lines where you close the path. The direction lines on both sides of a smooth point are aligned along the same angle.

Figure . A small circle indicates clicking with pen tool closes the path.


Figure . Drag to red dot to lengthen curved line.


Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) away from the line, and choose File> Save.

Changing a smooth curve to a corner and vice versa

Now you'll create the stem by adjusting a curved path. You'll convert a smooth point on the curve to a corner point and a corner point to a smooth point.

Choose View > Stem to display a magnified view of the stem.

Select the direct-selection tool ( ) in the toolbox, position the pointer over point A at the top of the curve to display a hollow square on the pointer, and then click the anchor point to select it and display its red direction lines for the smooth point.


Figure .


Select the convert-anchor-point tool ) from the same group as the pen tool in the toolbox.


Figure .


(When the pen tool is the current tool, a shortcut to get the convert-anchor-point tool is to press Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS).)

Using the convert-anchor-point tool, select the left direction point (on top of the red dot) on the direction line and drag it to the gold dot on the template, and then release the mouse button.

Dragging with the convert-anchor-point tool converts the smooth anchor point to a corner point and adjusts the angle of the left direction line.


Figure .


Using the convert-anchor-point tool, select the bottom anchor point and drag from point B to the red dot to convert the corner point to a smooth point, rounding out the curve, and then release the mouse button.


Figure .


Two direction lines emerge from the anchor point, indicating that it is now a smooth point.

When using the convert-anchor-point tool, keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Drag from the curve's anchor point for a smooth point and continuous curve.

  • Click the curve's anchor point or drag a handle (direction point) of the curve for a corner point on a discontinuous curve.

Choose File > Save.

Drawing the pear shape

Now you'll draw a single, continuous object that contains smooth points and corner points. Each time you want to change the direction of a curve at a point, you'll hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) to create a corner point.

Choose View > Pear to display a magnified view of the pear.


Figure .


First you'll draw the bite marks on the pear by creating corner points and changing the direction of the curve segments.

Select the pen tool ( ) from the same group as the convert-anchor-point tool ( ). Drag the pen tool from point A on the template to the red dot to set the starting anchor point and direction of the first curve. Release the mouse button.

Drag the pen tool from point B to the red dot—but don't release the mouse button—and hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) and drag the direction handle from the red dot to the gold dot. Release the mouse button.

Continue drawing to points C and D by first dragging from the anchor point to the red dot and then Alt/Option-dragging the direction handle from the red dot to the gold dot.

At the corner points B, C, and D, you first drag to continue the current segment, and then Alt/Option-drag to set the direction of the next curved segment.

Figure . Drag to adjust curve.


Figure . Alt/Option-drag direction point to set corner point.


Next, you'll complete drawing the pear by creating smooth points.

Drag from each of the points E through J to their red dots, and then click anchor point K to close the pear shape. Notice that when you hold the pointer over anchor point K, a small open circle appears next to the pen, indicating that the path will close when you click.

Hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) and click away from the path to deselect it, and choose File > Save.


Figure .


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