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Building a curve

In this part of the lesson, you will learn how to control the direction handles in order to control curves.

Open the file named L4strt_03.ai from the Lesson04 folder. On this page you can see the paths that you will create. A template layer has been created in this file so that you can practice using the Pen tool () by tracing. (See Lesson 7, “Working with Layers,” for information about creating layers.) The work area below the path is for additional practice on your own.

Choose File > Save As. In the Save As window, navigate to the Lesson04 folder and open it. Type path3.ai in the File name text field. In the Save as Type drop-down menu, choose Adobe Illustrator (.AI). In the Illustrator Options window, leave the default settings and choose OK.

Press Z to switch to the Zoom tool () and drag a marquee around the first curve.

Zoom in to a specified area by dragging a marquee when on the Zoom tool.

Select the Pen tool and click and hold at the base of the left side of the arch and drag up to create a direction line going the same direction as the arch. It helps to remember to always follow the direction of the curve. Release the mouse when the direction line is slightly above the arch.

When a curve goes up, the direction line should also go up.


The artboard may scroll as you drag the anchor point. If you lose visibility of the curve, choose View > Zoom out until you see the curve and anchor point. Pressing the spacebar will temporarily give you the Hand tool and allow you to reposition the artwork.

Click on the lower right base of the arch path and drag down. Release the mouse when the top direction line is slightly above the arch.

To control the path, pay attention to where the direction handles fall.

If the path you created is not aligned exactly with the template, return to the Direct Selection tool () and select the anchor points one at a time. Then, adjust the direction handles until your path follows the template more accurately.


Pulling the direction handle longer makes a higher slope, while pulling it shorter makes the slope flatter.

Use the Selection tool () and click on the artboard anywhere there are no other objects, or choose Select > Deselect. If necessary, zoom out to see the next path on this page.

If you click with the Pen tool while the original path is still active, the path will connect to the next point. Deselecting the first path allows you to create a new path.

Save the file by choosing File > Save.


You can also hold down the Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) key to temporarily switch you to the Selection or Direct Selection tool, whichever was last used. Hold down Ctrl/Command and click on the artboard where there are no objects to deselect.

Select the Pen tool and click and drag at the left base of path “B,” again in the direction of the arch. Click and drag down on the next square point, adjusting the arch with the direction handle before you release the mouse. Don’t worry if it is not exact; you can correct this with the Direct Selection tool when the path is complete.

Click and drag up to create the upward arch.

Continue along the path, alternating between clicking and dragging up and down. Put anchor points only where you see the square boxes. If you make a mistake as you draw, you can undo your work by choosing Edit > Undo. Adobe Illustrator CS2, by default, lets you undo a series of actions—limited only by your computer’s memory—by repeatedly choosing Edit > Undo or Ctrl+Z (Windows) or Command+Z (Mac OS).

Alternate between dragging up and down with the Pen tool.

When the path is complete, choose the Direct Selection tool and select an anchor point. When the anchor is selected, the direction handles reappear, and you can readjust the slope of the path.

Practice repeating these paths in the work area.

Choose File > Save and close the file.

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