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Chapter 4. PATH TOOLS > Working with the Pen Tool

Working with the Pen Tool

One of the most important tools in any vector program is its Pen tool. The Pen tool allows you to precisely create a wide variety of shapes. The Fireworks Pen tool is similar to those found in Macromedia FreeHand and Adobe Illustrator. Before you learn to use the Pen, you should understand the elements of paths.

Anchor points define places in a path where the path changes direction or curvature. Segments are the paths that connect anchor points. Control handles extend out from anchor points; their length and direction control the shape of curved segments.

The best way to learn to use the Pen is to start by creating straight segments.

To create a straight path segment:

1.
Click the Pen tool in the Tools panel 13.

Figure 13. The Pen tool in the Tools panel.


2.
Move the pointer to the Canvas area. The Pen cursor displays an X next to it. This indicates the start of the path 14.

Figure 14. The start icon for the Pen tool.


3.
Click to create an anchor point which defines the beginning of the segment of the path.

4.
Move the cursor to where you want the next anchor point of the path. The Pen cursor changes so there is nothing next to it. This indicates that you can create a second point, connected to the first.

Tip

If you use Precise Cursors (see page 25), you do not see the Pen cursor. Rather you see a crosshair cursor.

5.
Click. This connects the two anchor points with a straight line segment 15.

Figure 15. Click with the Pen tool to create straight segments.


6.
Continue to create straight segments by repeating steps 4 and 5.

7.
To finish the path, hold the Command/Ctrl key, and click.

You can also the Pen tool to create curved segments. Think of a curved segment as the shape that a roller coaster follows along a track.

To create a curved path segment:

1.
Click the Pen tool in the Tools panel.

2.
Move the Pen cursor to the Canvas area. The Pen cursor displays an X next to it.

3.
Press and drag to create an anchor point with control handles.

4.
Release the mouse button. The length and direction of the handle control the height and direction of the curve 16.

Figure 16. Dragging with the Pen tool creates curved segments.


5.
Move the cursor to where you want the next anchor point of the path.

6.
Press and drag to create the curved segment between the two anchor points.

7.
Continue to create curved segments by repeating steps 3 and 4 17.

Figure 17. A path with a series of curved segments.


8.
To finish the path, hold the Command/Ctrl key, and click.

Curves do not have to be smooth. A corner curve has an abrupt change in direction. Think of a bouncing ball. Where the ball hits the ground, its path is a corner curve.

To create a corner curve:

1.
Press and drag to create an anchor point with control handles. Do not release the mouse button.

2.
Hold the Option/Alt key and then drag to pivot the second handle 18.

Figure 18. Hold the Option/Alt key to pivot the handles and create a corner curve.


Tip

The longer the handle, the steeper the curve.

3.
Release the mouse button when the second handle is the correct length and direction.

Once you have created a curved segment with two handles, you can retract the second handle back into the anchor point. This allows you to make the next path segment a straight path.

To retract the handle into a point:

1.
Press and drag with the Pen tool to create an anchor point with two control handles.

2.
Move the cursor back over the anchor point. A small caret appears next to the Pen cursor.

3.
Click. The handle retracts back into the anchor point 19.

Figure 19. Move the cursor back over a point and click to retract a handle along a curve.


4.
Continue the path with either a straight segment or a curved segment.

Tip

Click to make the next path segment straight. Drag to make the next path segment curved.

Once you click to create an anchor point with no control handles, you can extend a single handle out from that anchor point. This allows you to make the next path segment a curved path.

To extend a handle out from a point:

1.
Click to create an anchor point with no control handles.

2.
Move the pointer back over the anchor point you just created. A small caret appears next to the Pen cursor.

3.
Hold the Command +Option keys (Mac) or Ctrl+Alt keys (Win). The Pen cursor changes to a white arrow head.

4.
Press and drag out from the anchor point 20. A single control handle extends out from the anchor point.

Figure 20. Hold the Command+Option keys (Mac) or Ctrl+Alt keys (Win) to extend a handle out from an anchor point.


5.
Continue the path with a curved segment.

There are two ways to finish a path in Fireworks. The first way is to leave the end points of the path open. An open path is like a piece of string.

The second way to finish a path is to join the last point of the path to the first. This creates a closed path. A closed path is like a rubber band.

To create an open path:

1.
Move the Pen tool away from the last point of the path.

2.
Hold the Command/Ctrl key, and click. This leaves the path open 21 and allows you to continue using the Pen tool.

Figure 21. An Open path.


or

Switch to another tool in the Tools panel. This leaves the path open.

To create a closed path:

1.
Move the cursor to the first anchor point of the path. A small circle appears next to the Pen cursor. This indicates you are about to close the path 22.

Figure 22. The Closed path icon next to the Pen tool indicates that you are about to create a closed path.


2.
Click to close the path.

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