Illustrator Pen tool basics


Learning the nuances of the Illustrator pen tool takes time and practice. I found an exercise created by Belgian-based web/graphic designer Veerle many years ago. I’ve often used her exercise as an in-class project for my beginner design students.

Veerle created this three-page Illustrator pen tool exercise back in 2007; she writes about it on her design blog. She also provides a download link for this exercise from DropBox:

In the videos below, I’m sharing tips for beginner design students working on completing the assignment. Good luck!

Remember: Practice. Practice. Repeat. Practice. As Veerle writes, “Once you have done these exercises several times, I hope you’ll understand the Pen tool and its quirks a little better.”

Videos of How-Tos for Using the Illustrator Pen Tool – Practice Exercises

Combine curves with straight lines
Make curves with corner points with the pen tool
Make curved lines with corners in Adobe Illustrator.
Practice using the Adobe Illustrator Pen tool: Make curved lines and straight lines

Adobe Illustrator Pen Tool Tips

These are frequently asked questions that students pose while working on this assignment.

If I’m not making a closed shape, how do I end a path or line in Illustrator using the pen tool?

When you’re finished with your path, then you can end or stop making points in your pen tool’s path by doing one of the following in Illustrator :
1) Click ESC on the keyboard
2) Switch away from the pen tool. Choosing any other tool will deselect and stop the pen tool from continuing to make points.
3) Choose Select > Deselect from the top menu
4) Push Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac) and click anywhere else on your artboard

Happy Designing!

About the author

Kelly Barkhurst

Designer to Fullstack is my place to geek out and to share tech solutions from my day-to-day as a designer, programmer, and business owner (portfolio). I also write on Arts and Bricks, a parenting blog and decal shop that embraces my family’s love of Art and LEGO bricks!

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