How to Use the Pen Tool in Illustrator

In this handy guide, we've shared how to use the Pen tool in Illustrator to draw lines, curves, and complex shapes.  

Drawing a Line:
First, select the Pen tool from the main toolbar, or press the P key. Unlike the Brush tool, you use the Pen to create anchor points and draw line segments between them. Click anywhere on your canvas to add an anchor point that starts your line segment, and then click again to add a second anchor point that ends your segment. Illustrator will automatically connect the two points with a line. No dragging necessary.

When creating a new segment, if you hold down the Shift key as you click, the line will be constrained to the vertical or horizontal plane (any multiple of 45º). Once you've drawn the first line segment, you can keep clicking to add more anchor points that continue your path. 

Finishing (or "closing") the path is easy — just move your cursor over the first anchor point, and you should see a tiny circle appear next to the Pen pointer. Then, click on the point to draw the final line segment. Depending on your creative needs, you can also leave the path open by pressing CTRL+Click (or Command+Click on Mac) away from the path. 

Drawing a Curve:
To transform your straight line segments into curves, you need to use the Pen tool's direction lines. These adjust the slope and direction of an individual line segment. 

With the Pen tool selected, click on your canvas to create a new anchor point, hold down the mouse button, and then drag your cursor to change the angle and length of the direction line. As you adjust this line, your Pen cursor will look like a black arrow. 

To create a smooth curve, direction lines should generally be extended about a third of the way to the next anchor point in your path. If you're not happy with a curve, however, you can always adjust a direction line later. Just like with straight line segments, if you hold down the Shift key when drawing curves, they'll be constrained to 45º increments. When you're ready to finish a path, move your cursor over the first anchor point and click.  

Drawing a Complex Shape:
Once you've learned how to draw straight lines and curves with the Pen, you can use the two functions to create any shape. Remember, simply clicking with the Pen will add anchor points and draw straight lines between them. If you follow that action by clicking and dragging, the next segment will be a curve. Just get comfortable with the direction lines, and you can draw anything with the Pen!

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