What is the Illustrator Line Tool?

Adobe Illustrator comes equipped with versatile drawing tools that allow you to realize any complex shape or design. Before you can realize your creative vision, however, you'll need to learn how to harness the full toolkit. In this walkthrough, we've outlined how to use each Illustrator Line tool to create straight, curved, and spiral lines. 

Open and Closed Paths
In Illustrator, a vector-based line is called a path, and it can comprise a single straight line or multiple line segments that go in any direction. Each path segment has anchor points on either side of it, and these allow you to adjust the segment's angle or position on the artboard. Paths can be open (i.e. a curved line) or closed (i.e. a triangle), depending on your creative needs.  

Using the Line Segment Tool
First, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the main Illustrator Line tool, which is called the Line Segment tool. Found in the Tools panel (it looks like a diagonal line), the Line Segment tool allows you to draw straight paths with a few mouse clicks. You can also select it by pressing the \ key.  

Choose the Line Segment tool and then move your cursor where you'd like the straight line to start. Click and drag the mouse to create a line, and then release your mouse button when you've reached the desired endpoint. Holding the Shift key while dragging will lock your line segment to 45-degree increments, so you can draw a perfectly straight or diagonal line. 

You can also click once on the artboard with the Line Segment tool to launch a Line Segment Tool Options box, and then manually enter values for the line length and angle.  

Using the Arc Tool
Next, the Arc tool (and Spiral tool) can be found by clicking and holding the mouse over the Line Segment tool, which will bring up a submenu. Just like the Line Segment tool, you draw paths with the Arc by clicking and dragging from the start point to the endpoint. Holding the Shift key while dragging the Arc tool will also limit the curve to 45-degree increments. 

Now you'll see a curved path, with a slope determined by the Arc Segment Tool Options. To access this dialog box, click once on the artboard or double-click on the Arc icon in the Tools panel. Unlike the Line Segment tool, the Arc requires a bit of math if you want to draw specific curves, but thankfully there's a preview window. Here's what the options do:

  • Length X-Axis: The arc's width.
  • Length Y-Axis: The arc's height.
  • Type: Open or closed arc path.
  • Base Along: Direction of the arc's base. X Axis draws your arc's base on the horizontal axis, and Y Axis draws it on the vertical axis. 
  • Slope: Choose a number between -100 and 100 to determine the arc's slope. Negative values create concave slopes, positive values create convex slopes, and a 0 value creates a straight line. 

Using the Spiral Tool
Located below the Arc tool in Tools panel submenu, the Spiral tool allows you to draw smooth spirals by clicking and dragging on the artboard. Click once on the artboard to bring up the Spiral dialog box, with options for the spiral's radius, decay, number of segments, and spiral direction (clockwise or counterclockwise).

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