Creating artwork with the Illustrator pen tool

Image of Illustrator with pen tool drawing on laptop

The basics of creating new artwork with the Pen tool. The Pen tool, found in the Toolbar, is one of the most powerful drawing tools in Illustrator. With it, you can create and edit anchor points and paths.

Tip: Set stroke and fill before drawing. To start with the Pen tool, select the Pen tool in the Toolbar and, in the Properties panel, set the stroke weight to 1 pt, the color to black, and the fill to none.

Create straight lines

To create straight lines with the Pen tool, click and release to create an anchor point. Move the pointer, and you’ll see a preview of the path you are creating. Click and release to create another anchor point. You can continue clicking and releasing in different areas to create more anchor points for the path.

To close a path, move the pointer over the original anchor point and, when a circle shows next to the pointer, press the Shift key and click the end point. To stop drawing a path without closing it, press the Escape key.

Create curves

To draw a curve when creating an anchor point, drag to create direction handles, and then release. The more you drag when creating or editing anchor point handles, the more curve the path has.

Create corner points (change path direction)

To change the direction of a path while drawing, drag to create a smooth point (a curve). Release the mouse button. Move the pointer over the end of a direction handle, press the Option key (macOS) or Alt key (Windows), and drag the end of the handle to split them.

Remove direction handles

To remove a direction handle as you draw with the Pen tool, so that you can go from a curve to a straight line, click back on the last anchor point created to remove the handle. Then continue drawing.

Download this Practice file to get started with the pen tool.

Table of Contents:
00:24 – Tips to get started
00:40 – Opening the pen tool
00:53 – Adding points
01:00 – Previewing paths
01:30 – Connecting points for closed path
02:07 – Use command to deselect
02:22 – Creating curved lines
02:55 – Direction handles explained
03:38 – Use direct selection to move handles
04:14 – Removing direction handles as you draw
05:02 – Converting anchor points
05:50 – Adding anchor points
06:04 – Removing anchor points
06:07 – Anchor Point tool
06:33 – How to tell what point is selected
06:44 – Join selected end points
07:03 – Trimming paths