Illustrator CC – Working with new Pencil Tool and Path Segment Reshape

Illustrator CC remains one of the best tools for creating vector based graphics and with the SVG support across all modern browsers it becomes one of the de facto tools for creating complex SVG files for the web.

Regardless of what your illustration target is (the web or paper) chances are you are going to draw lots of curves and lines and (more importantly) to adjust them after the initial drawing.

The update we released today just made these two tasks much easier.

Increased control when drawing lines with the new Pencil Tool

Even if you have a Wacom tablet/pen you’re still going to love this feature: when you use the Pencil Tool to draw free hand paths there is a new option that provides complete control over how much smoothness Illustrator should apply to your hand drawing.

Select the Pencil Tool and then double-click on it. This will open the Pencil Tool Options window. At the top of this window you’ll find a slider that allows you to control the Fidelity parameter.

Fidelity attribute in Pencil Tool Options window.

Drag it to the left (Accurate) and you get a path that is closer to your cursor movement having more control points. Drag it to right (Smooth) and you get a path that is automatically smoothed by Illustrator with fewer control points.

Just to give you a quick taste of this new setting I used my laptop’s touchpad to draw a capital “C”. For the left drawing I set the Fidelity attribute to the extreme left (fully Accurate) and for the right drawing I set Fidelity the other way around (fully Smooth).

Fidelity attribute in action for Pencil Tool

If you want to draw a straight line press and hold Alt key for unconstrained lines or Shift key for constrained lines (0, 45, 90, 135, 180, … degrees).

Creating complex shapes with the Pencil Tool

The new Pencil Tool and improved Path Segment Reshape make the creation of complex shapes a lot easier.

With the Pencil Tool you can quickly create a new complex object. You start with the first segment. Once you have this in place if you hover over one of the two end points, the cursor will change (a dash appears) and you can go on and draw the second segment. When you want to close the shape, the cursor will display a small circle instead of a dash – you just click when the circle icon appears and you are done. Here is something I drew using my laptop’s touchpad (the Fidelity attribute was set to full Smooth):

Complex Paths with Pencil Tool

You can add new segments to a path you already closed. If you want to do this, select the path, select the Pencil Tool and hold on the Alt key when hovering over the shape lines. When the dash icon appears next to your cursor, click it to add a new segment.

Refining shapes using the Path Segment Reshape tool

The Path Segment Reshape tool can be used when you need to change or adjust a shape. No matter how precise your initial drawing is you’ll most likely want to touch up some of the lines. One quick way is to select the Anchor Point Tool (Shift + C) and then hover over one of the segments you want to edit. The cursor will change (a single Bezier curve will appear under the cursor) and then if you click and drag you can change that curve or line.

I used this to change the shape I drew in the previous step (I highlighted the tool and cursor with red in the image).

Path Segment Reshape

You can also change the position of an anchor point if you hover over one of them while holding on Command key or you can constrain if you press and hold Shift while dragging a line.

If you are wondering why I am obsessed with the letter C here’s the answer: It all started in first grade when I learned to write my last name. After years of practice I feel like I am getting closer to perfection :)

4 thoughts on “Illustrator CC – Working with new Pencil Tool and Path Segment Reshape

  1. Pingback: Great Creative Cloud Updates for Designers | Mihai CORLAN

  2. Will CC allow us to “true” an existing shape, like a curve in a logo? All previous Illustrator versions allowed a designer to constrain the angles of the points on each end of a segment. You could then slide the middle of a curve in or out without affecting other segments. When working with a letterform, you need to isolate each segment from the next. CC doesn’t seem to want to work that way anymore.

  3. Salutari Mihai. Spune-mi te rog, exista vtr-o forma de a desena o linie absolut dreapta cu “pencil tool”? In Photoshop utilizam Shift dar in Illustrator se pare ca nu functioneaza asa.
    Salutari din Venezuela,

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