How to use the Pen Tool in illustrator

In this illustrator lesson, we will be discussing, ‘How to use the Pen tool in illustrator‘ by Lalit Adhikari at LTY.

How to use Pen tool in illustrator

Pen Tool is one of the most important and used tool in not just Adobe illustrator but in whole Graphic Designing. This tool is typically what you will be using while creating professional-grade logos, for typography and for screen printing on T-Shirts. This is also one of my favourite tools and I always recommend students to practice it a lot.

Pen tool requires a large amount of practice and self-discipline to master it. Initially, you can practice by drawing over an image (a process called tracing) and eventually start creating your own designs.

So, this is one of the most important tools to master on to be a graphic designer.

If you are a beginner, a pen tool might seem a little bit hard to get a full grasp on, but it’s really pretty simple once you’ve understood the basic principles behind it.

The pen tool works by creating paths which are connected by control points. To select the pen tool go to the tools panel on the left side of the interface and click on the pen tool menu or just press P on your keyboard.

After selecting the pen tool, set the fill color to none and select any color for the stroke. 

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Creating Straight Paths

Paths created by Pen Tool in illustrator
Paths created using Pen Tool in illustrator

Create an open path

At first, place a point by just clicking on the stage while selecting the pen tool. After doing that you will see that your path is now anchored to that point and you can move freely around it.

Then click on another point and gradually move to another and press enter when it’s done.

Create a closed path

After this practice, you can move on to creating a closed path. To do this, repeat the above process and connect all the points creating a closed path.

While connecting the anchor points, you will see the little circle right next to your cursor. And this indicates that you are about to connect the last point and close your path.

Create slant paths at perfect 45 degree angle

To do this, at first create your first point but this time hold down shift key and it will make the path anchored to that point to move in perfect 45’angles.

You will see that as you move around your control point, the path will snap to the closest vertical, horizontal or 45 degree angles.

And this property of Illustrator can really come in handy when you are creating shapes or any illustrations.

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Bezier Curves

In the above section, I talked about creating straight paths, but paths can also be curved. The vector curves created with the pen tool are called Bezier Curves.

For example: try to create this a simple semi-circular curve by following these instructions:

Handles in Anchor point using Pen tool in illustrator
Handles from anchor point by Pen tool in illustrator
  • At first, create your starting point on one end of the curve, but this time just click and hold.
Semi-circular path created using pen tool in illustrator
Path drawn using Pen Tool
  • Now, as you drag your cursor you can see that you have two handles that can rotate on their own. The way you position these handles will determine the angle and shape of your curve.
semi circular path created using pen tool in illustrator
Path created using Pen Tool
  • Again if you hold Shift, you’ll be able to drag these handles in a perfectly vertical or horizontal line.

You good to create your curve with as little points as possible and advantage of this is smoother looking curves. You can also make freehand curves without holding down Shift key if you are going for a more inconsistent type of shape.

Breaking Paths

breaking the extra handle from the anchor point
Pen tool path

One thing to remember here is that handles will only allow you to create curves. So you need to break the handle by clicking on the anchor point if you require converting a curve into an angled corner or a pointy tip.

Adding & removing anchor Points on the Path

If you make a path using the illustrator pen tool and then hover the cursor above the anchor point, you will notice a minus icon appear. And if you then click this will remove the anchor point.

Also, if you hover over the path itself with the anchor point in place, you can then add an anchor point. You can then go ahead and edit the anchor points.

Add or Delete Anchor Point using Pen tool in illustrator
Pen Tool fly-out menu

If you still can’t find those options, select the pen tool from the toolbar and hold your cursor, a fly out menu will appear which have separate options for ‘adding anchor point’ and ‘deleting anchor point’.

My last advice to master the pen tool in illustrator is “PRACTICE”. Also, you can Google search ‘Pen tool practice’ and take a look at the images. You will find many templates to try and draw around.

If you are following our Free Illustrator Lessons and Tutorial Guide, then next you should read about, ‘How to use Perspective Grid Tool and Perspective Selection Tool in illustrator‘.

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Lalit Adhikari
Lalit Adhikari

Lalit Adhikari is the Main Author and Admin at Learn That Yourself. He has work experience of more than 10 years in the field of Multimedia and teaching experience of more than 5 years.

Articles: 275


  1. I love the efforts you have put in explaining how to use pen tool in adobe illustrator, thanks for all the other great blog posts.

  2. Pen tool is my favorite vector tool. It is just amazing. Thanks for the post.

  3. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really loved browsing your blog posts.

  4. One of the best blogs for design software tool explanation. Thanks and keep it going.

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