Creating Vector Art with the Pen Tool

Interested in majoring in art in college? Consider attending National Portfolio Day on Sunday, November 5th at RIT to gain valuable insight on your portfolio. It is free and open to the public.

Today’s essential question: How can I use the pen tool to create vector imagery in Adobe Illustrator?

Remember how scaling a raster image larger will pixelate the image (as in the example below)?
pixelated_escher_screen_shot

Today we will learn about a different type of image called a vector. Vector images can be scaled infinitely and will never get blurry. Logos are usually vector images so they can be printed on everything from buttons to billboards without becoming blurry.

Here are some examples of vector art:

air-jordan-logo-brand-1000x500   OVO OWL1-B-LOGO-JPG

We will use the pen tool in Adobe Illustrator to create our Kara Walker inspired silhouettes for our next project. Keep this in mind as you complete today’s pen tool tutorial. Your comfort level with the pen tool will determine how simple or complex you should make your silhouette project concept.

Vector Practice Tutorial

We will view a demo at the Smart Board and then follow these steps:

Part 1: Setting Up the File
  1. Right-click to save the image below:
    vector_practice
  2. Open Adobe Illustrator.
  3. Select “New Print Document” from the pop up screen.
  4. Create a new file in Adobe Illustrator with the following guidelines:
    1_file_setup
  5. Place the image you just downloaded from this blog post. (File -> place)
    DO NOT try to open your downloaded image in Illustrator! This will cause strange things to happen.
Part 2: Using the Pen Tool to Draw Straight Lines
  1. Create a new layer by clicking on the “new layer” button at the bottom of the layers palette on the right side of the screen. new_layer_button
  2. Select the pen tool. pen_tool
  3. You can change the color by clicking on the square at the bottom of the toolbar on the left hand side of the screen: 2_color_change
  4. Trace over your first shape (the star). Click once to add the first anchor point. Move your mouse to the next position and click again to create the second point. The two anchor points will be connected together.3_star1
  5. Continue clicking points around the star IN ORDER until you reach the starting point.
    4_star2
    5_star3
    (You may need to decrease the opacity of the star you are drawing so you can see what you are tracing. You can do this by clicking on the transparency icon on the right side of the screen and decreasing the opacity so it is below 100. transparency_window)
    6_star4
  6. Close the path by clicking on the starting point a second time. Bring the opacity back 100% and adjust the color if necessary.
    7_star5
Part 3: Using the Pen Tool to Draw Curves
  1. Click to create your first point.
  2. Click where you would like your next point to be, but do not let go of the mouse until you have dragged the point to adjust the curve:
    heart1
  3. Click on the middle dot. This should make the second half of the tangent line, or handle, disappear:
    heart2
  4. Click where you would like your next point to be, but do not let go of the mouse until you have dragged the point to adjust the curve:
    heart3
  5. Once again, click on the middle dot. This should make the second half of the tangent line, or handle, disappear:
    heart4
  6. Continue adding points around the heart in order. Close the path by clicking on the starting point a second time.
    heart5
  7. Follow the same steps to outline the apple.
  8. Follow the same steps to outline the dog.
Part 4: Saving your file and posting to the blog
  1. Save your file as a .pdf (File -> Save As -> PDF)
  2. Create a new blog post with the PDF of your progress.

Today we will:

  • Complete the pen tool mini lesson in Adobe Illustrator
  • Save our file as a PDF
  • Create a new blog post with the following:
    • the PDF file of our completed mini lesson
    • a few sentences describing any challenges you faced, how you worked through them, and how you feel about the pen tool
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