Technique Thursday - Illustrator Pencil tool Part 1

Friday, February 25, 2011
By request I am going to show you how easy it is to use the Illustrator Pencil tool to create some fun and cute doodles that can be saved as templates to use over and over again.

I have found one of the easiest ways to draw on the computer and create doodles and even templates from my doodles is using this awesome little tool.  This week I'm going to show you how to create your doodle, next week we will take our doodle and create a template from it.

I am using my Wacom Pad to draw today, but you can use your mouse if you don't have one.

Let's begin by opening a new document.  FILE>NEW
And put in the options I have here for the purpose of this lesson. Give it a name and click OK.

Let's get to know a couple of the tools we'll be using first. I am only going to introduce you to the tools we will be using today.

Drawing a Line
Select the pencil tool and click and drag to draw a free hand line drawing.  I'm drawing a cute little flower today for Miss Bailey to color next time she comes over.
As you draw your petal shape and get close to where you began you'll want to close the path to make a complete shape. 

To close a path, hold Alt/Option key as your Pencil Tool reaches the start point. A circle icon will appear next to the Pencil Tool to indicate path closure.
Here's my first two petals of my flower.
Then I continued to add 3 more petals. Hint: Nature works in odd numbers so I have a total of 5 petals.

You will notice that one of them has a jagged line.  I did this on purpose so I could show you the smooth tool and how it works.

Normally when you draw with the Pencil Tool, the path looks jaggy until you get a lot of practice in using your Wacom Pad.  To smoothen the parts that are jaggy, first use your selection tool (V).  That's the Black arrow at the top of the menu.  And drag your curser over part of one of the petals you want to smooth.  It will show up highlighted in blue (as shown below),  and if you enlarged this pic, you would see all the dots, or anchor points.  
Select your pencil tool and hold Alt/Option to turn the Pencil Tool to the smooth tool, OR if you pulled out the menu as I like to do, just select the smooth tool in the middle
Then draw over the the area of the lines which you would like to smoothen.  Think of just tracing over the lines.  Do this over and over your jagged line until it smooths out to how you would like it.  
This is the result after I used this several times over the jag on my petal.  Pretty impressive isn't it?  Makes me look good. :)

I wasn't happy with the location this petal ended up.  So with it selected I go back to my Selection Tool (V), click and hold and move it into place.  You can also go to an outside corner and rotate it a bit if you like.  
When you are happy with it, just click outside your art board to deselect. 

Next step.  Create a new layer in the layers Panel.  See New layer circled in red here.
Now draw a little circle for the flowers center.  Remember to hold your Alt/Option key to close your circle.
Again, if it's too jagged, select it using the Selection tool and then use your smooth tool to smooth out any jagged parts or to make rounder.
Add another new layer.  Then draw a stem.  Make sure you draw the whole outline of the stem if you want to be able to color fill this later not just a single line, but a single line works too.  

Create another new layer.  Then draw a leaf on each side coming from the bottom of your stem.  Close your leaf by holding the Alt/Option key to close the shape.  Use your selection tool and smooth tool again if you like. 
Save your file!
So this is what I ended up with.  Cute isn't she? 

 The beauty of this is that I made the petals on one layer, the flower center on a separate layer, the stem on it's own layer and the leaves on their own layer.  

Why?  Because now I can fill each shape and export out to a PSD to use in my photoshop and color, clip papers to the parts and then get into all my detail work of shading and painting.  

But we'll save that until next week.  
For now I just want you to practice using these tools to make shapes so you get them embedded into your workflow.  Practice!  Then feel free to show us your doodles in our gallery.  

See you back here again next week where we will learn how to color in our doodles using Live Paint. 


  1. CraftCrave said...:

    Just a quick note to let you know that a link to this post will be placed on CraftCrave today [26 Feb 12:00am GMT]. Thanks, Maria

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