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Vector Drawing with Illustrator: Easier Than You Think

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You've probably been creating bitmap art for years, or even decades. David Karlins thinks it's about time you investigated the possibilities of creating vector drawings. The concepts and terminology are a bit less like working with paint on canvas - but the technology is a lot more powerful.

Smoothing Out Your Path Automatically

Until you get used to adjusting control points to manage curves, you’ll appreciate a feature that Illustrator provides to smooth out a jagged path. Choose Object > Path > Simplify to open the Simplify dialog box and clean up selected curves. The Simplify dialog box has a number of useful options:

  • Curve Precision. A higher Curve Precision value increases the number of anchors that will be left after simplifying.
  • Angle Threshold. This slider can be used to prevent some angle anchors from being smoothed into curves.
  • Straight Lines. This check box changes paths to straight lines.
  • Show Original and Preview. Don’t be too concerned about the meanings of all the settings in the dialog box. Instead, click both the Show Original and Preview check boxes to display the original anchors in red and the anchors that result from simplifying in blue. Play with the settings until your preview curve looks the way you want it.

You can also add anchor points automatically between all anchor point in a selected path. Select the path, and then choose Object > Path > Add Anchor Points. This option instantly doubles the number of anchor points, providing more flexibility in manipulating the path.

As I explained earlier, the Convert Anchor Point tool can be used to convert sharp-angled anchors to smooth anchors. It also can work the other way. If you want to convert a smooth anchor back to a regularly angled point, click the anchor with the Convert Anchor Point tool again.

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