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How to Create Basic Shapes in Illustrator CS

  • Sample Chapter is provided courtesy of Adobe Press.
  • Date: Oct 27, 2006.

Chapter Description

Many objects in the Adobe Illustrator program can be created by starting with basic shapes and then editing them to create new shapes. In this lesson, you'll use some basic shapes to create a logo. Along the way, you'll learn how to use tools and commands to create basic shapes, copy and combine objects to create new shapes, paint objects, and more.

Drawing the Pencil Shape

In Adobe Illustrator, you control the thickness and color of lines that you draw by setting stroke attributes. A stroke is the paint characteristics of a line or the outline of an object. A fill is the paint characteristics of the inside of an object. The default settings will let you see the objects you draw with a white fill and a black outline.

First you’ll draw a series of rectangles and triangles that make up the pencil. You’ll display Smart Guides to align your drawing.

  1. Select the Zoom tool (zoom1.jpg) in the toolbox, and click in the middle of the window once or twice until you are zoomed in to 150%. (Notice that 150% is displayed in the bottom left corner of the window.)
  2. Choose View > Smart Guides to turn them on. Smart Guides automatically snap the edges of objects to nearby objects or their intersect points as you move them. Smart Guides also show Text Label Hints that display information on the position the pointer is currently snapped to (such as “center”) as you manipulate the pointer.

    You’ll display the Info palette to check the dimensions of the rectangle you draw.

  3. Choose Window > Info to display the Info palette.
  4. Select the Rectangle tool (rectagle.jpg), and drag it to draw a rectangle that’s 0.75 inch wide and 1 inch tall. (Use the rulers and the grid as guides.) This will be the body of the pencil.

    When you release the mouse button, the rectangle is automatically selected and its center point appears. All objects created with the shape tools have a center point that you can drag to align the object with other elements in your artwork. You can make the center point visible or invisible (using the Attributes palette), but you cannot delete it.

  5. In the Info palette, note the rectangle’s width and height. If necessary, choose Edit > Undo, and redraw the rectangle.

    You’ll draw another rectangle centered inside the first one to represent the two vertical lines on the pencil.

  6. With the Rectangle tool still selected, position the pointer over the center point of the rectangle, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS), and drag out from the center point to draw a rectangle that’s centered inside it. Release the mouse button when the rectangle is the same height as the first rectangle (1 inch).

    Holding down Alt/Option as you drag the Rectangle tool draws the rectangle from its center point rather than from its top left corner. Smart Guides indicate when you’ve snapped to the first rectangle’s edge, by displaying the text label hint “path.”

    Besides dragging a tool to draw a shape, you can click with the tool to open a dialog box of options. Now you’ll create a rounded rectangle for the eraser by setting options in a dialog box.

  7. Select the Rounded Rectangle tool (rectagle.jpg), and click once in the artwork to open the Rounded Rectangle dialog box. Type 0.75 in the Width text box, press Tab, and type 0.75 in the Height text box. Then press Tab again, and type 0.20 in the Corner Radius text box (the radius is the amount of the curve on the corners). Click OK.

    tip_cib.gif To automatically enter identical Width and Height values in the Ellipse or either Rectangle dialog box, enter a Width or Height value, and then click the name of the other value to enter the same amount.

    You’ll use Smart Guides to help you align the eraser to the top of the pencil body.

  8. Choose View > Hide Bounding Box to hide the bounding boxes of selected objects. This will prevent you from accidentally distorting the eraser shape when you move and align it.

    The bounding box appears as a temporary boundary around selected objects. With the bounding box, you can move, rotate, duplicate, and scale objects easily by dragging the selection or a handle (one of the hollow squares surrounding the selected objects). When you release the mouse button, the object snaps to the current border created by the bounding box, and you see the object’s outline move.

  9. With the Rounded Rectangle tool still selected, hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) to select the Selection tool (select.jpg) temporarily. Select the right edge of the eraser without releasing the mouse button, and then drag the eraser to the right side of the pencil body (Smart Guides indicate the path of the right side). Release the mouse button to drop the eraser on top of the pencil body.
  10. Then hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS), select the bottom edge of the eraser, and drag it up to the intersect point at the top of the pencil body. Release the mouse button.

    Next you’ll create two shapes to represent the metal bands connecting the eraser to the pencil.

  11. To create the first band, click once anywhere in the artwork to open the Rounded Rectangle dialog box again. Type 0.85 in the Width text box, 0.10 in the Height text box, and 0.05 in the Corner Radius text box. Click OK.
  12. Click the Selection tool (select.jpg) to select the band, select the bottom left anchor point, and move the band to the top of the pencil body. Release the mouse button. (Smart Guides snap the anchor point to the top corner of the pencil body.)
  13. With the band still selected, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS), select the anchor point again, drag straight up to make a copy, and move it above the original band. Release the mouse button. (Smart Guides snap the anchor point of the new copy to the top of the original band.)

    You’ve been working in Preview view. This default view of a document lets you see how objects are painted (in this case, with a white fill and black stroke). If paint attributes seem distracting, you can work with just the wireframe view of an object.

    Now you’ll draw two triangles to represent the pencil tip and its lead using Outline view.

  14. Choose View > Outline to switch from Preview view to Outline view.

    Illustrator lets you control the shape of polygons, stars, and ellipses by pressing certain keys as you draw. You’ll draw a polygon and change it to a triangle.

  15. Select the Polygon tool (polygon.jpg), and position the pointer over the center point of the two rectangles.
  16. Drag to begin drawing a polygon, but don’t release the mouse button. Press the Down Arrow key three times to reduce the number of sides on the polygon to a triangle, and move the mouse in an arc to rotate one side of the triangle to the top. Before you release the mouse button, hold down the spacebar and drag the triangle down to position it below the pencil body. Release the mouse button when the triangle is positioned.

    Now you’ll create the second triangle for the pencil’s lead tip using the Scale tool.

  17. With the triangle still selected, select the Scale tool (scale1.jpg) in the toolbox and then Alt+click (Windows) or Option+click (Mac OS) the bottom corner point of the triangle.

    Clicking the corner point of the triangle sets the reference point from which the new triangle will scale. Holding down Alt/Option as you click displays the Scale dialog box.

  18. In the Scale dialog box, type 30% in the Scale text box and click Copy. (Don’t click OK.)

    Next you will use the line Segment tool to quickly draw a horizontal line segment near the top of the pencil.

  19. Select the line Segment tool (segment.jpg), and position the pointer over the left side of the pencil near the top. Click where you want the line to begin, and drag to where you want the line to end. As you drag, hold down Shift to constrain the line horizontally.

    Note: The Line and Arc Segment tool Options dialog boxes display the values of the last segment created. You can reset to the default values in the dialog box by pressing Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) and clicking Reset.

  20. Choose File > Save to save your work.
5. Drawing the Piece of Stationery | Next Section Previous Section

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