Creating Curves with the Flash 5 Pen

Creating your own graphics in Flash can be big fun — really! The Flash graphics tools offer you the opportunity to easily create interesting and professional-looking shapes. Of course, you can also import graphics created in other programs.

If you're new to Flash, take the time to try out all the tools and techniques for drawing and editing. Keep in mind that before you can make anything move, you need to create the graphics that form the building blocks of your animation. Explore, experiment, and enjoy!

A new tool for Flash 5, the Pen, lets you draw Bezier curves, also called splines. Bezier curves are named after the French mathematician Pierre Bezier, who first described them. Using the Pen tool, you can create smooth curves that flow into each other. You can also create straight lines.

You can set preferences for the Pen tool by choosing Edit --> Preferences and clicking the Editing tab. Check out Show Pen Preview to display a preview of the line or curve as you draw. This setting helps you get a better idea of what the result will be. Click OK when you finish setting your preferences.

To create a line or curve, choose the Pen tool from the Drawing toolbox. What you do next depends on whether you want to draw a straight line or a curve.

Drawing straight lines

To draw a straight line with the Pen tool, click the start point and then click the end point. You can continue to add line segments by clicking additional points. Double-click to complete the process. You can also Ctrl+click (Windows) or Mac command+click (Mac) anywhere off the line. Flash previews segments in blue. When you choose another tool (or press Esc on the keyboard), Flash displays Beziers in the current stroke color. Close a figure by pointing near the start point. You see a small circle. Click the start point, and Flash closes the figure. Flash fills in the shape with the current fill color.

Drawing curves

Drawing curves with the Pen tool is a three-step process. To draw a curve with the Pen tool, follow these steps:

1. Click the start point and move the mouse the desired direction and distance.

If you set preferences to show a preview of the curve, you see a stretchy line attached to your mouse cursor.

2. When the mouse cursor is where you want it to be, click and drag the mouse button to create the curve.

You see a tangent line. A tangent line defines both direction and length, both of which affect the shape of the curve.

3. Double-click at the desired end point.

To continue to draw continuous curves, start in the same way but drag in a new direction at the second point. You can continue to draw curves this way until you double-click to end the curve.

For both lines and curves, you can press and hold Shift to constrain the lines or curves (the tangent lines) to 45-degree angles.

Drawing curves with the Pen tool takes practice, but you soon get the hang of it.

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