Adobe Illustrator CC Pen Tool - dummies

By Jennifer Smith

The Adobe Illustrator CC Pen tool can be used for many illustration techniques. You’ve seen illustrations that you know are made from paths, but how do you make your own? Here, see how you can use the Pen tool to create paths and closed shapes.

Using the Pen tool requires a little more coordination than using other Illustrator tools. Fortunately, Adobe Illustrator includes features to help make using the Pen tool a little easier. After you master the Pen tool, the possibilities for creating illustrations are unlimited. Read on to build your skills using one of most popular tools in the creative industry: the Pen tool’s Bézier curve capabilities.


You can use the Pen tool to create all sorts of elements, such as straight lines, curves, and closed shapes, which you can then incorporate into illustrations:

  • Bézier curve: Originally developed by Pierre Bézier in the 1970s for CAD/CAM operations, the Bézier curve (shown in this figure) became the underpinnings of the entire Adobe PostScript drawing model. You can control the depth and size of a Bézier curve by using direction lines.

    Bézier curves are controlled by direction lines.
    Bézier curves are controlled by direction lines.
  • Anchor point: You can use anchor points to control the shape of a path or an object. Anchor points are created automatically when using shape tools. You can manually create anchor points by clicking from point to point with the Pen tool.

  • Direction line: These lines are essentially the handles you use on curved points to adjust the depth and angle of curved paths.

  • Closed shape: When a path is created, it becomes a closed shape when the start point joins the endpoint.

  • Simple path: A path consists of one or more straight or curved segments. Anchor points mark the endpoints of the path segments.