Straight Line Functions in Adobe CS5 Illustrator - dummies

By Jennifer Smith, Christopher Smith, Fred Gerantabee

Basic functions of the Pen tools in Adobe Creative Suite 5 (Adobe CS5) include creating a simple path, also called a line. This simple path can be free-form or constrained by standard angle measurements and can become the base for a more complex illustration.

Simple straight line creation

Creating a simple, straight line with the Pen tools with just a few simple keystrokes.

  1. Press D or click the small black-and-white color swatches at the bottom of the Tools panel.

    You revert to the default colors of a black stroke and a white fill. With black as a stroke, you can see your path clearly.

    The trick of pressing D to change the foreground and background colors to the default of black and white also works in Photoshop and InDesign.

  2. Click the Fill swatch, at the bottom of the Tools panel, to ensure that the Fill swatch is in front of the Stroke swatch, and then press the forward slash (/) key to change the fill to None.

  3. Open a new blank page and select the Pen tool.

    Notice that when you move the mouse over the artboard, the Pen cursor appears with an X beside it, indicating that you’re creating the first anchor point of a path.

  4. Click the artboard to create the first anchor point of a line.

    The X disappears.

    Avoid dragging the mouse or you’ll end up creating a curve rather than a straight segment.

  5. Click anywhere else on the document to create the ending anchor point of the line.

    Illustrator creates a path between the two anchor points. Essentially, the path looks like a line segment with an anchor point at each end.


Straight line correction

To make a correction to a line you have already created with the Pen tool:

  1. Choose Select→Deselect to make sure that no objects are selected.

  2. Select the Direct Selection tool from the Tools panel.

    Notice the helpful feature that enlarges the anchor point when you pass over it with the Direct Selection tool.

  3. Click an anchor to select one point on the line.

    Notice that the selected anchor point is solid and the other is hollow. Solid indicates that the anchor point you clicked is active whereas hollow is inactive.

  4. Click and drag the anchor point with the Direct Selection tool.

    The selected anchor point moves, changing the direction of the path while not affecting the other anchor point.

    Use the Direct Selection tool (press A to use the keyboard shortcut to select the Direct Selection tool) to make corrections to paths.

    Make sure that only the anchor point you want to change is active. If the entire path is selected, all anchor points are solid. If only one anchor point is selected, all but that one point will be hollow.

Constrained straight line creation

Sometimes you need to create a real straight line — one that’s on multiples of a 45-degree angle. Illustrator makes it easy.

  1. Select the Pen tool and click the artboard anywhere to place an anchor point.

  2. Hold down the Shift key and click another location to place the ending anchor point.

    Notice that when you’re holding down the Shift key, the line snaps to a multiple of 45 degrees.

    Release the mouse button before you release the Shift key or else the line pops out of alignment.