The Basic Shape Tools in Illustrator CC - dummies

By Jennifer Smith

As a default, the only visible shape tool in Illustrator’s Tools panel is the Rectangle tool. If you click and hold down that tool, you can access hidden tools such as the Rounded Rectangle, Ellipse, Polygon, and Star tools, shown in this figure. (Although you see the Flare tool, it isn’t a basic shape.)


You can tear off this tool set so that you don’t have to find the hidden shapes later. Click and hold the Rectangle tool and drag to the arrow on the far-right side, and then release the mouse button. These tools are now on a free-floating toolbar that you can drag to another location.

Creating rectangles and ellipses

Rectangles and ellipses are the most fundamental shapes you can create. (See this figure.) To create a rectangle shape freehand, select the Rectangle tool and simply click the page where you want the shape to appear. Then drag diagonally toward the opposite side, drag your mouse the distance you want the shape to be in size, and release the mouse button.

You can drag up or down. You do the same to create a circle or oval by using the Ellipse tool.

Click and drag diagonally to create a shape.
Click and drag diagonally to create a shape.


After you create the shape, adjust its size and position by using the Selection tool. Reposition the shape by clicking the selected object and dragging. Resize the object by grabbing a handle and adjusting in or out. To adjust two sides together, grab a corner handle. To resize a shape proportionally, Shift+drag a corner handle.

Using the Rounded Rectangle tool

You can create a rounded rectangle by using one of two methods:

  • Click and drag freehand to create the rounded rectangle shape.

  • Click the artboard once to open the Rounded Rectangle dialog box, where you can enter values to define the shape.

The difference between these two methods is that when you open the Rounded Rectangle dialog box (see this figure), you can enter a value in the Corner Radius text field, which determines how much rounding is applied to the corners of the shape.


Change the rounded corner visually by pressing the up and down keys on your keyboard while you’re dragging out the Rounded Rectangle shape on the artboard.

The smaller the value, the less rounded the corners; the higher the value, the more rounded the corners. Be careful: You can round a rectangle’s corners so much that it becomes an ellipse!

Using the Polygon tool

You create stars and polygons in much the same way as you create rectangles and ellipses. Select the Polygon tool and click and drag from one corner to another to create the default six-sided polygon shape. You can also select the Polygon tool and click once on the artboard to change the Polygon tool options in the Polygon dialog box.

You can change the polygon shape by entering new values in the Radius and Sides text fields, as shown in the figure. The radius is determined from the center to the edge of the polygon. The value for the number of sides can range from 3 (making triangles a breeze to create) to 1,000. Whoa — a polygon with 1,000 sides would look like a circle unless it was the size of Texas!


Using the Star tool

To create a star shape, select the Star tool from the Tools panel. (Remember that it may hide under other shape tools.) If you click the artboard once to open the Star dialog box, you see three text fields in which you can enter values to customize your star shape:

  • Radius 1: Distance from the outer points to the center of the star

  • Radius 2: Distance from the inner points to the center of the star

  • Points: Number of points that comprise the star

The closer together the Radius 1 and Radius 2 values are to each other, the shorter the points on your star. In other words, you can go from a starburst to a seal of approval by entering values that are close in the Radius 1 and Radius 2 text fields, as shown in this figure.