Drawing with the Pencil Tool
To draw with the Pencil tool, simply click and drag on the artboard. As you drag, you'll see a light path trail the movement of your pointer (Figure 4.17). After you release the mouse button, Illustrator creates the anchor points necessary and creates a vector path for you (Figure 4.18).
Figure 4.17 As you drag with the Pencil tool, a faint line traces the path of your pointer.
Figure 4.18 After you release the mouse button, Illustrator creates anchor points as necessary and displays the drawn path. Depending on how well you control the mouse (or pressure-sensitive pen), the path may have a jittery appearance.
Because drawing with the Pencil tool relies on how steadily you handle your mouse or tablet pen, you can employ several tools and settings to help create better-looking paths.
You can use the Smooth tool, which you'll find grouped with the Pencil tool in the Tools panel, to iron out the wrinkles of any vector path. Select any vector path, and click and drag over it with the Smooth tool. Doing this repeatedly makes the vector path smoother and smoother. The angles in the path become smoother, and the path modifies to match the contour of the direction in which you drag with the Smooth tool (Figure 4.19).
Figure 4.19 Using the Smooth tool on a path can enhance its appearance.
Double-clicking the Pencil tool or the Smooth tool opens the Pencil Tool Options dialog box, allowing you to specify that tool's behavior (Figure 4.20 on the following page).
Figure 4.20 Selecting the "Edit selected paths" option allows you to easily reshape or adjust existing paths.
The Pencil Tool Options dialog box offers the following settings:
- Fidelity and Smoothness. Available for both the Pencil and Smooth tools, the Fidelity setting determines how close the vector path is drawn in relation to the movement of your mouse or input pen. A lower Fidelity setting results in a path that more closely matches the exact movement of your mouse. A higher Fidelity setting results in a path that is smoother and less jittery but that may not match your stroke exactly. If you're good with handling the mouse or if you're using an input pen, you might go with a lower setting. If you have trouble controlling the mouse or pen precisely, you might benefit from a higher Fidelity setting. The Smoothness setting refers to how much smoothing Illustrator applies to paths as you draw them. The higher the Smoothness setting, the fewer anchor points you'll see on your paths. If you're looking for more fluid strokes, increasing the Smoothness setting will help.
- Fill new pencil strokes. By default, Illustrator creates paths drawn with the Pencil tool as paths with a stroke but no fill. Selecting this option gives you the ability to choose a fill color and create filled paths as you draw them with the Pencil tool. This setting is available for the Pencil tool only, not for the Smooth tool.
- Keep selected and Edit selected paths. With Illustrator's default behavior, when you draw a path with the Pencil tool, the path becomes selected as soon as you complete it. You can change this behavior by deselecting the "Keep selected" option. When the "Edit selected paths" option is selected and your pointer is within the specified number of pixels from an existing selected path, Illustrator allows you to modify the selected path by simply drawing over it with the Pencil tool. This can be helpful because it allows you to tweak a path to perfection as you are drawing it, almost as if you were using the Smooth tool. Where this gets in the way, however, is when you intend to draw a new path but inadvertently end up editing a path that is selected instead. This can happen often if you have the "Keep selected" option selected. Many designers prefer to deselect the "Keep selected" option but leave the "Edit selected paths" option selected. This way, if they do need to edit a path, they can Command-click (Ctrl-click) a path to select it; at this point, the "Edit selected paths" option lets them draw over it.