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Your New Friend, the Curvature Tool

If you have mastered the Pen tool, you may not be interested in using a new tool that does essentially the same thing—creating paths with as much precision as you need—especially considering how much time you put into the Pen tool to learn it.

But the Pen tool now has competition. For those of you who are not as familiar with the Pen tool, or Pen tool aficionados simply looking for other ways to work, welcome to the Curvature tool.

Included in the last few versions of Illustrator CC, the Curvature tool promises to simplify drawing paths with precision. Interestingly, the tool creates the same types of paths that the Pen tool creates—both curved and straight—but without having to fuss with direction handles (see Figure 4).

Figure 4

Figure 4 Those sometimes-accursed direction handles.

Nestled right next to the Pen tool in the Tools panel, the Curvature tool shares the same basic pen icon as the Pen tool, but with a little squiggle to set it apart (see Figure 5). When you select the Curvature tool and move the pointer into the document window, an asterisk appears next to the Curvature icon. As with other drawing tools, the asterisk indicates that you're about to draw a new path.

Figure 5

Figure 5 The Curvature tool in the Tools panel.

Before you try drawing with the Curvature tool, let me quickly explain how it works. You click with the tool to set points, and those points are connected with curved or straight paths.

To start, click to set a point. Move the pointer away from the point you created and click again to set the next point. After releasing the mouse button, move the pointer away from the second point you just created (see Figure 6). Notice that where you move the pointer affects the shape of the curve between the two points. Cool.

Figure 6

Figure 6 Create a curve by using the Curvature tool.

Try clicking to create a few more points around the artboard, to get a feel for how the path reacts. Position the pointer over the original point you created, and when a circle appears next to the pointer icon, click to close the path. If you're good at the Pen tool, the Curvature tool may make you a little uncomfortable at first, but you will get used to it.

The Curvature tool can also create straight paths, and you can even edit paths you've already created. To create a straight path, double-click to set a “corner” point (with no curve to it). Or, if you've already drawn a point that has a curve, position the pointer over the point and double-click to convert it to a corner point with no curve to it (see Figure 7).

Figure 7

Figure 7 Convert from a smooth curve to a corner point by using the Curvature tool.

After drawing a path with the Curvature tool, you can go back to a point on the path and edit it. With the Curvature tool selected, click the point you want to change. Then delete it by pressing Backspace or Delete, drag to reposition it, double-click the point to convert it between a corner and a smooth path, or click on the path between points to add another point (see Figure 8).

Figure 8

Figure 8 Using the Curvature tool to create a new point between two existing points.

What I love about the Curvature tool is that the path created is like any other path. You can edit it using any of the editing tools, because it generates anchor points and paths, and it has direction handles ready to edit. For more information on the Curvature tool and how to really dive into it, check out Lesson 5 in Adobe Illustrator CC 2014 Classroom in a Book.

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