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Exploring the drawing tools

Flash has a wide range of tools and commands that you can use to create your movies. The easiest way to learn is to actually use them. But first, you need to know what they are and where they are. You will explore the drawing tools and some of their options in this exercise.

1) Open zoo.fla (found in

Right now there's nothing in this file—just an orange background. So, first let's look at the drawing tools. You have to open a movie to explore all the drawing tools because some of the options for these tools are only available when you have a movie open.


Just for fun, close any movie you might have open in Flash and start clicking on the tools in the toolbox—you should see that some options appear in the Options area on the toolbox, but the Property inspector does not change. Make sure you re-open zoo1.fla before you continue.

2) Move the cursor over the toolbox. Rest the cursor over each tool to see its name.

Figure 2

Remember when you turned on tooltips in the last lesson? That setting will now pay off. You can quickly and easily find the name of any tool by resting the cursor over its icon. After a second or two, a label with the name of the tool will appear.

As you move the pointer over the icons, you should notice that each tool has a tooltip. The tooltip not only lists the name of the tool, but also the key (or keys) you press to select the tool. Shortcut keys can make switching between tools very easy. Notice that the eyedropper tool has two shortcut keys—you set one of them in the last lesson when you created the custom Flash TFS keyboard shortcut set.


As you become more experienced using Flash, you might find it useful to use keyboard shortcuts to switch between the drawing tools. For example, after you've drawn a rectangle, you can press the O key to draw an oval. Why would you bother to close the toolbox? You don't need to have the toolbox open to use these keyboard shortcuts. So if you want a little extra screen space, you can close the toolbox and use the shortcut keys to switch between tools.

3) Click on each tool to see what options appear in the toolbox and the Property inspector.

The toolbox contains Flash's drawing and transformation tools. It also contains additional settings for some of the tools. When you click the arrow, lasso, rectangle, pencil, brush, free transform, paint bucket, eraser, or zoom tool, icons appear in the Options area of the toolbox. You should also notice that many of these tools have additional settings in the Property inspector.


Not sure which tool you have selected? The button that corresponds with the selected tool should be depressed in the toolbox. What if the toolbox is closed? Simply move the pointer over the stage to see what icon appears. Most of the pointer icons for the drawing tools correspond to the icons in the toolbox.

Figure 3


If the toolbox does not appear on your screen, you can open it by choosing Window > Tools. You will see a check next to the toolbox menu item if it's open.

Some of the drawing tools create only strokes. You can use the pencil tool to draw freehand lines and shapes—it's a lot like drawing with a real pencil. The pen tool is useful for drawing precise paths as straight or curved lines, and the line tool is great for drawing basic shapes that are composed of straight lines.

Other tools create fills. The oval and rectangle tools are useful for drawing basic geometric shapes with both a stroke and a fill. The stroke is the outline, and the fill is the solid area of color that appears inside of the stroke. You can use these tools to draw basic geometric shapes with both a stroke and a fill, a stroke without a fill, or a fill without a stroke. The brush tool can create freehand shapes that are composed of fills.

The text tool is perfect for adding text to your movie. This tool can create static, dynamic, and input text boxes, each of which can have text with a solid color. You'll learn more about adding static text later in this lesson, and you'll add dynamic and input text later in your project.

The two tools in the View area (hand and zoom) let you control the view of the stage. You can use the hand tool to move the stage around. The zoom tool lets you change the magnification of the stage.

The rest of the drawing tools let you to select and modify objects on the stage. The arrow, subselection, and lasso tools let you select all or part of an object. You can also use the arrow and subselection tools to modify the shape of strokes and fills on the stage. The ink bottle and paint bucket tools can be used to add and modify strokes and fills respectively, while the eyedropper tool can copy the properties of a stroke or fill, and then immediately apply them to another shape. The free transform tool is useful for rotating, skewing, scaling, distorting, and moving shapes and the fill transform tool lets you modify an existing gradient or bitmap fill. Finally, you can use the eraser tool to erase all or part of an object on the stage.

Spend some time exploring the tools—there's a lot more to them than the brief explanations above. If you've used any other drawing, photo-editing, illustration, or paint program, you're probably familiar with most of these tools. If not, the best way to become familiar with them is by using them. Click on each of the tools to see which options appear in the Options area of the toolbox and the Property inspector. You can also test drive the tools by using them to draw some shapes on the stage. Just make sure you choose Edit > Select All and then Edit > Clear to clean up the stage before you move on to the next step.

4) Click the rectangle tool to select it. Click the Round Rectangle Radius icon in the Options area of the toolbox to open the Rectangle Settings dialog box. Set the Corner Radius to 50 and click OK.

Figure 4

You can create rectangles with rounded corners by modifying the corner radius. A corner radius of 0 will create a rectangle with square edges. The maximum corner radius is 999.

Don't forget, you can use shortcut keys to select tools. So instead of clicking the rectangle tool in the toolbox, you can press the R key on the keyboard.

5) Click the stroke color box in the Property inspector. When the color pop-up opens, type #FF6600 in the space provided and press Enter or Return. Set the fill color to #FFFFFF in the same way.

Figure 5

The stroke color box has a pencil icon next to it, while the fill color box has a paint bucket icon. You can use both a stroke and a fill on a rectangle, and you can control the color of each one separately in the Property inspector. You can also modify the stroke and fill colors in the Colors area of the toolbox or in the Mixer panel. Use the method that's easiest for you in this and future exercises. When you click the Stroke color box, the color pop-up contains only solid color swatches, because strokes can only be solid colors. The Fill color box pop-up has both solid color and gradient swatches because fills can be solid colors or gradients. You can also apply a bitmap to a fill. Remember, you can set a color in the color pop-up by either typing the hexadecimal value in the box or by using the eyedropper to select a color.

When you open the color pop-ups for both the stroke and fill from the Property inspector, a single button, called the No Color button, will appear in the top-right corner (see Figure 2.6). You can use the stroke and fill colors with the oval and rectangle tools, but not for any other tool.

The No Color button allows you to set the color to none (no color). It is only available for the oval and rectangle tools because these are the only tools with the option of using a stroke alone, a fill alone, or both a stroke and fill together. If you open the stroke or fill color pop-ups from the Colors area of the toolbox, you should see the No Color button and a second button in the top-right corner of the pop-up. The second button opens the Color Picker window where you can choose a color that is not in the color palette window.

Figure 6

When you use the Mixer panel to set the stroke and fill colors, you have more flexibility. First, click on the stroke or fill color icon to make sure you set the color for the right property. Then you can use the corresponding color box to set the color, type the hexadecimal value of the color in the Hex Edit box, enter values in the color values boxes, or click in the color space. You can also set the fill style (for fills) to none, solid, linear, radial, or bitmap using the fill style pop-up menu. Play around with the various settings in the Mixer panel.

Figure 7

6) Set the Stroke height in the Property inspector to 2 and select the solid line from the Stroke Style pop-up menu.

Figure 8

You can set the height of the stroke by typing a number in the stroke height box or by dragging the slider to the right of the text box up or down until you get the right height. The stroke height can be set to a number between 0.1 and 10, but you have to actually type in anything smaller than 0.25. The number refers to the pixel width of the line.

Flash has several built-in stroke styles. As you'll learn in Lesson 12, you will usually use styles like Hairline or Solid strokes in order to make your files smaller. File size doesn't mean that you should not use the other stroke styles, just be aware they can make the file larger.


If you want to create an outline that will not become thicker or thinner as the shape is resized, you should use hairline. All of the other stroke styles will appear thicker as the entire outline is resized. When you use the hairline stroke style, you cannot change the stroke height. Try it—you'll find that when you change the stroke height the stroke style changes to solid.

In the next exercise you'll actually draw something with the settings you just modified. So don't make any changes yet!

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