Adobe Illustrator Tutorial using Pen Tool

In Adobe Illustrator by Jason Secrest


In this step by step Adobe Illustrator Pen Tool tutorial we will be going through a basic process on how to apply the pen tool and some different options if you are struggling. We go through a complete workflow using pen tool, width profiles, and the width tool. We will be doing some basic coloring with effects. We will add on flat color using Live Paint Bucket, Inner Glows and Drop Shadows to complete the step by step tutorial.


We are going through some different options for the pen tool. The few things to remember is to focus on getting down the anchors first. We have a lot of our tutorials that focus just on straight lines and placing anchors. The easy parts of the line are the start and end points which means you just have to look for changes in direction in the middle. Click and drag your mouse in the direction you want to go (slowly).


There are easy ways of approaching the pen tool. Start with straight lines and only look for changes in direction. Using your white arrow(A) select the point that look like they are curved and click on the smooth curves button. If your pen tool keeps adding a new anchor rather than a new line then make sure the line isn’t still selected. You will notice a + as you hover over the line if it thinks you want to add an anchor. Anchor Tool(Shift C) will reset and manually drag out each curve.


The width profiles cna be simplified by looking at the ends of each of your lines. If it is floating out in space then it signals a tapered end. If the end point bumps up against another line or shape, this is a good signal that it should be wide. Use the width tool to adjust the thickness in areas to support the character and light source.


Shape Builder

1. The shape builder tool is quite user friendly when you understand how it works. First, select all or the area you want to edit. Double check all of the shapes you are editing are selected. Click on Shape Builder or (Shift + M). Hold down Alt/Option Key to delete shapes. Hover over and click the shape to delete it while holding down alt/option. Zoom in to check for little stray areas.

Live Paint

3. Notice that the Live Paint Bucket (K) is in the same tool menu as Shape Builder. It will play out very similarly. Select all. Under Object- Scroll down to Live Paint – Make. Deselect by clicking on the artboard. Click on Your Live Paint Bucket tool (K) pick a color from your swatches. Hover over the area and click. You will see a red line highlight the area you are about to fill in. This will act just like the paint bucket or fill in Photoshop.

Inner Glow

2. Select the character. Double check you have Expanded the Live Paint. Next Ungroup until you can select individual shapes. It might be 2-3 times. Select the interior color shape we just created. Select Effect – Stylize – Inner Glow. Change the color mode to normal and the opacity to 100%. I picked white for the color and selected inside as my option before clicking on the preview tab. Adjust the size to .25. Click OK.

Drop Shadows

4. Do this on the bottom silhouette layer we added an offset path. I did unite all of the shapes on this layer in Pathfinder so it is just 1 silhouette shape we are adding a Drop Shadow to. Select the silhouette shape. Select Effect – Stylize – Drop Shadow. We want Multiply – A light blue color swatch. Opacity 25% X: .2 Y: 0.1 Blur: 0.1

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