Click by Click: The Pen Tool
Full Length Tutorial
The Pen Tool is fundamental to any graphics program, including Flash. Mastering this tool will give you a firm grasp on drawing custom objects and editing existing shapes, which is a skill that will serve you well as long as you use graphic type programs. It is not an easy tool to learn but the control that you achieve when you have mastered the technique are well worth the effort. What's more Adobe has standardized the Pen Tool and since the introduction of CS3 the Pen Tool is identical in Flash, Illustrator and PhotoShop.
In fact all graphics programs have an equivalent to the Pen Tool (even
if it has different names) and the principles are always the same, irrespective
of the program. The roll of the Pen Tool is of primary importance in graphic programs and has not changed since the earliest version of programs like Illustrator.
In the next few tutorials I will cover the Pen Tool and the other tools grouped with the Pen on the Tool Panel.. I will also look at the Subselection Tool . This is a selection/editing tool and goes hand in hand with the Pen Tool.
The Pen Tool is not intuitive. You cannot draw like you would with the Pencil Tool or paint like you would with the Brush Tool. The Pen Tool is a computer invention and bares no resemblance to a real pen. It has been designed to make the Mouse an accurate drawing tool, which it does very well. To master the Pen Tool you need to understand how Flash (or other graphics programs) make shapes through the use of vectors:
Step One: Understanding Vectors
A vector type image is a group of shapes that are defined mathematically by a series of lines and curves. Vector type images tend to make small files (as in KB or MB). Flash uses vectors because the files sizes are small so the files download quickly. Because the image is stored mathematically the width and height size of an image is not important. You can enlarge a vector image and there is no loss of image quality and even though an image may look bigger in width and height the electronic file size (in KB) remains unchanged!!
When you draw in Flash the program creates a vector image. A vector image is a computer image that uses a Wire Frame or Outlines to define a shape's area. A vector image is drawn in lines called Paths.
Step Two: Drawing Straight Lines with the Pen Tool.
The Pen Tool is not intuitive. You do not draw the line but the Anchors and direction Points as described in the previous section. Because this is a bit different I will take you through the use of the Pen Tool very slowly step by step.
Example: Download the Flash Drawing Template Draw 224a (Straight Lines)
Step Three: Drawing a Rectangle
All the previous shapes are open (they have two end points). Now I will show you how to create a rectangle, which is a closed shape.
Example: Download the Flash Drawing Template Draw 224b (Closed Shapes)
Step Four: Drawing a Simple Curve
Curves are a little more of a challenge than straight lines but as long as you remember that you are placing anchor points and not drawing curves you will be ok. With curves, instead of clicking, you click, hold and drag out a direction handle to define the path of a curve. In the arc below, the arrow indicates where the direction handle is going as well as your path.
Example: Download the Flash Drawing Template Draw 224c (Simple Curves)
Step Five: Drawing an Ellipse
By now you should be able to draw almost anything, but I think that it is worthwhile giving you just a few more samples.
Example: Download the Flash Drawing Template Draw 224d (Ellipse)
Drawing an Ellipse. Select the: Pen Tool
Step Six: Drawing Continuous Constrained Curves
Drawing continuous curves is just a series of click, hold, drag, release and move to new point etc. Use the Shift Key to constrain the curve to the vertical, horizontal or at an angle of 45°.
Example: Download the Flash Drawing Template Draw 224e (Constrained Curves)
Step Seven: Drawing Continuous Unconstrained Curves
This is simply a series of curves that go in any direction. As long as you remember that you are placing the anchor points and dragging out the direction handles this type of curve is easy.
Example: Download the Flash Drawing Template Draw 224f (Unconstrained Curves)
Step Eight: Drawing Curves with Uneven Direction Handles - Techniques Introduced in Flash CS3
In the previous section you created curves that were smooth. In this section you will learn how to create curves that have sharp corners rather than smooth corners. The difference is in the direction handles. In the smooth curve the direction handles are the same length on both sides of the anchor point. With the sharper cornered curve the direction handles are not the same length:
Example: Download the Flash Drawing Template Draw 224g (Uneven Direction Handles)
Step Nine: Drawing Curves with Angled Direction Handles - Techniques Introduced in Flash CS3
Just when you thought you knew how to draw curves with sharp corners I come back with even sharper corners! Why? Because the technique that I am about to show you is actually quite different to what I showed you in the previous section and the one thing the Pen Tool offers is flexibility. With the Pen Tool it is possible to draw any shape you can think of. This amazing flexibility and accuracy come at a price and that is it that the Pen Tool has many options! But you have nearly covered them all. So what is different. In all the previous curves the direction handles are cut through the curve like a tangent. What you are going to learn now is how to create direction handles that are not in tangent and each individual direction line moves off in different directions, which makes the curve move off in different directions.
Example: Download the Flash Drawing Template Draw 224h (Angled Direction Handles)
Step Ten: Drawing Basic Shapes - All versions of Flash
What is surprising is that all drawings are made of a few basic shapes! In this section I will show you the types of shapes that can be drawn with all versions of Flash. In each instance I will give you an example of a line with two Segments and three Anchor Points.
Step 10a Straight Line to Straight Line
Example: Download the Flash Drawing Template Draw 224i (Basic Shapes 10a to 10c)
Select the: Pen Tool
Step 10b Curve to Curve - Two Direction Points
Step 10c Curve to Curve - Six Direction Points
Step 10d Straight Line to Curve - Two Direction Point
Example: Download the Flash Drawing Template Draw 224j (10d & 10e)
Step 10e Curve to Straight Line - Two Direction Point
Step Eleven: Drawing Basic Shapes - Techniques Introduced in Flash CS3
What this section will show you is show you just how much more flexible the Pen tool is in Flash CS3. Theoretically once you can draw basic shapes you can draw anything. It is really worth the effort as you will be able to use these skills in other graphics programs. In each instance I will give you an example of a line with two Segments and three Anchor Points. I would like you to think about how a line changes as it goes through the central Anchor Point. For example how a straight line changes in to a curve or visa versa. Try and draw the following shapes:
Step 11a Straight Line to Curve - One Direction Point
Example: Download the Flash Drawing Template Draw 224k (11a & 11b)
Select the: Pen Tool
Step 11b Curve to Straight Line - One Direction Point
Step 11c Straight Line to Curve - Three Direction Points
Example: Download the Flash Drawing Template Draw 224l (11c & 11d)
Step 11d Curve to Straight Line - Three Direction Points
Step 11e Curve to Curve - Uneven Direction Points
Example: Download the Flash Drawing Template Draw 224m (11e & 11f)
Step 11f Curve to Curve - Uneven Direction Points
Step 11g Curve to Curve - Angled Direction Points
Example: Download the Flash Drawing Template Draw 224n (11g)
Step Twelve: Drawing a Heart - Techniques Introduced in Flash CS3
Drawing a heart starts to get a little more complex, but you should know all the techniques to do this.
Example: Download the Flash Drawing Template Draw 224o (Heart)
Drawing a Heart. Select the: Pen Tool
Step Thirteen: Drawing a Maze - Techniques Introduced in Flash CS3
Now it is time to go it alone and try and draw something slightly more complicated. Below I have drawn a maze for you to try and recreate:
Example: Download the Flash Drawing Template Draw 224p (Maze)
Draw a Maze. Select the: Pen Tool
You should now start to get an idea of what the Pen Tool is capable of achieving. Up until now I have shown you how to get the drawing correct as you draw. You maybe pleased to know that it doesn't really matter if you make mistakes as you go along as it is often easier to correct your work after you have drawn the basic shape. In the next tutorial I will introduce you to the tools needed to edit the shapes that you have create with the Pen, Pencil or Brush Tools. You can also edit other vector type images that may have been created in programs like Illustrator or Fonts and most Clip Art.
I hope you have found this useful. If so perhaps you could recommend this site to others and link to webwasp!
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