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How to Draw & Edit with the Pencil Tool in Adobe Illustrator

Learn how to use the Adobe Illustrator pencil tool to draw and edit from expert Will "Focus" Dubois in this Howcast video.


This is how you Draw and Edit with a Pencil Tool in Adobe Illustrator.

So, we're going to go over to our Tools Panel, and if you go almost halfway down, a little bit above, you'll notice that you have the Pencil Tool here. You click it, select it, and anywhere you click on the art board you can draw out a line.

This is more of an organic way of drawing as opposed to using Shapes or the Pen Tool. The reason this is more organic is because Illustrator will actually follow the lines that you're making and develop your line accordingly.
Instead of you clicking points, you can just draw freehand and you'll get whatever shape it is you want.

Now, the problem is, if you were to double-click on this, right now the Fidelity and the Smoothness and Prettiness are pretty low.

But if you were to bump these up, and were to click OK and then draw something, you'll notice that as you draw there are dotted lines that show the path that you're actually creating.

But if you were to let it go, sometimes it won't be that exact path.

So, let's create something.

Let's say we put our Smoothness all the way up and we click OK. And we were to create a path that is more straight line. If we were to let that go, we would get this here.

If we were to bump our Fidelity all the way up, curve, you'll notice that instead of doing it precisely, how we're curving here, it will alter it.

So the best way to get it to follow exactly what you're doing is to make sure your Fidelity is low and your Smoothness is low.

Now, you might be wondering what the Fidelity does. Essentially, the Fidelity is how close and exact in pixels its going to get to the line that you're creating.

The Smoothness is how many anchor points its actually going to place on the line that you're creating. So, the smoother it is, the less anchor points it will use. And the less smooth it is, the more accurate and the more anchor points it will use.

Now, some people may say, you know, "well, I want it to be accurate. What's the problem with that?"

The problem is, let's say I do some crazy line. You're going to have a million anchor points.

But if you were to put the Smoothness up and do that same crazy line, you'll have less anchor points than your previous one. And the benefit of this is the less anchor points you have, the easier it is to edit.

If you double-click back on your Pencil Tool, you'll notice that if you have this box checked, you have Keep Selected and when you uncheck that, if you were to scribble over it, it changes whatever you scribble over that selected path and makes it a new Pencil path.

If you don't want that to happen, you click Keep Selected and then it will actually keep the selected line.

If you were to click Fill New Pencil Strokes and you were to go over it, it's just going to continue to bring new pencil strokes over the older pencil strokes.

You can change the editing ratio so that, let's say we're within a certain proximity of a line, it will only edit that path once you get within this amount of pixels of that line. Otherwise the line will actually stay the same.

And that is how you Draw and Edit with a Pencil Tool in Adobe Illustrator.

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