With the rising popularity of the flat design trend, the need for an understanding of the pen tool in Illustrator has only grown. As someone who relies heavily on vectors and illustrations in my designs, I am all too familiar with the importance of comprehending this dreaded tool. Keep in mind, I say“dreaded“ only because those who have yet to learn the concept of the tool notoriously hate it. Personally, the pen tool is by far my favorite tool in Adobe Illustrator. I learned long ago that in order to be a successful illustrator, I had to conquer the pen tool. The possibilities with this tool are so much greater than most people realize, and having it in your arsenal will only expand your capabilities as a designer.
I generally use the pen tool more times than not to create my own vectors. A majority of my designs rely heavily on illustrations, and the pen tool acts as my virtual pencil. It gives me the ability to trace sketches that I have mocked up or photos that I have dropped into Illustrator. Knowing how to create vectors with the pen tool has given me the ability to create my own iconography when making infographics and illustrations, rather than settling for an overused vector that I found on Google.
Learning how to master the pen tool can be a long and painful process, but trust me when I say it is well worth your blood, sweat and tears. I taught myself to use the tool by starting with simple shapes to trace and slowly advancing to more complex ones. I am also a big fan of using online tutorial videos. YouTube has a great variety of beginner tutorials that highlight how to overcome the mysterious pen tool. Patience is key, teaching yourself to use this complex tool can be incredibly frustrating. However, once you have grasped the concept behind this insanely helpful tool, it will most likely become your go-to utensil when it comes to digital illustrations.
Written by Caitlyn Kaczmarek