How to Use the Pen Tool in Adobe Illustrator

The Pen tool is one of the most versatile tools in Adobe Illustrator. You can use the pen tool to trace an image, create object outlines and logos, make clipping masks, and edit vector images.

The Pen tool creates paths connected by anchor points. All you need to do is select the Pen Tool from the toolbar, create and connect anchor points to form a path. 

My name is Rita. I have been using Adobe Illustrator for over five years. The Pen tool is one of my favorite Illustrator tools because it helps me create beautiful designs or cut images and shapes.

In this article, I will show how to use the Pen tool in Adobe Illustrator along with some FAQs. 

Key Takeaways

  • You can draw any line in Illustrator with the Pen tool (straight, curvy, zig-zag lines, etc.). Drawing with the pen is simply connecting anchor points to form a shape.
  • The keyboard shortcut for the Pen tool is P.
  • Anything you create with the pen tool is vector-based. You can scale objects to any size without losing their sharpness.

How to Draw a Straight Line Using the Pen Tool

Drawing with the Pen tool is different from drawing on paper. You draw by connecting anchor points rather than instinctively drawing from end to end.

Follow these easy steps to draw a straight line with the Pen tool. 

Step 1: Select the Pen Tool from the toolbar. 

Step 2: Click and release on your artboard to create the first anchor point (this is also known as the original anchor point).

Step 3: Click and release anywhere on your artboard to create another anchor point. Hold the Shift key while you click if you want to draw a perfectly straight line. 

We can continue to create a path using straight lines in the following steps.

Step 4: Keep clicking and releasing on your artboard to create continuing connected anchor points. How you connect the anchor points depends on the path or shape you want to draw. 

If you want to create a shape, you should connect the last anchor point to the original anchor point.

You can press the Esc or the Return key on your keyboard if you don’t want to close the path. For instance, you can decide not to close your rectangle. 

You can choose to redirect your path and close it wherever you want. Your final anchor point marks the end point of your shape.

Feel free to play around with the straight lines. 

How to Draw a Curved Line with the Pen Tool

Drawing a curved line with the pen tool is more complex than drawing a straight line. Curved lines are excellent for making clipping masks, silhouettes, shapes, etc. 

Here are the steps to create a curved line.

Step 1: Select the Pen tool and create the first anchor point.

Step 2: Click and hold down your mouse where you want the curve to begin on your artboard. Release the mouse and you will create the second anchor point with a curved path.

You’ll see two directional handles on curved lines. Use the directional handles to form the slope of your curved lines while holding the mouse.

Note: Remember to drag the arrowhead to create a directional handle before releasing the mouse and creating a curved line.

How to Edit Anchor Points Using the Pen Tool

The Adobe Illustrator Pen tool is very flexible. You don’t have to worry about creating another line/path when you have created something different.

You can edit lines, add curves to a straight line, add, or delete anchor points.

Edit Lines and Adding Curves to Straight Lines 

Select the anchor point tool to edit lines and add curves to straight lines. Click and hold the pen tool icon to reveal the anchor point tool.

Select the path and the anchor point tool to edit the line. Click and drag on the anchor point to edit the curve you previously created. 

Click and drag the anchor points to edit. 

The anchor point tool allows you to add curves to straight lines. You can create unique shapes (like logos) by curving paths and corners. 

Curving paths/corners can help you create custom shapes. 

Step 1: Click on the straight line, then select the anchor point tool to edit the straight line. 

Step 2: Bring your cursor to the point on the segment where you want it to be curved. Click, hold, and drag the directional handle where you want the curve to be. 

Step 3: Release the cursor to get a curved segment.

Adding and Deleting Anchor Points

Adding and deleting anchor points using the pen tool is easy. Select the pen tool with the plus sign (+) to add anchor points and the minus sign (-) to delete anchor points. 

Click on the path you want to edit to see the plus or minus sign.

Let’s look at a few quick steps to add and delete anchor points using the pen tool in Adobe Illustrator.

Step 1: Select the path you’ve created. 

Step 2:  Select the Pen tool.

Step 3: Click on the path with the plus sign to add new anchor points or the one with the minus sign to add or delete existing anchor points.

Alternatively, you can also delete anchor points using the Delete Anchor Point Tool.

Simply hover over the existing anchor points, then the pen tool will automatically change to the Delete Anchor Point Tool.

You will see a little minus sign next to the pen tool. Simply click on the anchor point to delete it. 

I deleted one anchor point from the shape below. 


Do you have more questions about the pen tool? See if you can find the answers below.

How to end pen tool in Illustrator?

Place the pen tool over the first anchor point, then click to close the path.

Once you place the pen tool at the first anchor point, a small circle will appear next to the pen tool pointer. Click or drag to close the path.

Why is the Illustrator pen tool not working?

There are several reasons why the pen tool may not work. 

  • Your computer may be running slowly. Restart your computer to get the pen tool working again.
  • Are you using the Illustrator pen tool like the brush tool? Unlike the brush tool, you connect anchor points to draw using the pen tool. 
  • If your CAPS LOCK is on, the pen tool may not work. In this case, put off the CAPS LOCK.

Where are the Illustrator pen tool settings?

The best way to access different anchor point settings is by going to Preferences. Go to Illustrator > Preferences > Selection & Anchor Display. You can change how you want your anchor points by clicking the selection and anchor display settings.

Final Thoughts

Illustrator’s Pen tool does magic! You can use it to draw or crop images. As complicated as it might sound, it only takes a couple of design practices to master the tool. The more you use it, the better you get with it.

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