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Drawing Paths and Curves

Bezier paths and freehand paths contain curve handles at points along the path. Drawing with the Freehand Path tool is much like drawing with a pen, whereas Bezier paths give you absolute control.

Bezier curves offer some of the greatest flexibility when drawing. However, it may be the least familiar tool to some users. A hands-on exercise is available in File > New From Template > Exercises & Demos to help you quickly master the Bezier Path tool.

To Draw a Bezier Path:

To_Draw_a_Bezier_Path.png
  1. Choose the Bezier Path [b] tool.
  2. Press to place the starting point and drag to begin spreading the curve handles. release the cursor to place the curve handles (when placed, curve handles are symmetrical in length and direction).
  3. Repeat to continue drawing the path.
  4. Use the ESC-key or double-click to end the path.

To Draw a Freehand Path:

  1. Choose the Freehand Path [f] tool.
  2. Press and move the cursor to begin drawing.
  3. Release the cursor to end the path.

HINT: Hold down the Option-key while drawing with this tool to enable ‘Ultra Fine’ drawing mode for detailed drawing with the Freehand Path tool (for example, while zoomed-in).

To make the smoothest paths with the Freehand Path, make sure the Graphic > Snap To… settings are all disabled (unchecked). If a path drawn with the Freehand Path tool appears choppy or ‘stair stepped’, it is likely that snapping to Graph Paper, Guides, or Other Objects is on. Relative smoothness settings for the Freehand Path tool are available in the (app) > Preferences… Editing.

To Draw a Straight Line:

  1. Choose the straight Line [l] tool.
  2. Click to place the first point.
  3. Optionally, press the Shift-key to draw a perfectly horizontal or vertical line, or constrain the line angle to 15-degree increments.
  4. Click to place the last point and end the line.

To Place a Point without a Curve (Bezier Path):

  1. Choose the Bezier Path [b] tool.
  2. Click once to place a point with its curve handles collapsed (for example, a corner).
  3. Repeat to continue drawing the path, dragging to spread handles or clicking for points with collapsed handles.
  4. Use the ESC-key or double-click to end the path.

To Remove the Last Placed Point on a Path While Drawing:

  1. Choose the Bezier Path [b] or Irregular Polygon [p] tool.
  2. Begin drawing the path.
  3. Click the Delete-key to step backwards each placed point while drawing the path.
  4. Use the ESC-key or double-click to end the path.

To Draw a Closed-Loop Path:

  1. Choose the Irregular Polygon [p], Bezier Path [b] or Freehand Path [f] tool.
  2. Place at least 3 points to begin drawing the path.
  3. Click onto the first drawn point to automatically end drawing the path; the coincident points will act as a single point.

HINT: If you prefer to have paths formally closed (with a straight line segment between first and last points), you can enable this behavior in the (app) > Preferences… > Editing in the main menu; to open formally closed paths, right-click and choose “Open” from the contextual menu or Edit > Paths (+Option-key) > Open from the main menu.
HINT: If you prefer coincident first and last placed points to not act as a single point, you can disable this behavior in the Preferences.

To Add Points to a Path:

To_Add_Points_to_a_Path.png
  1. Choose the Add Point on Path [=] tool.
  2. Click onto the path where the point is to be added.

HINT: As needed, double-click a shape to convert it to edit path mode to show points.

To Delete Points from a Path:

  1. With the path selected, choose the Delete Point on Path [-] tool.
  2. Click on the point(s) that is to be removed

To Edit Paths After They are Drawn:

To_Edit_Paths_After_They_are_Drawn.png

Curves are easily adjusted after placement by dragging the curve handles, shown in blue. When adjusting curve handles, the length of the left and right ends of the handle are adjusted independently. Modifier keys provide control over curve handle adjustments.

SHORTCUTS AND MODIFIER KEYS:

To modify a path after it has been drawn, choose the Select [s] tool and select the path, then:

  • Move a point along a path – press and drag the point with the cursor.
  • Drag a handle away from its point, or to adjust curve handles independently of each other, including length and direction – hold the CMND-key while adjusting the curve handles
  • Keep the length of the curve handles symmetrical to each other when making adjustments – hold the ALT/OPTION-key while adjusting the curve handles
  • Temporarily toggle snapping to grid or guides while adjusting curve handles – hold the CTRL-key after clicking on the handle
  • Constrain curve handles’ angle to 15-degree increments – hold the SHIFT-key while adjusting a curve handle
  • “Nudge” one or more points or curve handles – select the points and move with the keyboard arrow-keys (nudge will move in increments based on your drawing units and graph paper settings)
  • Open a closed path, hold the CMND-key and drag the end point away from the start point; alternatively, right-click the path and choose “Open Path” from the contextual menu; or use the Cut Path [u] tool
  • Don’t forget, you can also use the Add Point on Path [+], Delete Point on Path [-], and Cut Path [u] tools :)

To Expand Curve Handles on a Path:

To_Expand_Curve_Handles_on_a_Path.png

Do one of the following:

  • Choose the Select [s] tool and select the path, while holding the CMND-key, press and drag the each curve handle outward from the point with collapsed handles.
  • Choose the Select [s] tool and select the path, while holding the Option-CMND keys, press and drag the both curve handles symmetrically away from the point with collapsed handles.
  • With the path to be edited selected, right-click the path and choose ‘Select All Handles’, then right-click again and choose ‘Expand Handles’ from the contextual menu.
  • With the path to be edited selected, choose Edit > Path > Select All Handles, then Edit > Path > Expand Handles from the main menu.

HINT: Any object, once converted to a path, can have its curve handles expanded.

To Collapse Curve Handles on a Path:

Do one of the following:

  • Choose the Select [s] tool and select the path, click to select a single handle to be collapsed, then right-click the path and choose ‘Collapse Handles’ from the contextual menu.
  • Choose the Select [s] tool and select the path, click to select a single handle to be collapsed, then Edit > Path > Collapse Handles from the main menu.
  • Choose the Select [s] tool and select the path, hold the Shift-key and click to select multiple handles to be collapsed, then right-click the path and choose ‘Collapse Handles’ from the contextual menu.
  • Choose the Select [s] tool and select the path, hold the Shift-key and click to select multiple handles to be collapsed, then Edit > Path > Collapse Handles from the main menu.
  • With the path to be edited selected, right-click the path and choose ‘Select All Handles’, then right-click again and choose ‘Collapse Handles’ from the contextual menu.
  • With the path to be edited selected, choose Edit > Path > Select All Handles, then Edit > Path > Collapse Handles from the main menu.

To Cut and Join Paths:

To_Cut_and_Join_Paths.png

Do one of the following:

  • To cut a path into two sections, use the Cut Path [u] tool and click onto the path at the location of the cut, or use a cutting motion with the tool.
  • To join two paths into one path, move the endpoints close together then choose the Edit > Paths > Join (CMND-J keyboard shortcut) from the main menu.

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Constrain Location, Angle and Aspect Ratio

When drawing any object, it may be desirable to constrain it in various ways to keep lines perpendicular or at set angles to the page. The relative horizontal and vertical size of an object is called its “aspect ratio”. It’s easy to constrain an object’s location, angle and aspect ratio using modfier keys.

To Constrain an Object’s Position While Moving:

  1. Choose the Select [s] tool and select an object.
  2. Press the SHIFT-key while dragging the object. This constrains the object angle to 45° alignments of its original position.

To Constrain an Object’s Rotation Angle:

  1. Choose the Select [s] tool and select an object.
  2. Press the SHIFT-key while draging the object’s purple Rotation handle to rotate. This constrains the object angle to 15-degree increments.

To Constrain the Angle of a Line:

  1. Choose the Irregular Polygon or Line [l] tool.
  2. Press the SHIFT-key while drawing. This constrains the line angle to 15-degree increments.

To Constrain an Object’s Aspect Ratio While Drawing Circles and Squares:

  1. Choose the Rectangle [r] tool, Oval [o] tool, or Round Rectangle tool.
  2. While drawing the shape, press the SHIFT-key to constrain its aspect ratio, resulting in a perfect square, circle or rounded square.

HINT: The SHIFT-key can be used in combination with the CMND-key to constrain the aspect ratio and draw out from center.

To Constrain an Object’s Aspect Ratio While Resizing:

Do one of the following:

  • Choose the Select [s] tool and select an object, press the SHIFT-key to constrain its aspect ratio, and drag the object handles to resize an object or group,
  • With the object selected, click the “lock” icon in the Geometry panel to lock the width / height aspect ratio, then enter the object width or height in the Geometry panel.

To Constrain the Angle of a Linear Gradient, Shadow, and Other Style Effects:

While editing any style component with an angle style property, press the SHIFT-key to constrain its angle to 15-degree increments.

To Hold a Shape’s Centerpoint in Place While Resizing:

  1. Choose the Select [s] tool and select the shape (or group) to resize.
  2. Hold the Option-key, then press and drag the object (or group) handles to resize.