Draw a Path with the Pen Tool

The Pen tool Pen tool icon lets you draw both straight and curved lines. To draw a path, you should add one segment after another. If any of the added anchor points or segments require adjustments, you can edit the path after it is created.

Controls of the Pen Tool

The Pen tool displays several options in the Control panel. They let you choose different modes of the tool. The use of those modes is discussed further in this section and also in Edit a Path.

Control panel of the Pen tool

1 - Draw a path. In this mode, you add anchor points to create a new path.

2 - Add an anchor point to an existing path. Click on the path with this tool.

3 - Delete an anchor point. Click on the anchor point with the tool.

4 - Change the type of an anchor point from smooth to corner, and vice versa. This tool lets you manipulate the direction points in order to adjust the curvature of path segments. In this mode, you can simply select anchor points in order to delete or edit them using other tools. This mode can be temporarily activated by pressing the Option key.

5 - Convert a selected anchor point to the corner point type.

6 - Convert a selected anchor point to the smooth point type.

7 - Remove selected anchor points.

You can change the anchor point type from smooth to corner or vice versa by double-clicking on that point with the Pen tool. To remove a direction line (actually make its length equal to zero), click on its direction point with Pen holding down the Option or Shift key. This also turns a smooth point into a corner.

Draw a Straight Line

  1. Activate the Pen tool.
  2. Click at the point where the line should start.
  3. Click at the point where the line should end.
  4. Hit the Escape key to deactivate the tool.

Draw a Polygon

  1. Activate the Pen tool.
  2. Click at the point where one of the polygon's corners should be located.
  3. Click several times at points where other corners should appear.
  4. Click on the first point to close the outline of the polygon. A circle near the cursor indicates that the program will close the shape if you click.
  5. Hit the Escape key to deactivate the tool.

Draw Curved Line

In order to draw a curved line, you should press the left mouse button and drag the cursor off the click point. The direction line will follow the cursor. The direction line bends the segment you are drawing near the corresponding anchor point. Using this method, you can set the initial direction of the curve near each anchor point. Later, you can adjust direction lines to make the shape of the curve more precise.

Draw Curved Path

  1. Activate the Pen tool.
  2. Place the cursor at the point where the line should start.
  3. Press and hold the left mouse button.
  4. Move the cursor aside to see the direction line. One of its shoulders links the cursor and anchor point. Both the length and angle of the direction line will affect the curvature of the line you draw. Release the button.
    Adjust the direction line
    Another way to adjust the direction lines is to press and hold the Option key. Then drag the corresponding direction points. When done, release Option and continue drawing.
  5. Move the cursor to the next point.
    Adjust the direction line
  6. Repeat the three preceding steps.
  7. Click on the first point if you want to close the shape.
  8. Hit the Escape key to deactivate the tool.

Notice that you can combine curved and straight segments.

As an alternative technique of drawing a curved path, you can create it out of straight segments. Then make them curved as explained on the Edit a Path section.

While you are drawing a path, you can switch the type of a segment that you are about to add, from curved to straight. To do this, click on the point that is currently the last point of the path. If a future segment, the one between the last point and the cursor, is already straight, a single click on the last point won't change anything. Double-clicking on the last point changes its type (smooth or corner). As a consequence, the two segments before and after this point will change from straight to curved or vice versa.

Continue Drawing an Existing Path

After you have finished drawing a path, it is possible to add more segments at one of its ends. To do this, select the path and then activate the Pen tool. The anchor point that was added the last may have an additional circle around indicating that a new segment will begin at this point.

One of the path ends is ready to attach a new segment.

If no point was selected by default, or you want to choose the opposite end of the path, select the respective point with the Selection tool. Then activate the Pen tool to draw a segment. To stop drawing, press the Escape key.

Stroke Width and Color

To change the stroke width and color, use the Appearance panel. To change the stroke width, you can also use these keys: [ to decrease, and ] to increase.

Modifier Keys and Shortcut Summary


Pen tool modifier keys: