Illustrator Beginner’s Series 3: Tracing with the Pen Tool

By Cory • Jan 28th, 2009 • Category: Tutorials & Tips

This is the third part in my Adobe Illustrator Beginner’s series. This tutorial is about tracing over your pencil sketches with the Pen tool. The first part of this series was about getting your sketches into Illustrator and the second part was about using the Pen tool. If you missed the either part, you can check out the first one here and the second one here.


Here’s my placed sketch.


Select the Pen Tool and the color you want to draw in from the Toolbar. I like to draw in a bright color like red, so I can see the lines over my sketch.
Start by clicking on the bottom of the leaf in the middle. Next, click on the top in the middle. Hold down the Shift key when you click. Holding down the Shift key will make your line straight.


Now, you want your line to curve to follow the shape of the leaf. Make your next point, at the end of the curve, but don’t release the mouse button. Instead, slowly move your mouse down. Notice it is making a curved line. When you get the curve correct release the mouse button.


After making a curved line, you’ll want to click off your line to avoid the recipricol curve like in the last tutorial. Hold down the Command/Control key to get either the Direct Select or the Selection tool and click off the line on the empty artboard. Then, release the Command/Control key and continue drawing with the Pen tool.


Now you want to continue drawing with your line. With the Pen tool selected, hover your mouse over the end of the line. A small black slash mark will appear next to pen tool tip (or the part where your pen meets paper). This means that you are over the end point of the line. Click on it. If you miss just undo. Go to Edit > Undo or Command/Control Z.


Next, click on the next point you want your line to continue to. This line is a straight line, so you won’t have to click off of it to draw the next one.


Continue following the contour of the leaf by making the line curve and go straight. When you come to the end, you’ll want close the shape. If you remember from the last lesson, to close a shape hover over the first point you made. You’ll know you’re over the point when a small circle appears next to your pen tool, then click on the point. Your line or path is closed.


You have just drawn half the leaf shape. The next lesson will show you how to flip the shape and join it, so you have a symmetrical object.


This post was written on IllustrationInfo.com. Content copyright 2009 Cory Thoman.