Illustrator Beginner’s Series 5: Using the Ellipse Tool

By Cory • Feb 6th, 2009 • Category: Tutorials & Tips

This is the fifth tutorial in the Illustrator Beginner’s series. We’ve already covered placing sketches,using the Pen tool,tracing sketches with the Pen tool and making symmetrical vector files. This lesson covers using the Ellipse tool to make eyes.


Here’s my sketch. You can either work on the same layer as the leaf shape or create a new one to work on for the eyes. If you want a refresher on using layers, you can refer to the first tutorial.



Select the Ellipse tool from the Toolbar.


Next, draw an ellipse. Click on the starting point of your oval and slowly pull your mouse down until your ellipse is about the same size and shape as your sketch.


Many times, I’ll just use the oval as is, but let’s make it a little more difficult by using the Direct Section tool to adjust the curves. You may want to zoom in on your oval to adjust it. Z on your keyboard will bring up the Zoom tool. If you click on the artboard with the Zoom tool, it will zoom in a set amount. This is kind of tedious, so I usually use it by clicking and dragging a box around the area I want to zoom in on. I think this is a much easier way to use it. To zoom out, hold down the Option/Alt key. You’ll notice the tooltip changes from zoom + to zoom -. Again, this will only zoom you out in increments. I like to use View > Fit in Window or Command/Control 0.

Alright, back to the Direct Select tool… I click on the line of the oval with the Direct Selection tool. The line lights up and I can see all the anchor points and handles. I start by clicking on the left middle anchor point and pulling it down a little. This makes my eyeball a little more bottom heavy and egg shaped. Next I grab the top left handle of the top anchor point and move it in or closer toward the anchor. If I hold down Shift while I’m moving it, it will only move in one direction. Then, I do the same with the right handle.



For a more precise way to move anchor points and handles, you can use the arrow keys on your keyboard. Select the anchor point or handle you want to move and click on the arrow key to move it in an incremental step.
You can adjust the distance the point moves by changing your settings. Go to File > Preferences > General. A dialogue box pops up and the first box is keyboard increments.


Next, draw the pupil with the Ellipse tool. Holding down the Shift key while you draw an oval will make it a perfect circle.


Now to flip the eye you just drew, so you can have a symmetrical second eye. Select both the eyeball and the pupil with the Selection tool. Next drag them to the right like you were going to move them, but hold down the Option/Alt key and the Shift key. You’ll want to press the Shift key after you start dragging, otherwise you’ll deselect the shapes. Holding down the Option key will make a copy of the shapes while you drag them and holding down the Shift key will make sure that you only move the shapes left and right and not up and down.


To flip them, double click on the Reflect tool while they are selected.


A dialogue box pops up. Choose Vertical and click OK.


You’ll probably have to move the eye a little after it flips to get it in position. Hold down the Shift key when you move them like before, so the eye only moves in one direction. Or you can use the arrow keys to nudge it over. Here are the eyes with the leaf shape. Next, it is on to the mouth and the stem.


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