Solution

The answer, in a nutshell, is the Pen Tool (P). Curved design elements

Creating curves involves learning how to draw your own vector shapes—it's exciting stuff! If you've never used vector drawing tools before, you're in for a treat!

Think back to your adventures with the pencil and brush drawing tools, where you clicked and dragged the mouse to create a shape. The Pen Tool is distinctly different, because instead of creating a shape, you are clicking and dragging to set anchor points and curve directions. It takes some practice, but mastering the Pen Tool is your key to creating delightful curves.

Let's start with the basics. Before I explain how to make curved shapes, I'll quickly go over how to draw polygon shapes with the Pen Tool—it's quite easy, and sets a good foundation for drawing trickier curves.

Let's draw a triangle. Each click with the Pen Tool will create a corner point. Click once to create the first point, then again to create the second point. A line segment will automatically connect these points to form a path. Click again to create the third point—a line segment will connect this to the second point, extending the path. Any subsequent points created hereafter will be connected with line segments, but since we're creating a triangle, we only need three points. To make the triangle shape, simply close the path by clicking on the first point we created. You'll notice that the cursor changes into a pen with a little circle when you move it over the original point—this means that you can close the path by clicking on that point. Alternatively, you could close the path simply by pressing Enter. The example below shows the four clicks described to create a triangle.

Using the Pen Tool to create a polygon

Let's have a go at creating some curves. This time, when you click to place a point, drag the mouse. You'll see two lines extending from the point you've made. These are known as Bezier control handles, or "handlebars." The length and direction of these handlebars will determine the curvature of the path that we are about to Curved paths make. Release the mouse button and move your cursor to another position. Click and hold down the mouse button again. You'll see that a path has been created between your first and second points, and that one of your handlebars has disappeared. If you drag your mouse, new handlebars will extend from the second point.

Choose the Direct Selection Tool (4) and adjust the curve by dragging the end points of the handlebars, as shown in this example.

Let's try making the curved shapes I showed you on the previous page using these techniques.

Adjusting the curve with handlebars

Adjusting the curve with handlebars

Curved Shape 1

Follow along with the diagram opposite.

1 Using the Pen Tool (P), click once to create a point.

2 Hold down the Shift key and click above the first point to create a straight, vertical line.

3 Keeping the Shift key down, click to the right of the top point to create a straight, horizontal line.

4 Still holding the Shift key, click below the point on the right-hand side to create a vertical line segment a bit shorter than the first one we created.

5 Position your cursor as shown. Press Shift and click and drag to create a point with horizontal handlebars.

Step by step for Curved Shape 1

6 Position the cursor as shown in step 6 in the diagram. Hold down Shift, click and then drag to create another point with horizontal handlebars.

7 Click once on the original point to close the shape.

Curved Shape 2

1 Using the Pen Tool (P), click once to create a point.

2 Hold down the Shift key and click above the first point to create a straight, vertical line as shown.

3 Keeping the Shift key down, click to the right of the top point to create a straight, horizontal line.

4 Position the cursor as shown. Click and drag to create a point with handlebars, then hold down Shift and drag to the left to create the curved section.

5 Click once on the original point to close the shape.

Creating Curved Shape 2

Curved Shape 3

1 Using the Pen Tool (P), click once to create a point.

2 Hold down the Shift key and click to the right of the first point to create a straight, horizontal line.

3 Keeping the Shift key down, click above the point on the right-hand side to create a straight, vertical line.

4 Hold down the Alt key (Option on a Mac). Click on the point you just created and drag the mouse up and to the left to create a handlebar.

5 Click on the original point to complete the shape, but do not release the mouse button. Drag the mouse downwards and to the left, as shown in step 5 in the diagram, to create a handlebar. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to adjust your curve with the handlebars.

Creating Curved Shape 3
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