Today’s lesson on Point Editing is probably the most impactful. I’m going to give you all the secrets to adjusting any curve on any shape. If you understand the principles I’ll discuss here, you’ll save yourself a great deal of frustration as you try to edit your points. You need an understanding of the basics first, so if you haven’t gone through Lessons 1-4 start here.
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We’re going to go over what the blue control handles do and how to use them to adjust a “c.” We’ll go over ways of getting 2 different curves to match. I’ll include some troubleshooting tips and, as always, some examples of editing real shapes. The videos are especially helpful in this lesson, since you’ll learn the most by seeing in action how to adjust a curve. So instead of saving them all for the end, I’m going to drop them in throughout the lesson.
Tutorial level: Intermediate to Advanced
What the control handles do
Blue squares – Bezier Control Handles — change the shape and amount of a curve. In Lesson 4, I showed you that a point is either a smooth or corner point and that which one it is will affect how you can alter the curves coming off of it. This is the #1 thing that will frustrate you in trying to adjust curves if you don’t understand it, so let me say it again.
–On a smooth point connecting 2 curves, you’ll have a control handle on each side of the point. If you move either one, it will alter the curved segments on each side of the point because they are tied to one another. As you move one blue box, the other moves in tandem in the opposite direction. It does this on curves to alter the entire curve with one movement, which makes it easier to get a smooth, continuous curve.
–On a corner point connecting 2 curves, the control handles on either side of the point move independently. Moving one doesn’t affect the other one at all. This is helpful when you want to have a sharp peak or want the curves to come off the point in different manners. The latter is hard to explain, but it will make more sense as you see examples. For instance, you can make one line segment coming off the point convex (bows out), while the other is concave (bows in).
Moving the control handle
After you’ve selected the point, hover over one of the blue boxes and you’ll see the same icon you get when you are selecting a point. Click on the blue box and keep holding your mouse key down to drag that control handle around your screen. It can be finicky – sometimes when you’re trying to grab a control handle you accidentally select a different point or create a new point. Zoom in as far as is necessary to help with that.
The curve follows the blue box as it moves. Think of the blue box like a magnet pulling the top of the curve with it. The high point of the curve is in line with where the control handle is. There are 2 different properties of the blue control handle to be aware of as you move it – the distance from the line segment and the distance from the point.
The distance from the line segment
If a blue control handle is close to the line segment, you have a shallow curve. As you pull it farther from the line segment, you are creating more curvature.
Here’s a corner point with 1 curved segment. Notice where the blue control handle is — right beside the highlighted line segment.
Now, I’ve move it farther from the line segment. See how I’ve got a deeper curve? Notice also that the high point of the curve is in line with the blue box.
The distance from the point
The farther the control handle is from the point, the more change you’ll see as you move the blue box. That’s because moving that blue box is affecting a larger portion of the line segment.
For example, look at the curve on the top of this shape. The control handle on the point at the far right is very close to the point.
If I move it to the other side the line segment but keep it close to the point, I won’t see much change. The change I see will be primarily near the point. I’m only affecting a short portion of the curved line segment.
Now let’s look at the control handle on the other end of that curved line segment. We see that when we select the upper left point. Notice that it’s much farther from the point.
If I move it to the other side of the segment, I’ll see more of a change than I did with the right hand point. That’s because the curve is being altered farther down the line segment. In other words, I’m adjusting a larger portion of the curved line segment.
Play around with moving the control handles in varying distances from the line segment and from the point. Practice with both smooth and corner points – adjust the control handle, then change the point type and adjust again, noticing how that changes what you do.
There are times when you want the line segment between 2 points to have the same amount of curvature coming off the points at each end of it. There are several things you can do to make that easier.
Make sure each end of the segment knows it’s a curve
Remember that sometimes the points are arguing over the properties of the line segment. If the segment is obviously a curve but one of the points doesn’t have a control handle, that’s what’s happening. We need to make sure each line segment knows it’s a curve.
Select each point and check your right click menu to make sure there’s a check mark beside “Make Curve.” Or just hit Make Curve in one of your other areas to force that point to acknowledge that the line segment is actually a curve.
This helps with either smooth or corner points that are the ends of the line segment.
A smooth point in the middle
At times, it’s easiest to add a point in the middle of that segment and make sure the segments are each side of that point are curves.
Because that new point connecting the 2 curves on either side of it is a smooth point, the curves are tied together. That means you’ll be able to see and move both control handles at the same time. It’s easier to make them match if you can see where both blue boxes are. Just realize that the control handles for the other ends of each segment will affect the curve as well (see the next tip).
In our last lesson, we saw this on our gift tag. You can check out that lesson to see it in action.
Watch for the control handles at each end of the segment
On any curved line segment, the points on each end affect the curve. That means you need to work with the control handles on each end of the segment in order to make the curve do exactly what you want.
One trick you can use is to pull the control handle at one end of the curve right next to its point. That way, you adjust it almost exclusively from the blue box at the other end of the curved segment.
Change a Preference setting
There’s a setting in your Preferences that affects Point Editing. By default, it’s set so that when you select a point, you see only the control handles for that point. But you can change that so that you see the blue boxes for ALL points on that shape.
Here’s where this helps. Let’s say you have a shape that isn’t symmetrical, but you want to make your curves symmetrical. If you can see all the control handles, it’s easier to match them up.
Here’s an oval I made with my create a shape tool.
I want to turn it into a heart. In order for it to be symmetrical, I need the curves on each side of the shapes to match. Since I can see all the control handles at the same time, it’s easier for me to make them match. Another advantage is that you don’t have to select the point in order to grab the blue box. That’s because they are all showing at once.
Notice that I’ve got my grid showing. That give me a reference point. I can see how far from each grid mark the control handle is, so I can move 2 different handles to the same spot in relation to the grid marks. Because you can set your grid divisions to any amount you want, you can get very precise with this method.
Step by Step
First, I make the top and bottom points corners instead of smooth points. Then I move them both down a bit with the arrow keys on my keyboard. That keeps them in the same vertical line. I also centered the shape on the page, which means I can more easily match the spots to which I move my blue control handles.
Next I adjust the curve on the top of the heart using the control points that come of each side of the dip in the middle. Notice that because I have that grid, I can see that they are moved to the same spot. That means the curves match.
Finally, I adjust the curves off the bottom point in the same matter and move the points on the sides out. My heart is complete.
I can continue tweaking the curves and points until I’m satisfied.
To set your Preferences to show all handles, click the gear icon in the lower right of the screen. Go to the tab for Tools and look toward the bottom for Editing Tools. The first one is the one you’re looking for – “Show Bezier Control Handles.” Unless you’ve changed it, it’s on Selected Points only. You can change it to “All Points.” Be sure to click Apply or OK at the bottom to save the change. (Apply saves the preference but leaves the panel open in case you want to make other changes, OK saves the preference and closes the panel).
Now let’s look at some ways I can alter the curves on some of the shapes we’ve been using in this series of lessons.
Our Heart Continued
Let’s continue looking at the heart we just created. It’s very symmetrical at the spot where we left it. Let’s change that.
First, we’ll adjust the curve on the left side coming up from the bottom point. I’ve moved the blue control handle inside the shape. That means there’s now a concave curve instead of a convex one like I have still on the right side.
Now let’s increase the curve on the upper right side. To do that, I select the point along that right side and adjust the top blue control handle. Since it’s a smooth point, the curve below the point adjusts in tandem.
Our Ornament Revisited
In Lesson 3, I showed you how we could change a Christmas ornament into a bomb shape by deleting and moving some points.
Let’s look now at how we could make that top a winding fuse. First, I’m going to move the 2 points at the end farther out, creating a longer fuse.
Next, I make each of those long sides of the fuse a curve.
Now I can add some points and adjust the curves to make it more winding.
Our Sun Revisited
In Lesson 3, I showed you how to make the rays of our sunburst symmetrically flat. Now that we understand how to adjust curves, we can make those rays symmetrically curved instead. Here I’ve deleted the flat segments on the rays to that I have 1 curve and 1 flat.
In this example, I have adjusted half of the curves so that those curves are more prominent. Notice how it changes the overall shape.
This time, on those same rays I turned the point at the end of each ray into a smooth, made each side of each ray a curve, then moved the points and adjusted the curves coming off each one. I have a continuous, roundish curve to each ray.
Now I made the ends of each ray a corner, so I can get a sharp end point but still have curved segments.
As you move the blue boxes, notice that they may be on the same side of the line segments coming of the point…
…or on opposite sides.
Each image and each curve is different. On a smooth point, they are more likely to be on opposite sides, particularly before you move the point, but not always.
While it is possible to move or delete multiple points at once, or change their point or line segment types concurrently, you can only adjust 1 blue control handle at a time. (Keeping in mind, of course, that on a smooth point adjusting the control handle on one side of the point will move the other in tandem.)
Identify the beginning and ending points of your curve on your shape. There are often extra points in between, particularly on a trace of a low resolution image. Those make it harder to get a continuous curve without bumps, and make it more troublesome to adjust the amount of the curve.
Delete the extra points first, then adjust the curved segment from each end. That keeps you from having to mess with all those unnecessary points.
Let’s say you’re trying to adjust a curve and you get a weird bump in it like this. It doesn’t look like the curve is being pulled by the blue box as it’s supposed to be.
What’s going on? The control handle for the point at the other end of the segment is past our original control handle. This happens often when you’re changing point types.
Just pull the offending control handle closer to its point and you’ll fix the problem.
One thing you do NOT want to do when point editing is pull a point across another line segment. Here’s an example on my bomb shape:
You might try to do this to create a loop on the fuse. It will not cut right — the overlapping parts will cut one another off. The tip off is that I have cut lines crossing over one another. You should not have any place where your lines create a “T” or “X.” You can see that more easily if I fill the shape with color.
Here’s what to do instead. Draw a simple shape such as a rectangle or rounded rectangle. Position it so that it lays across the fuse and overlaps the end of the fuse.
Then weld. That eliminates the cut lines where the end crosses the middle of the fuse. You’ll usually need to edit the points a bit at the spot where the 2 shapes overlapped, but you’re getting to be a pro at that now.
NOTE: As you do modifications such as welding, the current release of the software creates an excess of points. Use your Simplify option as needed to remove some.
Fonts that look handwritten have become very popular recently. I’ve seen this crossing over issue quite a bit with some that are poorly-made. Honestly, you’re better off just choosing a different font if you run into this, because you don’t want to have to fix every single letter. However, if you don’t have a choice, do a teeny offset of your word. Then release the compound path, remove any of those problem holes, and remake the compound path. Say what? Watch this video and it will make more sense.
Wow, that’s cool!
Can you see how useful it is to learn point editing, particularly how to adjust curves? I can get many looks from a single shape by understanding how to adjust points, line segments and curves.
Next time, I’ll teach you about breaking and joining paths. What’s that you ask???? Wait and see!