In the first lesson in this series, I taught you how to draw a straight line. I included information on how to make it a perfect horizontal, vertical or 45° angle, and how to get rid of that pesky feature where the software keeps drawing shapes endlessly. You can find that lesson here. Today, I’m going to cover how to use the tools for shape with straight or curved line segments. I called them “non-regular,” because they aren’t simple shapes like a square or circle. As in Lesson 1, I’ll describe how to do it and then give you a video.
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Open or closed shape?
First of all, you should know that you can make the shapes you create closed or open. An open shape is simply one where the beginning and ending of the line segments you draw don’t meet up. For the most part, you’ll want to create closed shapes. If it’s open, you can’t fill it with a color or pattern, and you won’t be able to remove your cut shape from the background.
Let me explain a bit more about the difference. Let’s say I want to draw the shape of a house. Many beginners will draw a series of 6 lines and put them close together. I’ve colored each one a different color here to make it easier to see that they are different shapes.
Even if I put the end points of each line close together and group them, or even make them a compound path, it’s still an open shape. I couldn’t fill my house with color. And if I cut it like this, it wouldn’t be quite cut through at each corner.
I would need to make the pieces a single compound path, and then with point editing join the openings at the corners. I’ve begun doing that here–
As you are drawing polygons with straight and curved line segments, you can choose to close them or leave them open. As I said, normally you want to close them, but stick around until the end because I’ll share some times you might want to use an open shape or line.
Draw a polygon with straight line segments
As we did when drawing a straight line, start by clicking the icon in the left side and then moving your mouse to the Design area. Click there once in the spot where you want to start your shape. You’ll see a red dot. Red dots indicate an open point. Since you just started drawing, that point is red. If you go back to drawing straight lines like we did in Lesson 1, there’s a red dot at each end.
Drag your mouse to the next spot you want to change direction and click again. Clicking adds a point, which then allows you to draw the next line segment at a new angle. You want to avoid crossing any old line segment with a new one, as that would make them cut into one another.
Continue clicking to add points. Your end points will stay red, and any along the middle will be black.
To create a close shape, bring your mouse toward your first point. When it gets close, it will “pop” and connect to the first dot. Then all the points are black, indicating no breaks in the line.
To create an open shape instead, do a quick double click where you want your last line segment to stop. The first and last points will be red, which shows the shape is open.
Each dot will be a corner point.
Draw a curve shape
[It kinda sticks in my craw that it’s called “curve shape” and not “curved shape,” but I’m going with what’s in the software.]
This is going to be very similar to drawing a shape with the straight line segments — click the icon, click to start the shape, click every time you want to change direction, end the same way to create an open or closed shape. There’s just one subtle difference, but it may be something you need to know.
This time, the types of points you end up with in your shape are different.
- The shapes along the middle are all smooth points.
- If you close the shape, the spot where you join creates a corner point.
- If you leave the shape open, the end points remain as smooth points.
This type of shape can be a bit harder to control, because of those smooth points in the middle. By definition, a smooth point along a curved line segments means the curves on each side of that point are tied to one another. When you move the little blue control handle to alter the curve, the curves on BOTH sides of the point move in opposite directions at the same time. If the point were a corner, you could move them independently. Since they are tied together, as you click to add a point and then move off in a new direction, the curve of the line segment you just finished moves.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about with corner and smooth points, and blue control handles, you can totally ignore it, check out my series on point editing or watch the video.
Uses for open shapes and lines
I told you at the beginning that you will most often want to create closed shapes. But here are a few times you might want an open shape–
- To create individual curved line segments so that it’s easier to adjust the curves since they aren’t tied together. You can adjust the curves, then combine several segments with point editing. Since they are joined points, they are corners and not smooths.
- To make score lines in the middle of a shape. Because they don’t reach the edges, they don’t cut the shape apart into pieces.
- When making a sketch image.
- To leave an opening in a sketch image for a word.
- For making slits in a card to insert a gift card or cash.
- To create pop-up elements.
I’ve detailed these in more detail in this post.
Up next in this series, I’ll each you how to draw and adjust an arc.