Part 2: Stroke, Fill, and an Intro to the Pen Tool

In this second part of our Illustrator guide, we show you what stroke and fill are. After that, we discuss the famous pen tool.

In the previous part of our guide, we discussed some simple concepts. The biggest simple concept is the difference between raster and vector images. Of course, we didn’t actually go into the program itself. That’s what this part is all about: diving into the program and getting our hands dirty!

Initial Screen

So, when I open my Illustrator program, I’ll see the initial splash screen.

As the above image suggests, we are going to open a new Web document. Really, any document with many different dimensions will work for our purposes, but this is what I’ve chosen to open the image up as.

In the subsequent screen, we have a number of options. We can choose from a custom set of default page layouts or we can customize what we want. For me, I’m just going to stick with the classic 800×600 landscape orientation, so I’m just going to hit the OK button.

Making and Selecting a Square

illustrator can be a bit daunting at first. I don’t blame you if you think to yourself, “Where the heck do I even begin?”

Well, let’s start things off slowly. Have you ever used MS Paint? Have you ever drawn a box? Then this next step is going to start off with something that is dead simple to you. Otherwise, it’s just going to be, well, pretty simple. We are going to draw a box.

As the arrow points to, click on the Rectangle Tool.

Now, in your picture, click and drag diagonally from one part of the image to another. You’ll see a blue outline as you click and drag like the above. As long as you can plainly see a box with little to no hassle, that’s all that matters here. When you let go, you’ll see something like this:

You’ll see that your blue outline is still there, but you can probably see a small amount of black behind it. This is what the box looks like when selected. To deselect this square, click on the selection tool (the one that looks like a black cursor):

When you click on the selection tool, you’ll see that your box now has large handles all the way around it.

With those handles, you can resize your box. The side boxes can move one side at a time while the corner boxes can move two sides at once. You are free to play around with that, but for the purpose of the guide, we are going to just de-select the box. Simply click outside of the box to de-select it:

That is what your box looks like. It’s important to have everything de-selected when assessing whether or not your image looks good or not.

Customizing Your Square (Stroke and Fill)

Now, to the untrained eye, it’s just a plain box. It has grey-ish sides and that’s it. To the trained eye, however, what is there is a box with a white fill and a black stroke. How does one know this? The fill and stroke boxes in the bottom left corner:

Fill is what goes onto the inside of an object. A stroke is the line that surrounds the outside of an object. Let’s demonstrate this. First, let’s change our fill by double-clicking on the fill box:

What you get is the colour picker that comes with Illustrator. There are multiple ways of picking a colour. whether it’s setting HSB values, the RGB values, the CMYK values, a hex value, or just doing it the way most people do it, clicking on the big colourful thing on the left half and hoping to get something reasonable out of it. I’m going to select red via the latter method:

It may be a bit difficult to tell from the image, but I’ve basically clicked and dragged a little blue circle all the way to the top right hand corner. In the previous picture, you might be able to tell that it was on the top left corner. You can select any colour you like of course, I just randomly chose red for demonstrative purposes.

One thing to note on this is the fact that the square between the tall colour picker thing and the OK button changes. The top part is what colour you are now selecting. The bottom part is what it was before. It’s just a method of previewing this colour. In this case, the new colour is red (top) and the old colour is white (bottom). If you are happy with the colour you’ve selected, hit the OK button.

You’ll see that absolutely nothing has changed. Wait, why? Well, simply put, we don’t have the box selected. Select the box by clicking on the selection cool and click on it.

Now, with the object you want selected, click on the fill box like before and select your colour. For me, this is the end result after deselecting the box after the change was made:

This highlights something very important. If you want to change something that is already on your picture, you have to select it in order to change it. If you are creating a new object, then you can change the colours first, then draw your image. Which method you choose depends largely on style and situation.

Now, let’s modify the stroke. First, let’s select the object, then double click on the stroke box:

Now, in the colour picker, I’m going to try selecting a different colour. In this case, I’m going for a sort of pale orange colour. So, I’m just going to slide the right hand bar down to something orange-like and click and drag the little black circle around until I get something reasonable:

When I am happy, I’m going to click on “OK”:

Now, while it’s deselected, you’ll probably hardly notice a thing has changed. Why is that? Well, that might be because the stroke width is not very large. To change the stroke width, you’ll have to look at the right hand toolbar. Underneath the stroke tab above the layers (highlighted above), you’ll notice a “Weight” option. This is what we are going to modify next. First, we select the box and then use the little up and down arrows to change the stroke weight:

Ahh, that’s certainly much better. As highlighted in the image, I’ve selected an 8 point weight so I can see the border of my box. That is certainly a lot more visible than the default 1 point font, right?

The Basics of the Pen Tool

It’s all well and good to be making boxes, but it’s even better to be able to create custom objects, right? Well, we’re only going to cover a small amount in this part. So, consider this an intro to the pen tool. First, start a new project file (or delete the box with the delete key on your keyboard if you like). Now, click on the pen tool:

Now, since we are just drawing lines, we don’t need fill. So, single click on the fill box. Then, click on the little box with a red line through it:

You’ll notice the fill box after will have a red line through it. The reason why we are doing this is because if it’s just lines we are making, there’s no point in filling it in. If we make a jagged spiral, we won’t have any fill getting in the way. Generally, it makes things easier if we are going freestyle with the pen. Now, all we are going to do is create points that the computer is going to draw from and to. Simply let click on a part of the screen to make the point. In the next place, left click again to make another point. The computer will automatically draw a straight line between the two points.

You can make a third to create a triangle-like shape. To complete the triangle, simply click on the first point to complete the object. This is what I came up with:

That’s not bad for a first custom vector object! We can modify the stroke colour and weight. If we really want, we can add a fill colour by changing the fill from none to a solid colour (as highlighted below):

That’s it! That’s a good intro to the pen tool. Now, you can create and modify simple objects in Illustrator!

< Initial Thoughts on Illustrator (Raster vs Vector) | Index | Mastering the Pen Tool and Layers >


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