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Creating Lines

So far you've created objects—closed paths—in the shape of rectangles, squares, ellipses, and circles. Now we'll take a look at some of the open paths that you can create by dragging or clicking a tool.

Using the Line Segment Tool

The Line Segment tool, like the Flare tool, does one thing and one thing only. Thankfully, this tool does it much more simply than Flare does.

Click, drag, and release. A straight line will be drawn between the point where you clicked and the point where you released. Pretty simple. A point at each end, with a path in between. Double-click the Line Segment tool icon in the Toolbox to open its dialog box. Length and angle are the two big options (see Figure 3.14). There's also an option to fill the line. (Fills are discussed in Hour 8, "Using Strokes, Fills, and Gradients.")

Figure 3.14 The Line Segment tool is a good antidote for the very-complex Flare tool.

Be aware that adding a fill to a straight path segment changes nothing on the artboard. However, if you combine this path with another at some later date, a fill might be appropriate.

Pressing the Shift key while dragging constrains the Line Segment tool to 45° angles. The Option (Mac)/Alt (Windows) key allows you to create lines from the midpoint.

Using the Arc Tool

The Rectangle tool is to the Ellipse tool as the Line Segment tool is to the _______. If you answered "Arc tool," go to the head of the class! Similar to the Line Segment tool, the Arc tool produces a single path segment with an anchor point at each end. Similar to the Ellipse tool, it uses curved segments.

Double-click the Arc tool's icon in the Toolbox to open the Arc dialog box. As you can see in Figure 3.15, it is substantially more complicated than the Line Segment dialog box. This tool, however, offers a preview window in the dialog box.

Figure 3.15 The Arc tool has a variety of options.

When you double-click the Arc tool's icon in the dialog box and adjust the settings, you don't actually create an arc. Rather, you're setting the tool for the next time it's clicked in the artboard. When you next click it, the dialog box will again open (without a preview), but you can just click OK and create the arc.

Don't overlook the little four-point grid (called a proxy) in the upper middle of the dialog box. Click on any of the four corners to establish the arc's point of origin. Think of the selected point as being where you just clicked, and the small square of the proxy representing the bounding box of the arc.

TIP

If you double-click the Arc tool's icon in the Toolbox and the preview window looks broken or empty, close the dialog box by clicking Cancel. Now change the foreground color to black and the background color to white by pressing D on the keyboard. Reopen the dialog box and you'll see the preview. (This preview uses the current foreground and background colors. If the foreground color is white or None, the arc won't be visible in the preview window.)

Task: Working with the Arc Tool

Here's a quick way to get a handle on all of the Arc dialog box options.

  1. If the dialog box is not open already, double-click the Arc tool icon in the Toolbox.

  2. Set Length X-Axis and Length Y-Axis to the same value, any value. (Well, any value between 1 and 1000 points. )

  3. Change Type from Open to Closed.

  4. Drag the Concave/Convex slider all the way to the right.

  5. Take a look at the preview. Start making changes to the various options and creating arcs by clicking the tool on the artboard. You'll soon recognize what each does.

  6. Practice creating curves with different points of origin. After creating an arc, press V to switch to the Selection tool so that you can see the bounding box. Compare the bounding box to the proxy square in the dialog box. You can then switch back to the Arc tool.

  7. When done, click the Cancel button, select all, and delete to clear your artboard and get ready for the next step in your journey.

Using the Spiral Tool

Spirals are constructed of a series of linked arcs. Select the Spiral tool from the Toolbox and click once on the artboard to open the Spiral dialog box, as shown in Figure 3.16.

Figure 3.16 Shown are Illustrator's default values for the Spiral tool.

NOTE

When Decay is at 100%, the segments of the spiral will be placed atop each other, simulating a circle. Remember, however, that this is an open path, not a closed path like an actual circle.

The Spiral tool is easy to work with if you know the basic terms and functions.

  • The radius is the distance from where you first click (the center of the spiral) to the start point of the spiral.

  • Decay is the change in distance between the winds (segments) of the spiral.

  • The number of segments is measured in quarter turns. Each segment (also called a wind) is one-fourth of a circle.

  • The style of the spiral refers simply to the direction in which it goes.

When you drag the Spiral tool, you control the number of winds with the up and down arrow keys. Holding down the Option (Mac)/Alt (Windows) key while dragging controls the radius. The Command (Mac)/Control (Windows) key is used while dragging to adjust the amount of decay. If you press Shift while dragging a spiral, your movement will be constrained to 45º angles. Practice dragging a few spirals. Use the modifier keys Shift, Option (Mac)/ Alt (Windows), and Command (Mac)/Control (Windows) while dragging. When you've got a good understanding of how the modifier keys work, select all and delete to clear the artboard.

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