Home > Articles

Ready, Set, Draw!

Ready, Set, Draw!

In This Chapter

  • Drawing lines
  • Changing how lines look
  • Curves and zigzag lines
  • Drawing Bèzier curves
  • Creating ovals and rectangles

Drawing lines and shapes for your Flash movie is kind of like hiring actors for a regular movie. Except that you get to create these actors.

Much of the content of your animated movie will consist of moving shapes, lines, and text. In this chapter, you'll learn to use Flash's line and shape tools to create and manipulate the objects that will be flying around Web sites to present your message.

Let's break down exactly how to use the stroke (line) and shape tools in Flash.

Lines? Or Strokes?

Flash calls 'em strokes; most of us call 'em lines. Well, different strokes for different folks, as Sly and the Family Stone used to sing. I'll call them both strokes and lines in this section just to keep everyone happy.

Get It Straight

Two bits of advice on drawing lines in Flash:

  • Drawing in Flash is fun, whether you can draw or not.

  • Flash gives you a LOT of help!

If you're a talented sketch artist (like my artist, Paul), you'll find Flash's drawing tools give you the freedom to create some really cool stuff. If you're a drawing klutz (like me), you can still have a lot of fun, and Flash will help cover up your lack of drawing skill by rounding, smoothing, straightening, and adding effects to your drawings.

Where Do Drawings Come From?

Fact is, most artists don't create complex drawings in Flash. Instead, really complex illustrations are often created by modifying images from Flash's Library or other sources. The Flash Drawing tools are often used for basic drawings, shapes, and enhancing imported artwork.

Flash provides two main ways to draw lines–the Line tool and the Pencil tool. You can choose them from the Drawing toolbar (on the left of the Stage), or you can pick the Pencil tool by pressing P on the keyboard, and the Line tool by pressing N on the Toolbox.

Figure 3.1 Before you begin to draw with lines in Flash, you'll want to define line options like line color, width and type. These options are set in the Options area that appears at the bottom of the toolbar when you select the Line or Pencil tools.

The Line, Pen, and Pencil tools allow you to use options to change line color, thickness and style. The Pencil tool also allows you to modify how you want curves handled, but we'll get that a little later in the chapter.

That Pen Tool

Later in this chapter we'll explore a third way to draw special curves using the Pen tool. It's a bit tricky and specialized, so we'll focus on lines first.

Setting Stroke Color

Clicking on the Stroke Color button in the Color area of the Toolbox opens a palette of colors. The color you choose defines the color for strokes you draw with the Pencil, Line, and Pen tools option. From now on, any line you draw will appear with that color.

Figure 3.2 You can modify the stroke colorfor lines in the Colors area of the Toolbox. Default color settings draw a black line.

Figure 3.3 Picking a color for a line from the color palette.

Don't like any of the colors in the color palette? You can mix up your own color by clicking on the Color wheel button in the upper right corner of the Color Palette. This opens the Color dialog box. The Solid tab of the dialog box allows you to define colors not available from the default Flash color palette. You can mix up a custom color by entering values in the R (Red), G (Green), B (Blue) fields. Or you can choose a color from the Color space on the right side of the dialog box.

We'll examine colors in more detail in Chapter 5.

Pick Line Color First

Can you change the color of a line after you draw it? Yes, and we'll explore that process in Chapter 5, when we look at assigning fill colors. But for now all you need to know is that it's easier to assign a line color before you draw. One reason for that is that lines you draw in Flash are often converted to more than one line after they're drawn, meaning that you have to recolor several different line objects. In short, it usually helps to figure out your line color in advance.

Browser-Safe Colors

The default set of colors in Flash are "browser safe," meaning that they are compatible with the colors which Web browsers like Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer can interpret. We'll explore color palettes and browser-safe colors in more detail in "Protecting Your Colors," Chapter 5. For now, it's a good idea to just stick with the default palette–if you want the colors you choose in Flash to show up precisely in a Web browser.

Setting Stroke Thickness and Style

The option Stroke Panel allows you to choose line style, line thickness, and line color. Choose Window, Panels, Stroke to open the Stroke Panel.

Use the Stroke Style drop-down list to choose from a nice variety of line types. Use the Stroke Height slider (as shown in Figure 3.4) to choose a line thickness (or type a value in the box).

Figure 3.4 Changing line thickness with the Stroke slider. As you define stroke (line) height, style and color, the Preview area of the Stroke panel shows you how your line will appear.

Thick or Thin? It's Up to You!

Custom lines are great because they give you more control over your drawings by allowing you to set the line thickness to whatever you want–within parameters. Line thicknesses are defined in points. There are 72 points per inch. Line thicknesses can range from .10 points to 10 points, and can be set as precisely as a one-hundredth of a point.

The Stroke Panel also provides an alternate way to choose stroke color–you can click on the Stroke Color swatch to open the color palette and choose a new line color.

Lines with Custom Style

The Stroke Style option drop-down list in the Stroke panel allows you to choose from pre-set line styles. The preset options–hairline, solid, dashed, dotted, ragged, stippled, and hatched–are illustrated when you click on the dropdown list, as shown in Figure 3.5.

Figure 3.5 You can choose from preset line styles–or define your own.

For more detailed control over line style (and more fun), choose Custom from the flyout menu on the right of the Stroke panel, as shown in Figure 3.6.

Figure 3.6 Choosing the Custom option for Stroke style.

When you define a custom stroke style in the Line Style dialog box, you get a whole bunch of detailed options that you can use to define the line style.

Stroke Style Controversy

There's controversy in the Flash community over whether wild stroke styles work well in Web sites. Some experts say getting tricky with line styles is a no-no, and that the subtlety of line styles get lost by the time they arrive in a Web browser. Maybe so, but there is definitely a time and place for some cool line styles–especially with large, not too detailed graphics like the ones Paul contributed in Figure 3.7.

In Figure 3.7, Paul has gone to town with line styles. For the figure on the left, he tweaked the Stipple line style by assigning

  • Dot Size: Large
  • Dot Variation: Random
  • Density: Very Sparse
  • 4pt with sharp corners

For the figure on the right, Paul used the Simple pattern, and selected these options in the Line Style dialog box:

  • Wave Height: Wild
  • Wave Length: Very Short
  • 4pt with sharp corners

Figure 3.7 You can fine tune different attributes of the Stroke styles.

Drawing Straight Lines and Angles

After you define your stroke color, thickness, and style, it's time to draw! If you're drawing with the Line tool, your lines are gonna be straight, no matter how shaky your drawing hand.

With the Line tool selected, just click and drag to draw a line. Only when you release the mouse button does the line actually appear.

Drawing Angles

As you draw a line, you'll notice a magnetic pull to draw your line at a 90° angle–up, down, right, or left. That's handy, unless you want to draw a line that is almost straight up and down (or sideways), but not completely. In that case, from the View menu, deselect the default Snap on setting, and your lines will no longer "snap" to 90° angles. Even with Snap turned off, holding down the Shift key as you draw constrains your lines to 45° angles.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020