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Creating Objects in Illustrator 10

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Peter Bauer and Morty Golding teach how to create basic and complex objects, line segments and curves, use symbols in your artwork, and how to save your work in Adobe Illustrator 10.
This chapter is from the book

Adobe Illustrator, as you already know, is a vector art program. The basic building block of vector art is the path. Paths can be used to create objects and lines. When a path has definable starting and ending points, it is called an open path. Think about a piece of string. When a path has no identifiable end points, it is a closed path. Think about a rubber band. This is the difference between a line and an object. (We'll get into the nitty-gritty of paths in Hour 5, "Creating Paths and Compound Paths," and in Hour 6, "Editing Bézier Curves.") Fasten your seatbelt, because this is going to be a real hands-on hour!

In this hour, you'll learn about the following:

  • Creating basic objects, such as rectangles, squares, ellipses, and circles

  • Creating line segments and curves

  • Creating more complex objects, such as polygons, stars, spirals, and grids

  • Using symbols in your artwork

  • Saving your work

Creating Rectangles, Squares, Ellipses, and Circles

These basic shapes are among the easiest to create in Illustrator and are among the most common. From the walls of a phone booth to the eyes of a squirrel, you'll find these shapes everywhere in illustration. In addition to being common and easy to create, they are also the shapes that you'll start creating in Illustrator.

Getting Ready to Create

If Illustrator has been used since the last time you replaced the Prefs, go ahead and return them to their default settings. If you have any doubts about the procedure, see the instructions on the back of the reference card in the front of this book.

Use the menu command File, New, or the keyboard shortcut Command+N (Mac)/Control+N (Windows). In the New Document dialog box, accept the default values by clicking OK.

Task: Making Rectangles and Squares

Among the most basic of objects are those ever-useful rectangles and squares. These are some of the building blocks of illustration, and are also used for such things as crop marks and trim marks (which will come later in your Illustrator education). This is a great place to start creating.

  1. In the Toolbox, click on the Rectangle tool to select it (see Figure 3.1).

  2. Figure 3.1 Most of the tools we'll use in the first part of this hour are located either under the Rectangle tool or under the Line Segment tool, immediately to the left.

  3. Move the cursor onto the artboard. Notice how it becomes a crosshair.

  4. Simply click at a point near the upper-left corner of the artboard and drag down and to the right, near the center of the page. When the rectangle is of the proper size, release the mouse button. Your artboard should look similar to Figure 3.2.

  5. Figure 3.2 Don't worry if your rectangle is different...as long as you actually have a rectangle on your artboard, that is.

  6. In another part of the artboard, click and drag from a point toward the upper-right corner.

  7. Now click and drag toward the upper-left corner. Release the mouse button.

  8. Hold down the Shift key and drag another rectangle. Notice that it remains a perfect square rather than following the cursor. Release the mouse button.

  9. Start dragging a rectangle and, without releasing the mouse button, press Shift. Observe how the outline of the rectangle jumps to a perfect square. Keeping the mouse button down, release Shift. Press Shift. Release Shift. Press Shift. You see how it works. Release the mouse button.

  10. Position the cursor in the middle of the artboard. It doesn't matter if it is on top of an existing rectangle or not.

  11. Click and begin dragging. Without releasing the mouse button, press and hold the Option (Mac)/Alt (Windows) key. Continue dragging. Notice that Illustrator is creating the rectangle from the center outward. Release Option (Mac)/Alt (Windows). Press Option (Mac)/Alt (Windows). Release the mouse button.

  12. Once more from the center, press both Shift and Option (Mac)/Alt (Windows) and begin dragging a rectangle. Experiment with releasing one or the other or both keys. Release the mouse button.

  13. Click on the artboard and begin dragging a rectangle. Without releasing the mouse button, press the spacebar and move the cursor. This allows you to reposition the object while you're drawing. Release the spacebar and then the mouse button.

  14. Drag a few more rectangles and squares.

You've successfully created several rectangles. There are several points to note:

  • When you released the mouse button, the Rectangle tool stayed selected, ready to draw another object.

  • When you released the mouse button, the object you just drew stayed selected until you started drawing again.

  • You can drag in any direction; objects don't have to start from the upper-left corner.

  • The Shift key constrains the dimensions so that the height and width are equal. With the Rectangle tool, this produces a square. With the Ellipse tool, it produces a circle.

  • The Option (Mac)/Alt (Windows) key forces the tool to create from the center.

  • Shift and Option (Mac)/Alt (Windows) can be used together.

  • The spacebar allows you to reposition an object while you are dragging to create it.

  • Objects can overlap.

Starting Over

Your artboard probably looks like some kind of a mess. Rectangles and squares, overlapping each other with corners poking out. No sense of order. No sense of symmetry. Wow! I think in some circles they call that "art."

Now, let us suffer for our art and destroy these works of genius! Hold down the Command (Mac)/Control (Windows) key and press the letter A on the keyboard. Command+A (Mac)/Control+A (Windows) is the shortcut for Select All. You'll see that each object on the artboard is highlighted, even those that are hidden. You should see something similar to Figure 3.3.


That distinctive look that tells you an object is selected is called the bounding box. No matter the shape of the object or the number of objects selected, the bounding box will, by default, be a rectangle. We'll learn more about bounding boxes in Hour 4, "Making Selections."

Now press the Delete (Mac)/Backspace (Windows) key or use the menu command Edit, Clear. That removes all of the selected objects from your artboard. Hold down the Command (Mac)/ Control (Windows) key and press Z. Command+Z (Mac)/Control+Z (Windows) is the keyboard shortcut for Undo. Memorize this one! Everything reappears. Delete everything again, so that your artboard is clean and clear for the next learning experience.

Figure 3.3 Your artboard should show a variety of rectangles and squares, all selected. There's a large rectangle surrounding them all, called the bounding box.

Task: Making Rounded Rectangles

Like regular rectangles, rounded rectangles have four straight sides. However, these objects don't have pointy, 90° angle corners, they have gentle curves where two sides meet.

  1. Click and hold on the Rectangle tool icon in the Toolbox.

  2. When the hidden (flyout) palette appears, continue to hold down the mouse button and move the cursor onto the second icon, the Rounded Rectangle tool.

  3. Release the mouse button.

  4. Click anywhere on the artboard and drag. Release the mouse button.

  5. You've just created a rounded rectangle. Take a look at the curves that create the corners. Now, with the object still selected, press Delete (Mac)/Backspace (Windows) to get rid of it.

  6. With the Rounded Rectangle tool still selected, click once near the upper-left corner of the artboard. The dialog box shown in Figure 3.4 should open.

  7. Enter Width 200 pt, Height 150 pt, Corner Radius 10 pt, and click OK. (The default unit of measure is points, so the pt doesn't really need to be added. But if the Prefs didn't get reset recently...) Your artboard should look like Figure 3.5.

  8. Figure 3.4 A comparable dialog box opens when you click once with most of the creation tools. The options vary according to the tool.

    Figure 3.5 A single rounded rectangle should be on the page, located in the upper-left quadrant of the page.

  9. Move the cursor to the top middle of the artboard and click again. This time, hit the Tab key a couple of times to highlight the Corner Radius field in the dialog box. Enter 25 and click OK.

  10. Position the cursor somewhat below the lower-left corner of the first object and click. In the dialog box, enter 200, 200, and 50, and then click OK.

  11. Move to below the second object and click. In the dialog box, enter 200, 200, and 100. Click OK. Theoretically, this object is indeed a rounded rectangle, although it looks like a circle. (See Figure 3.6. )

You've just learned how to create rounded rectangles both numerically (using the dialog box) and by dragging. A single click with most creation tools will open a dialog box into which you can enter precise values. You also learned that appearances can be deceiving—a rounded rectangle might look like a circle, and a circle might actually be something else. But in fact, to Illustrator, it's just an object. Objects are defined by their paths, strokes, and fills, and don't rely on such limiting labels as circle or rectangle. Quite a refreshing attitude, I think.

Figure 3.6 Your four objects should look like these, although the placement might be slightly different.

Creating Ellipses and Circles

Let's apply what you've learned about the Rectangle and Rounded Rectangle tools to the Ellipse tool. You can select the Ellipse tool in the Toolbox (it's just to the right of the Rounded Rectangle tool), or you can simply press L on the keyboard. (No modifiers are necessary. No Shift, no Control, no Command, no Option, no Alt. Just the L key.)

With the Ellipse tool selected, repeat the Select All, Delete procedure to clear your artboard. Now click and drag to create ellipses (also called ovals). Shift+drag to create circles. Option+drag (Mac)/Alt+drag (Windows) to create ellipses from the center. Shift+Option+drag (Mac)/Shift+Alt+drag (Windows) to create circles from the center. See how this tool parallels the Rectangle tool. The same techniques, the same modifier keys, the same results. Except, of course, for the shapes produced.

Click once in the artboard to open the Ellipse dialog box. You'll see that the only options are width and height. Keep in mind that if the width and height are equal you're creating a circle. Enter 250 and 250, and then click OK. Instant circle, exact dimensions.

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