Drawing and editing free form paths

When you want to draw and edit freeform paths, use the pencil tool. You can also smooth out and erase segments of a freeform path with the smooth tool and erase tool.

Anchor points are set down as you draw with the pencil tool; you do not determine where they are positioned. However, you can adjust them once the path is complete. The number of anchor points set down is determined by the length and complexity of the path and by the tolerance values set in the Pencil Tool Preferences or Smooth Tool Preferences dialog box for either tool.

Drawing and editing with the pencil tool

The pencil tool lets you draw open and closed paths as if you were drawing with a pencil on paper. It is most useful for fast sketching or creating a hand-drawn look. Once you draw a path, you can immediately change it if needed.


You can use these same methods to draw and edit brushed paths with the paint-brush tool.

To draw a freeform path with the pencil tool:

  1. Select the pencil tool .
  2. Position the pointer where you want the path to begin, and drag to draw a path. The pencil tool displays a small x to indicate drawing a freeform path.

As you drag, a dotted line follows the pointer. Anchor points appear at both ends of the path and at various points along it. The path takes on the current paint attributes, and the path remains selected by default.

  1. To continue the existing freeform path, make sure the path is selected, and then position the pencil tip on an endpoint of the path and drag.

To draw a closed path with the pencil tool:

  1. Select the pencil tool.
  2. Position the pointer where you want the path to begin, and start dragging to draw a path.
  3. As you drag, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS). The pencil tool displays with stripes to indicate drawing a closed path.
  4. When the path is the size and shape you want, release the mouse button (but not the Alt or Option key). After the path closes, release the Alt or Option key.

To connect a new path to an existing path:

Select both paths; then Ctrl-drag (Windows) or Command-drag (Mac OS) from the current path onto the endpoint of the other path.

To change a path with the pencil tool:

  1. If the path you want to change is not selected, select it with the selection tool. Or Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) the path to select it.
  2. Position the pencil tool on or near the path to redraw, and drag the tool until the path is the desired shape.


Using the pencil tool to edit a closed shape


Depending on where you begin to redraw the path and in which direction you drag, you may get unexpected results. For example, you may unintentionally change a closed path to an open path, change an open path to a closed path, or lose a portion of a shape.

Smoothing the path with the smooth tool

The smooth tool lets you smooth out an existing stroke or section of a path. The smooth tool retains the original shape of the path as much as possible.

  1. If the path to smooth is not selected, select it with the selection tool. Or Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) the path to select it.
  2. Do one of the following:
  • Select the smooth tool.
  • When the pencil or paintbrush tool is selected, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option(Mac OS) to change the pencil to the smooth tool.
  1. Drag the tool along the length of the path segment you want to smooth out. The modified stroke or path may have fewer anchor points than the original.
  2. Continue smoothing until the stroke or path is the desired smoothness.

Erasing the path with the erase tool

The erase tool lets you remove a portion of an existing path or stroke. You can use the erase tool on paths (including brushed paths), but not on text or meshes.

  1. Select the erase tool .
  2. Drag the tool along the length of the path segment you want to erase (not across the path). For best results, use a single, smooth, dragging motion.

Anchor points are added to the ends of the new paths.

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