Import a hand-drawn sketch or other imagery to trace over in Illustrator.

What you learned: Import an image, set up the document with layers, and trace over the imagery using drawing tools like the Pencil tool and Pen tools

Set up document layers

  • To make it easier to draw on top of the image you bring in, you can set up the document layers to separate your drawing from the imported artwork.
  • Open the Layers panel in the upper-right. Create new layers by tapping the plus icon and swipe left to rename them. It’s helpful to add a new drawing layer above the layer that contains the sketch artwork you want to trace. Make sure you select the drawing layer before you begin tracing.

Drawing with the Pencil tool

  • You can draw with your finger or the Apple Pencil for greater precision. Set the toolbar options for the Pencil tool to draw smoother paths. 
  • Tap to create points and straight lines. Drag to create freeform paths.
  • When you come to a corner while drawing, pause until you see a blue circle appear — then continue drawing to change path direction. 

Tip: If you want to create a straight line constrained to 45 degrees with the Pencil tool, press the primary touch shortcut and drag. If you press the secondary touch shortcut, you can draw a straight line in any direction.

Drawing with the Pen tool

  • The Pen tool creates paths with more precision. Tap to create anchor points that are corners, or drag to make curves. 
  • Tap an anchor with the Pen tool to remove it. Tap on the path to add a new anchor point.
  • Double-tap an anchor to convert between curve and corner and drag handles to adjust them.
  • As you draw with the Pen tool you’ll use the touch shortcut — this circle — to change the tool's behavior, similar to using modifier keys like Command or Control on desktop. For instance, to make a corner here, drag to make the curve — without releasing, press the touch shortcut to split the handles and then release.

Adjust paths with Selection and Direct selection tools

  • If you want to adjust a path, you can switch to the Direct selection tool and select the path.
  • Double-tap to convert anchors between curve and corner. 
  • Tap an anchor or drag to select multiple anchors, and in the common actions bar, you can choose to simplify the path by reducing the number of anchors, convert selected anchors from curve to corner, use smart delete to remove anchors and both keep the path closed and attempt to retain the path shape, and more.

Presenter: Brian Wood

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