Illustrator comes presupplied with basic shapes such as rectangle, ellipse, polygon, and even flare, making it easy to draw both simple and complicated forms using familiar shapes at the heart of many shapes. With the exception of the Flare tool, which creates multiple paths with each use, shapes are single, closed paths.
By default, the Rectangle tool is active (in the Tools palette just beneath the T of the Type tool). Clicking and holding on the Rectangle tool reveals the other Shape tools behind it (see Figure 16.5).
Figure 16.5. Illustrator's six default shapes, from left to right: Rectangle, Rounded Rectangle, Ellipse, Polygon, Star, and Flare.
A rectangle, by definition, is four right-angle corners (anchor points) with two pairs of parallel and equal length sides (path segments). A square, of course, is a rectangle with all four of its sides equal in length.
Draw rectangles (including squares) with the Rectangle tool by clicking on the artboard and dragging until the rectangle has the desired dimensions. To create a square, hold the Shift key while dragging, which constrains all sides to equal lengths.
When the desired dimensions of the rectangle are known in advance, click once on the artboard and release rather than clicking and dragging. The Rectangle dialog appears, displaying Width and Height input boxes. Fill in the desired dimensions and click OK; that rectangle appears on the artboard.
Hold the Alt/Option key while dragging with the Rectangle tool to draw from the center outward.
Rounded Rectangle Tool
A rounded rectangle is merely a rectangle with rounded corners. However, because paths may change their angle or curvature only at an anchor point, rounded rectangles contain eight anchor points instead of four. One appears at the top of each straight line leading into the rounded corner, and one appears at the end of the corner curve leading into the next straight path segment.
Rounded rectangles may be drawn in the same manner as rectangles, by clicking and dragging freehand, or by clicking and releasing. In addition to Width and Height measurements, the Rounded Rectangle dialog also contains a box for the corner radius, where you determine how rounded the four corners will be.
Hold the Alt/Option key while dragging with the Rounded Rectangle tool to draw from the center outward.
An ellipse is a shape without corners or angles, like a circle or oval. It too contains four anchor points, each one defining the curvature of a quarter of the shape. In circles, the four anchor points are equidistantthe same distance apartat the four points of the compass.
Draw ovals by clicking and dragging with the Ellipse tool. Draw circles by holding Shift while dragging. Clicking once and releasing brings up the Ellipse dialog with Width and Height measurement boxes.
Hold the Alt/Option key while dragging with the Ellipse tool to draw from the center outward.
Technically, rectangles are polygons because the definition of a polygon is any closed figure formed by more than two segments. The Polygon tool creates shapes constructed of 31000 path segments of equal length. Anchor points are created only at the points of the polygon.
Although Illustrator's Polygon tool can make a square, its primary use is for making triangles or objects with more than four sides.
Clicking and dragging with the Polygon tool draws, from the center outward, an equilateral hexagon where all six sides are the same length. The rotation of the polygon also changes dependent upon the dragging direction, so holding the Shift key while drawing maintains the correct orientation of the polygon.
To create a polygon of a specified size, click once on the artboard with the Polygon tool and specify the radius, or the distance from the center to one point on the path; the resulting polygon is twice the radius in both height and width. Changing the number of sides is accomplished the same way. In the Polygon tool dialog, set the number of sides to between 3 (to create a triangle) and 1000 (a chiliagon).
Increase or decrease the number of polygon sides by pressing the up or down arrow on the keyboard while drawing with the Polygon tool.
Though, by default, the Star tool makes five-pointed stars, it, like the Polygon tool, is much more versatile than would first appear. Whereas the Polygon tool deals in sides, the Star tool is used for creating points or peaks and valleys, with anchor points created at both the peak and the valleyeven when, in the case of shapes like the three-sided star in Figure 16.6, that contains no visible valleys (see Figure 16.6).
Figure 16.6. Using the Star tool to create a triangle (one radius exactly half the length of the other) creates anchor points at the vertices of the triangle as well as at the midpoints of its sides.
Clicking and dragging with the Star tool draws a star from the center outward, rotated along with the direction of drag. Hold Shift to keep the star's original orientation while dragging.
With the Star tool selected, click and release on the artboard to activate the Star dialog. Radius 1 is the distance from the center point to the outside (peaks) of the star, and Radius 2 is the distance from the center to the inner diameter (the valleys). The number of points may be anywhere from 3 to 1000.
To straighten the star's sidesfor example, to create a star such as may be seen in the American flaghold the Alt key (in Windows) or the Option key on the Mac while dragging. Holding the Ctrl key (in Windows) or the key on the Mac while drawing a star keeps the inner radius constant at 0 inches, resulting in a flare.
Make seals such as you might see on official documents or sales announcements by specifying a small variation between Radius 1 and 2, and a moderate number points, say 1550.
Increase or decrease the number of star sides by pressing the up or down arrows on the keyboard while drawing with the Star tool.
Though grouped with the shape tools, the Flare tool is typically used more as an effect than as a shape. A flare is a reflection of light, such as might flash across the lens of a camera when taking a photo in sunlight. It is comprised of a bright center, halo, rays, and rings (see Figure 16.7).
Figure 16.7. Diagram of a Flare: (A) Halo, (B) Rays, (C) Bright Center Point, (D) Rings, and (E) End Point.
Clicking and dragging with the Flare tool creates a flare with the default or last-used settings, drawing from the center (brightest) point outward. Clicking and dragging again within the area of the first flare draws the rings and end handle to define the angle of the rings from the center point.
By default, clicking and then dragging with the Flare tool increases the size of the entire flarebright center, halo, and rays. Hold the Ctrl key (Windows users) or the key (Mac users) to fix the center point so that further dragging resizes the halo and rays. Hold Shift to constrain the angle of the rays. Press the up or down arrow to increase or decrease the quantity of rays while drawing.
When drawing the end point and rings, up and down arrows increase or decrease the number of rings, holding the tilde (~) key randomizes their placement, and the Ctrl key (Windows users) or the key (Mac users) fixes the position and angle of rings while still resizing the end point halo.
Unlike the other shape tools, the flare remains editable via its tool after creation. Clicking on the center point or end point of an existing flare with the Flare tool enables repositioning and editing of that flare. With a flare selected, double-click on the Flare tool to bring up the Flare Tool Options. Grouped into settings germane to the center, halo, rays, and rings are various settings for precise control over the flare's appearance. Rays and rings may even be disabled entirely.