What are paths and anchor points in Adobe Illustrator?


Adobe Illustrator is the software of choice for any professional logo design company. We have been using Adobe Illustrator right from the time we opened shop back in 1999 and are now on the latest version – CS4.

Even though, there are many Adobe Illustrator tutorials on the internet and we are probably late in trying to post some tutorials, we felt it was worth the effort because we hope to bring a logo designer point of view to our Illustrator tutorials.

Overt he coming weeks, we hope to cover some of the basic drawing tools and techniques and then move on to much more advanced topics that deal with using Adobe Illustrator or create logo designs.

This week the topic deals with paths and anchor points. Paths are central to the make up of various objects in Illustrator. They are the underlying lines that make up the objects. There are several tools in Illustrator that can be used to create these paths including the Pen, Pencil and Paintbrush tools.

What is a Path?

A path is the black line that appears when you draw a line in Adobe Illustrator. A path is made up of a series of points called “anchor points” and line segments between these points. The anchor points on the either end of a path have “control handles” and these can be used to control the direction of the curved path.

There are three main types of paths:

1) Open Paths – This is a simple line with two end points.

2) Closed Paths – A closed shape no end points. Ex: rectangle, circle etc.

3) Compound Paths – Two or more open or closed paths.

What is an anchor point?

As mentioned above, each path is made up of a series of anchor points that connected by line segments. Each anchor point has control handles and control handle lines. The control handles are small squares on the path that allow you to control how tightly or loosely you can bend the curve at each of them. Control handles are tangent lines that allow you the direction of the path bend.

There are two main types of anchor points:

1) Smooth points – A smooth point is made up of two linked control handles and help prevent the path from changing direction abruptly.

2) Corner Points – A corner point helps the path change direction. There are three different types of corner anchor points.

a) Straight corner point – The point where two straight lines meet at an angle is called a straight corner point and do not have any control handles. For example the corners of a rectangle.

b) Curved corner point – The point where two curved lines meet at an angle is called a curved corner point and it has two corner handles. For example the top dip of a heart shape.

c) Combination corner point – The point where a straight corner point and a curved corner point meet is called a combination corner point and it has one control handle which controls the curved line.

How are paths used in logo designs?

In Adobe Illustrator, when creating logo designs, you can use either pencil, paintbrush or the pen tools to draw paths and then use the anchor points and controls handles. Here we will draw a falcon head that will be used as an icon for one of our client, AJ Fetko Inc.

With the pen tool, we will draw an arc. You can draw this arc by placing a point on the artboard and the pulling the control handle a little to the bottom left and then drawing a second point and draging the control handle of that point to form a smooth arc. Using the same method we will draw 10 arcs and then connect them to form the shape.

Paths and Anchor Points In Adobe Illustrator