Using the Line, Eraser, and shape tools

Matthew Richmond

This video shows you how to use the Line tool, Eraser tool, and all of the shape tools in Illustrator. You also learn how to use modifier keys to access additional options.

Requirements: 

To follow along with this article, you will need the following software and files:

Watch this tutorial in the Adobe Creative Suite 3 Video Workshop.

Using the Shape tools

  1. In Illustrator, choose File > Open and open the Shape Line and Eraser Tools.ai file.
  2. In the Tools panel, find the entire set of Shape tools, underneath the Rectangle tool, which is visible by default.

    You can select another shape tool, besides the Rectangle tool, by holding down the mouse button on the Rectangle tool to display the other shape tools, and clicking to select a tool.

  3. Position the pointer on the Rectangle tool, hold down the mouse button to display the shape tools, and then drag to the right to the triangle; choose Tearoff. This creates a tearoff panel of just the shape tools (see Figure 1).

    The Shape Tools tearoff panel includes just the shape tools

    Figure 1: The Shape Tools tearoff panel includes just the shape tools.

    In the Shape Tools tearoff panel, the first button is the Rectangle tool. The other tools are the Rounded Rectangle, the Ellipse or Circle tool, the Polygon, and the Star tool. Most complex shapes can be built by combining these simple shapes.

  4. In the Shape Tools tearoff panel, choose the Star tool. In the Document window, drag to draw a basic star.

    Here's another way to add a shape to the page.

  5. Choose the Rectangle tool in the Shape Tools tearoff panel. In the Document window, click once to open the Rectangle dialog box.

    Here you can enter any values to create exactly the shape you want. The default units for the shapes are set in the Illustrator preferences, which uses pixels by default. To use another unit of measurement, simply type it in the text box next to the value.

  6. In the Rectangle dialog box, type 1 in in both the Width and Height text boxes. Illustrator converts the measurement to the correct units (72 pixels). Click OK. Illustrator creates a 1 inch by 1 inch rectangle shape in the spot you selected (see Figure 2).

    Click once with Shape tools to specify the dimensions for your shape

    Figure 2: Click once with Shape tools to specify the dimensions for your shape.

  7. Choose the Rounded Rectangle tool in the Shape Tools tearoff panel, and click an empty area in the Document window. This tool has an additional option for Corner Radius. Click OK to accept the default values.
  8. Choose the Polygon tool in the Shape Tools tearoff panel, and click an empty area in the Document window. This tool has an additional option for Sides. Click OK.
  9. Choose the Star tool in the Shape Tools tearoff panel, and click an empty area in the Document window. This tool has an additional option for Points. Click OK.

    The shape options dialog boxes are very useful, but keyboard shortcuts offer an even faster way to control attributes when you're adding shapes.

  10. Choose the Rectangle tool in the Shape Tools tearoff menu. Go to the Document window and press the Shift key. Then drag to draw a rectangle on the page. Holding down the Shift key while drawing creates a proportional square.
  11. With the Rectangle tool still selected, press the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) key and draw a rectangle on the page.

    Holding down Alt/Option draws the rectangle from the center anchor point. By default, the rectangle is drawn from the top left corner. You can hold down both Shift and the Alt/Option to use both these drawing shortcuts at the same time.

  12. With the Rectangle tool still selected, draw a rectangle and then, without releasing the mouse button, hold down the spacebar. Drag the shape to a different location on the page.
  13. Release the spacebar without releasing the mouse button, and drag to resize the square. When you have finished, click to place the shape. Pressing the spacebar lets you move the shape to another location while you are still creating it.

    These shortcuts work with all the shape tools. However, the Polygon and Star tools have additional keyboard shortcuts.

  14. Choose the Polygon tool in the Shape Tools tearoff panel. Draw a basic 5-sided polygon shape, but without releasing the mouse button, press the Down Arrow key twice to change the shape to a triangle. Press the Shift key to make an equilateral triangle, and then click to release the tool.

    Pressing the Down Arrow key decreases the number of sides; pressing the Up Arrow increases the number of sides.

  15. Choose the Star tool in the Shape Tools tearoff panel. Draw a basic star, and without releasing the mouse button, press the Up Arrow key. With the Star tool, pressing the Up and Down arrow keys increases or decreases the number of points, similar to the Polygon tool.

Using the Line tool

The Line tool, of course, makes straight lines. It is located just above the shape tools in the Tools panel.

  1. Choose the Line tool in the Tools panel. In the Document window, drag to create a straight line.

    The shortcuts you used with the shape tools work similarly with the Line tool.

  2. Press the Shift key and draw another line. The Shift key constrains the line to a 45-degree angle.
  3. Press the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) key and draw another line. This shortcut lets you draw a line from the center point outward.
  4. Draw another line and without releasing your mouse button, press the spacebar. Move the line to another location and release the spacebar to continue drawing your line.

The Eraser tool 

Now that you know how to create shapes and lines, it's a good time to learn how to erase them. The tool for it is located near the bottom of the Tools panel.

  1. Deselect all shapes by holding down the Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) key and clicking an empty area of the artboard.
  2. Choose the Eraser tool in the Tools panel.
  3. Drag over one of the lines to erase a part of the line (see Figure 3).

    Use the Erase tool to erase parts of a line

    Figure 3: Use the Erase tool to erase parts of a line.

  4. Drag over any of the shapes. Notice that the shape strokes reappear around the area that was erased (see Figure 4). Using the Eraser tool on any shape redirects the stroke and fill around the path of the eraser.

    Erasing through a shape redirects the stroke and fill

    Figure 4: Erasing through a shape redirects the stroke and fill.

    To see this more clearly, you'll add a stroke and fill color to one of the shapes.

  5. Choose the Selection tool in the Tools panel. Select any complete shape.
  6. In the Control panel, click the Fill Color box and choose an orange color to fill the shape. From the Stroke Color pop-up menu, choose a red stroke color.
  7. Now choose the Eraser tool again in the Tools panel. Erase part of the shape you just filled. Notice that fill and stroke are redirected (see Figure 5).

    Erase through a star shape

    Figure 5: Erase through a star shape.

  8. You can control the diameter, shape and angle of the eraser as well.

    Double-click the Eraser tool icon to open the Eraser Tool Options dialog box (see Figure 6).

    The Eraser Tool Options dialog box

    Figure 6: The Eraser Tool Options dialog box.

  9. Increase the Diameter by dragging the slider to the right. Click OK. The pointer displays a much larger circle.
  10. Drag over any of the shapes.
  11. Select a complete shape by pressing Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) and clicking the shape.

    When an object is selected, the Eraser tool works only on that object. If nothing is selected, the Eraser tool will erase any object it contacts.

  12. Drag over the selected shape and an unselected shape to see how the Eraser tool works.