Lines: Using the Pen Tool

 15-60 min


Being able to draw and edit lines is an essential technique to learn in DrawPlus.  In this tutorial, we'll look at one of the most common ways to use the Pen Tool to digitize (trace over) an original drawing.

By the end of this tutorial you will be able to:

Let’s begin...

Scanning and importing your original drawing

It's not easy to create a digital drawing from scratch. Most of us are much more familiar with drawing on paper using traditional media. So, how do we get started? Many designers will create their drawing or artwork on paper first and then either scan it, or photograph it with a digital camera. Once the drawing is in a digital format, we can easily import it into DrawPlus so that we can start creating a masterpiece!

One thing to remember, you shouldn't think of this method of digitizing a drawing as 'cheating', instead think of it as a genuine technique that's used by artists all over the world!

So that you can follow the tutorial, we've provided an image of our funky skateboarding superhero, Kit. (You'll also find a sample included with DrawPlus X5 that shows Kit's character model sheet in all of its glory!)

Right-click the  link(s) and, depending on your browser, select either Save Target As... or Save Link As... to download the following tutorial project file(s):



To import the image:

  1. On the Drawing toolbar, click  Insert Picture.

  1. In the Insert Picture dialog, locate the kit.png file, click to select it and then click Open.

  2. Click and drag on the page to place the image so that it fills most of the page.

  3. Optional: Sometimes you might find it easier to trace your image if you reduce its opacity as this can make it easier to see your newly created lines.
    · With your image selected, on the Color tab, click the Fill button.
    · Drag the Opacity slider to the left until the image's opacity is reduced sufficiently.

  1. On the Layers tab, click the small padlock button to lock the layer. This will prevent the drawing from accidentally being selected when we start the line work.

 Save now! Click File > Save As... and choose a new name for your file.

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Tracing the image

Now that we have our drawing on the page, the next thing to do is to trace an outline. Our drawing is already very 'clean', i.e., there aren't many extra sketch or construction lines. However, if you use your own drawing, it might be a very different story. When using the Pen Tool, we're aiming to create a nice, clean vector outline.

We'll create all of our lines on a new layer. This will keep things really simple and help us a lot if we decide to color our image later on.

To create a new layer:

Now we're ready to start drawing. We're going to start with the head of our character so let's zoom in a little so that we can see what we're doing.

To zoom into an image:

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The Pen Tool

There are two main tools that you could use to trace an image:

In this tutorial we'll be concentrating on the  Pen Tool as you will be able to transfer many of the skills, such as node editing, between the two types of line created.

Let's get started!

To create lines using Smart Segments:

  1. On the Drawing toolbar, click the  Pen Tool and on the context toolbar, ensure that  Smart segments is selected.

  2. At the left of the context toolbar, notice that the  Pen Tool has three creation modes:
    ·  Smooth segments
    ·  Smart segments (default)
    ·  Line segments

    These options let you create different types of curves and joins while you are drawing your line. See DrawPlus Help and the How To tab for detailed information.

  1. On the Color tab, ensure that the Line color is set to black.

  2. On the context toolbar (or on the Line tab), ensure that the line width is set to 1 pt.

  3. Click where the first part of the hat starts near the goggles. Then, continue clicking at each point where there is a natural change in direction. The line should begin to update to match the curve as you place the nodes. If you make a mistake, don't worry as we can easily adjust the line later.

  4. Once you have completed this first line, press the Esc key to tell DrawPlus that the line is complete.

At this point, we can either make adjustments to the line, or create another. Our line isn't exact, but it's pretty close, so we only need a small edit with the Node Tool. We can change to this temporarily by holding the Ctrl key.

To make quick adjustments to a line:

  1. With the  Pen Tool still selected, press and hold the Ctrl key. Notice that the cursor changes to a small arrow.

  2. Move the cursor over the line, and when it changes to click and drag the line segment into position.

  3. Repeat the process for any other segments as necessary.

Now that the first line is completed, we're ready to continue tracing around our character. This time we'll look at a slightly different way of using the Pen Tool. Instead of simply clicking to place a node, we can click and drag to shape the line as we place it.

To create lines using Smooth Segments:

  1. On the Drawing toolbar, click the  Pen Tool and on the context toolbar, ensure that  Smooth segments is selected.

  2. Click once to place your starting node at the point where the goggles and hat join and then click and drag to place the next node. As you drag, you'll notice that the shape of the line changes. As before, follow the natural change of direction of the line.

  3. On release, the node is placed.

  4. Repeat the click and drag process to complete the rest of the outline.

  5. At the end of the line, press Esc (or you can also double-click when adding the last node if you find this easier).

  6. Remember, if you've made a mistake while placing a node, or if you just want to change the line, you can always modify it with the Node Tool. This is covered in detail in the tutorial Shapes II: Modifying Shapes, the How To tab and in DrawPlus Help.

 Don't forget to save your work!

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Using Modifiers

Modifiers are keys that temporarily change the action of a tool while they are being pressed. DrawPlus uses lots of these modifiers and they provide quick shortcuts to do certain things.

The  Pen Tool has some really useful modifier keys that change the type of node that is placed when you click. This allows you to more accurately place a line as it is created and hopefully reduces the amount of editing that you have to do later on (more on this in Adjusting lines with the Node Tool).

One really useful modifier is the Alt key. This adds a sharp node to the line so that you can create corners. Let's look at this now.

To use modifiers when drawing lines:

  1. On the Drawing toolbar, click the  Pen Tool and on the context toolbar, ensure that  Smooth segments is selected.

  2. Click on the sharp 'point' where the hair meets the goggles and then click and drag to create the first curved segment.

  3. Next, click and drag on the point of the hair to create the next curved segment but do not release the mouse button yet. Once the curve is correct, press and hold the Alt key.

  4. Still holding down the left-mouse button and Alt, position the control handle in the direction of your next curve segment, approximately where the next node will be, and release the mouse button. Finally, release the Alt key.

  5. Click and drag to place the next node.

  6. Finally, place the pointer over the green start node and click once the cursor changes to to close the line as a shape.

  7. Your finished shape should not require any further editing and you can continue to trace the other parts of the drawing.


 Don't forget to save your work!

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The finishing touch

Once you've finished tracing your image, on the Layers tab, click to hide Layer 1 and the original drawing.  You should end up with a neat line drawing consisting of even lines.

We can make this drawing look even better by varying the width of the lines to create a much more hand-drawn look. The best thing is that it will only take a minute!

To apply a pressure profile:

  1. On the Layers tab, ensure that Layer 2 is selected.

  2. Using the  Pointer Tool, drag a selection marquee over your entire drawing to select all of the lines.

  3. On the Line tab, increase the line width to approximately 2.5 pt.

  4. At the lower-right of the workspace, click on the Pressure tab heading to expand the tab.

  5. In the pressure profile drop-down list, select the 7th profile.

  6. The lines on your drawing are updated!

 Don't forget to save your work!

Congratulations on completing your drawing! By now you will have mastered the technique of drawing lines using the Pen Tool. A line drawing can be extremely dramatic by itself, but you may wish to consider enhancing your drawing with a splash of color.

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Adding color

To complete your drawing, you may want to add color. As the drawing is made up of mainly separate lines, you won't be able to do this by simply applying a fill.

Instead, we created a new layer and placed it below the layer containing the lines.

Using the  Pen Tool, we created a new 'closed' shape for each different area of color, removed the line and applied the appropriate fill (see Fills I: Solid Fills). As the lines are on a different, higher layer, they always stay on top.

We've provided the completed file, kit_complete.dpp for you to have a look at.

Right-click the  link(s) and, depending on your browser, select either Save Target As... or Save Link As... to download the following tutorial project file(s):