top of page

Chapter Two

Basic Shapes

From creating basic shapes to learning to edit what you have created and exploring the tool bar, these are the building blocks to creating fantastic imagery.

The Toolbar

To the right I have shown the toolbar, along with a list of all the different tolls we will be using over the next few chapters.


The top image shows main two basic shape tools are the Selection Tool and the Direct Selection Tool.

Below this are all the tools which can be used to create lines and shapes. The final image (below) shows the toolbar used to change the colour of the fill and stroke of your shapes.

The menu items shown on the tool bar that display a small triangle in the corner can be held down to show more menu items related to the item displayed.

Creating a Rectangle

To start, create a new rectangle using the rectangle tool under the shape tools button. Click and drag on your artboard to make the rectangle.

Change the fill colour and stroke colour to two different colours by double clicking on the boxes located at the bottom of the tool bar on the left hand side of your workspace. Ensure the Stroke Weight is set to above 0pts in the “Control Palette” at the top of your window, below the Menu Bar.

Then completely remove the stroke colour by single clicking on the stroke colour box, and then clicking on the white box with a red line through it.

You should be left with a block of colour and no border.

Creating a Rectangle
Selection Tools - The Toolbar
The Selection Tool selects the
WHOLE shape, enabling scaling,
moving and rotation.
The Direct Selection Tool selects
shape to be changed or adjusted.
Creation Tools
Pen Tools

Curvature Tool

Type Tools

Line Tools

Shape Tools

Paint Brush Tool

Pencil Tools

Eraser Tools
Colour Tools
Swap Colours

Fill Colour

Stroke Colour

Remove stroke/fill
Adding a Stroke
Adding Rounded Corners or a Fillet
Changing the Radius

Rounded Corners

In the new version of Illustrator you are now able to add a radius to your rectangle’s corners, simply by clicking the dot visible in each corner of the rectangle.

If you drag the dot towards the centre of the rectangle it creates a bigger radius, while dragging it further away reduces the radius.

Double clicking on the dot brings up the “Transform” Palette, with a range of options to modify the radius as required.

The Transform Palette

Feel free to play with these settings to familiarise yourself with them and discover what they do!

The “chain” buttons allow you to link or unlink the corner radii so you can have different radii on each corner if you wish, or have them all the same.

This new tool means that your rectangle will always remember its original shape, and can easily be
returned back to the way it was by simply clicking and dragging.

TIP: To easily zoom in and out of the artboard, hold down the "Alt" key whilst scrolling with the mouse

Creating Perfect Squares and Circles

To create a perfect circle, select the Ellipse Tool from the Shape Tools rollout.

Click and drag within the artboard, WHILST HOLDING THE SHIFT KEY. If you do not hold down the shift key you will draw a standard ellipse or oval shape.

The same principal applies to drawing a perfect square. Select the Rectangle Tool from the Shape Tools rollout. Click and drag within the artboard whilst holding down the shift key and you will draw a perfect square.

The Shift Key

The shift key can also be used to constrain the proportions of a shape you have already drawn when you are resizing it.

Select the rectangle you drew earlier using the Selection Tool. Move your cursor over one of the corners of your rectangle and click and drag whilst holding the shift key.

If you hold down the “Alt” Key at the same time as the Shift key and click and drag, the shape scales from the centre rather than the corner.

Rotate Tool
The Rotate Tool
Rotating a Rectangle
The Shift Key


The Selection Tool can also be used to rotate shapes.

If you select the rectangle and hover a short distance from the corner you will see your cursor change into a curved, double headed arrow. If you click and drag you will be able to rotate your shape.

Holding down the shift key will enable you to rotate by increments of 45 degrees.

If you want to rotate from a specific point, e.g. a corner, the Rotate Tool can be used. Simply select the tool, click on the corner you wish to rotate around and click and drag as you would with the Selection Tool.

Complex Shapes

For more complex shapes, for example a star or polygon, you can bring up an options box.

Select the Polygon Tool from the tool bar and single click on the artboard.

An options menu will pop up, allowing you to enter the radius of your polygon and the number of sides you require. Press ok and your polygon will appear on the artboard.

You can also use this options menu in the same way for simpler tools such as the Rectangle Tool.

Polygon Options Box

NB: To change the length of a stars “points”, click and drag your cursor to start drawing a star - but before you release the mouse button, press and hold down the Ctrl button and move your mouse.

Flare Tool Options


Flares are more complicated still, but come with a wide range of options to edit the Centre, Halo, Rays and Rings. It is not possible,however, to edit the colour.

To create a Flare you can either single click to bring up the options box, OR click and drag before releasing to create the initial Flare and then click again to create the rings.

Flares look most effective on backgrounds or colours as opposed to white, as shown in the images on the

Lens Flare Illustrator
Lens Flare Red Background
Lens Flare Photograph

Applying Gradients To Shapes

To apply a gradient to a shape select the “Gradient Tool” from the Tools Palette.

Whilst your shape is NOT selected single click on it to apply a gradient. If nothing happens, click on the gradient palette on the right hand side of the screen and click on the “gradient” swatch. Ensure the “Type” drop down box is set to “Linear” and your rectangle should change its fill to being a monochrome gradient with a white line running across it, as shown on the left.

You can also adjust the gradient start and end points and also the angle of the gradient after it has been applied. To do this just ensure the gradient tool is selected on the Tools Palette and hover near the end of the gradient to change the angle, hover over the end to change the length, or click and drag the larger dot on the end to move it.

Adjusting Gradient Colour and Opacity

To adjust the colour and opacity of a gradient simply click on the square/arrow shown on the left in the Gradient Palette that you want to change the colour of (for example the white square) and change the colour in the box that appears.








If you only have monochrome options simply select the drop down menu in the top corner of the colour selection box and select “CMYK” for print or “RGB” for screen.

Once you have chosen your colour click off the side of the box to close it.

If you want to add more colours to your gradient simply click anywhere beneath the gradient box to add another box. You can then click on this to change its colour.

You can change the location of the points using the “location” box and either typing into the box or selecting the drop down menu and selecting a location. You can also change the opacity of any points using the opacity box.

Gradients can be used to add shadows and reflections, creating a 3D effect and a touch of realism.

Gradient Swatch
The Gradient Tool
Gradient Palette
Gradient Tool
Gradient Colour and Opacity
Gradient Palette Colour Mode
Gradient Palette Slider
Gradient Palette Colour
Gradient Palette Opacity and Location Adjustment
Adobe Illustrator Gradient Tool
bottom of page