Drawing Live Shapes with Adobe Illustrator

By Katie Houghton on January 11, 2019

Learn how to draw in Adobe Illustrator with new shape technology!

Adobe Illustrator has always been the go-to application for drawing vector-based graphics and it just got much easier to draw with the inclusion of live shapes and corner widgets. In this post, we will have a complete overview of live shapes and how to customize them using custom widgets. 

AE 30 second comp Live Ellipse-1

 

What are Live Shapes?

Live shapes are available in the most basic shapes: rectangles, rounded rectangles, ellipses, and polygons. By using Live Shapes, editing and customizing your shapes properties will become an easier process and will drastically improve your workflow within Illustrator. 

How do you know you're working with a Live Shape?

shapes_tool

If the properties panel has a shape name, you are dealing with a live shape and you can change the shape properties using the Properties panel or Transform panels.

If your properties panel has the word path or group as the name, it is not a live shape and you can only do basic transformations on it like size, rotation, etc.

 

What are Corner Widgets and how can we use them?

Corner WidgetThe Corner Widget enables us to control the corner of our live shapes. This means we can now customize our live shape edges directly and transform them into sharp edges or round edges. 

All corners on any shape are adjustable by using the Corner Widget (there will be at least one corner widget option). To edit these corners, simply click and drag on the Corner widget to increase or decrease the radius of the corner. For more options, double-click to bring up the Corner Widget to bring up the Dialog box.

Corner Types

 You can also try to Option (Mac) or Alt (PC) click to flip between corner types: Round, Inverted Round, and Chamfer (aka Beveled). 

Finally use the direct selection tool to choose one or more corners to better control your corner adjustments, especially if you do not want your changes to effect all the corners at once.

 

Overview of Shapes

Begin creating your shapes!

Once you choose your basic shape, make sure to click down on the artboard. Remember do not let go until the shape is done and you are satisfied with the size of your shape. You can adjust your shape size by dragging in and out while drawing. With a few exceptions, you can also modify your shapes pressing the Option/Alt, Shift, and Spacebar keys while drawing your object. 

Shapes

Shift may constrain the shape to a perfect square or circle. This is useful if you want your shape to have equal measurements on all sides. By using the Shift key, you may also constrain the angle of the shape.

Option (Mac) or Alt (PC) allows you to draw from the center of the object instead of the corner.

Spacebar lets you move the object verses resizing it. Remember do not release your object until the shape is done! 

 

Drawing Shapes with Math

When dealing with shapes, of course there is always math! *Cue flashbacks to Geometry* Anyone who is a fan of math can click on the artboard with any shape and type in the attributes into the dialog box. Try this out, you'll definitely be surprised by the outcome!  

 

Drawing with the Rectangle tool (Live Shape) M

Rectangle Tool

After you draw your rectangle, your Properties and Transform panels will have specialized options to control the shape.

The panels have specific attributes available for the rectangle shape including: corner type and corner radius. In the Properties or Transform panel, you can use the link tool to keep the attributes changes the same or unlink it to make each one unique.

For example: In the image below, the link tool is active for the width and height properties. However if you want to change only the width or height property separately, click on the link to deactivate it.

shape_attributetools

There is also a corner widget to further control the shape and you can see the widget while using both the Selection tool and Direct Selection tools. Click and drag the Corner Widget to control the radius of your shape. For the dialog box, double click on your object. If the radius is over 0, then try Option (Mac) or Alt (PC) clicking on the widget to change the corner type. To make the corner options unique on the artboard, use the Direct Selection tool to choose the specific corners you would like to adjust.

 

Rounded Rectangle tool (Live Shape)

Rounded Rectangle

This is similar to the Rectangle shape, but with more corner radius options. You can adjust your corners while drawing by using the up and down key arrows. To make your edges more rounded, use the up arrow and to make your edges sharp (less round), use the down arrow. You can also use the left and right arrows to adjust the roundness of your object, however we don't really need this because of the new corner widget options!

After you draw the object, the Properties panel or the Transform panels will offer specialized options to control the shape you just created. The panels will give options to adjust these specific attributes: corner type and corner radius. As you adjust these attributes, be mindful of the link tool. You can use the link tool to keep the attributes the same or unlink it to make the changes of each one unique.

There is also a corner widget available to control the shape and you can adjust this widget by using both the Selection tool or the Direct Selection tool. Click and drag the Corner Widget to control the radius and Double-click to bring up a dialog box. If the radius is over 0, then try Option (Mac) or Alt (PC) clicking on the widget to change the corner type. To make the corner options unique on the artboard, use the Direct Selection tool to only choose the specific corners you would like to change. 

 

Line tool (Live Shape) \

Line tool

After you draw your line, the Properties panel or the Transform panel will have specialized options to control the shape. The Line object has the option to control the Line Length.

 

 

Ellipse tool (Live Shape) L

Ellipse tool

 

After you draw your Ellipse, the Properties panel or the Transform panel will have specialized options to customize your shape. The panels allow you to adjust your shape by changing the start and end degree of pie. 

 

Pie Widget

You can also see the Pie Widget when using the Selection tool. Use the pie widget on the shape to change the pie start and end. In order to reset the shape, you can double-click on the widget.

 

 

 

If you have less than the entire circle created with the widget, the Direct Selection tool will bring up the Corner Widget. However, be mindful that if you alter the radius of the corner, your object will become a path and will no longer be a Live Shape.

 

Polygon tool (Live Shape)

Polygon toolSimilarly to drawing your Rounded Rectangle shapes, you can use the down and up arrow keys while drawing the object to customize the number of sides your polygon will have. Use the down arrow to lesson the number of sides and use the up arrow to increase the number of sides.

After you draw your polygon, use the Properties panel or the Transform panels to customize your shape even further. You can adjust the following attributes: corner options, polygon side count, polygon angle, polygon radius, and polygon side radius.

There is also a Polygonal Side Widget option that will appear while using your Selection tool. Click the widget and drag to adjust the number of sides on your polygon. The Direct Selection tool will also bring up the Corner Widget.

Wdgets

Conclusion

Now that you have this complete overview of drawing shapes with Illustrator, try changing your workflows and draw with the new live shape technology! You will find that editing and making changes later on within your projects will be so much easier! 

If you have any other tips on creating and customizing shapes in Adobe Illustrator, leave a comment down below! 

Topics: Adobe Illustrator, graphic design, vector graphics, shapes, adobe illustrator live shapes

Author: Katie Houghton

Katherine Houghton is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology with degrees in Graphic Design and Industrial Design. She has held multimedia, graphic design, and consulting positions at numerous companies including KPMG LLP, one of the big five Accounting Consulting Firms where she managed the Multimedia Department. During the ".com" boom of the 90s she was promoted to Vice President of Confidant Inc. where she managed the entire look of all visual materials including their marketing and Internet presence.
Currently, she teaches classes in Premiere Pro, Illustrator, Freehand, Director, Photoshop, InDesign, Quark, After Effects, Final Cut Pro & Acrobat.