Illustrator Pen tool exercises

21 Dec 2011

The Pen tool is a tool that needs patience, and a lot of practice until you really master it. Though this tool is really essential if you want to be able to draw anything, and don't want to be dependent on shape tools. Back in 2007, I wrote an article about it and provided people with an Illustrator document. This was a great success, and so today I thought of giving this document an update, including a few different exercises…

How it works

You simply follow the numbers and the instructions to complete the exercise. The point you need to aim at in each step is the center of each numbered colored dot. Depending on the instructions, you either have to click, click and press, or click and press and then drag, while sometimes holding down the shift or alt/option key. The document is created in 2 layers. The bottom layer, called template contains the instructions, and is locked. The top layer is the "working layer". This layer is unlocked, and by default already selected. So this is the layer you'll be working on.

What's new

This time I've used big colored dots for you to click in with the number inside. There are 3 different colors: blue, red and green. The blue ones don't require any dragging, but involve clicking, and often clicking and pressing. The red ones, involve dragging, and sometimes a key needs to be pressed as well. The green ones also involve dragging, but this time dragging one of the handles of the anchor point you've just created, while holding down a key first (alt/option). The document is more extended as it now contains 3 pages (the Adobe Illustrator CS3 version has everything on 1 page), starting with the easiest exercises first, and ending with an actual drawing of a simple tree, and a random swoosh shape.


This document is of course just to get you started, but I hope it helps you to understand how the Pen tool works, and how you can get better and better in mastering this essential tool. Enjoy!


  1. 1 Richard Lyall 21 Dec 2011

    Extremely useful thanks! I was looking for some Pen tool exercises.

  2. 2 baldo 21 Dec 2011

    Great as usual!

  3. 3 George 21 Dec 2011

    Nice to see an update on this. The original pen tool exercises is how I first stumbled upon this blog!

  4. 4 Petr Chutný 21 Dec 2011

    That’s very nice of you. Despite not being an illustrator, I have to complete this! thanks

  5. 5 Axel 22 Dec 2011

    Great idea, and really sharp execution. Thank you so much!

  6. 6 Jason Neel 22 Dec 2011

    This is so cool! Never been very comfortable using the pen tool, but I think this will help that! Thanks a bunch, Veerle!

  7. 7 Jaap 22 Dec 2011


  8. 8 Paul 22 Dec 2011

    Thanks very much indeed.

  9. 9 Catalin 22 Dec 2011

    Wow, I must say this is the best Pen tutorial ever! Simple and effective. Great :)

  10. 10 Andre Morris 03 Jan 2012

    This is cool! You should use this in a contest to see people’s times to complete all steps. :)