5 Vector Tips to Perfect Your Curves

Vector Tip #1

Draw Rectangles Around your Letterforms

Vector Tip #2

Utilize the Shape Tool

The Ellipse Tool and Rectangle Tool within Illustrator can become your best friends if you just think about what shapes are composing each letterform. For example, the letter “O” can be created with the Ellipse Tool: one for the width and another ellipse on the top to form weight. So, if you just create two ellipses, stacked on top of each other, you can form the letter “O” within seconds.

Additionally, if you wanted to continue and create another letter such as an “H”, you can utilize the Rectangle Tool. Each stem and the crossbar of the below “H” was formed with three separate rectangles. You can later expand and merge them if you’d like one complete shape.

You can then utilize these same tools and others to form the rest of the alphabet very quickly!

Vector Tip #3

Use 0°, 45°, 90° Angles

So, what’s so special about horizontal, vertical, and diagonal (45 degree) angles? First, utilizing similar angles keeps things consistent across your lettering. Second, those angles are key to forming the smoothest curves. Ever noticed little points or edges in your lettering that are caused by anchor points? Well, that can easily be fixed with proper anchor point placement and the proper angle of your handles.

Notice that the handles are evenly balanced and distributed as well. This same technique should be applied within your lettering. Make sure your handles are all balancing the workload and not allowing just one handle to be extremely long and carrying all of the weight.

Vector Tip #4

Crossover Technique

This is another handy trick to help you with your vectoring. I call this technique the crossover. As you begin to vector your lettering, you may find it easier to apply this crossover technique to control the widths and angles of parts of your letterforms. In the example below, you can see I created extra anchor points to allow me to control what is called the “crotch” of the “N” or the “bowl” of the B. Essentially, it allows you to move and alter one portion of your letterform without disturbing another.

Vector Tip #5

Utilize the Width Tool

A great tool to possibly speed up your vectoring is the Width Tool within Illustrator. Keep in mind, the Width Tool can only be used with strokes. With this tool, you’re essentially plotting where you want your width to be distributed. In this example, I wanted the left and right sides of the stroke to be .525in while the top and bottom remained .125in. This distributed the weight evenly and formed a nice high contrasted letter “O”.

As you can see from the example, the left is just a stroke—that was before I applied the Width Tool, while the right is after the Width Tool has been applied.

This tool can help speed up vectoring certain letterforms, especially script. Just remember to draw with strokes and add the contrast to your letterforms with the Width Tool after.

The downside to the Width Tool is that when you go to expand your stroke, it forms a massive amount of extra anchor points that you don’t need. You can see what I mean in the “O” on the right. All those tiny red dots are anchor points!

I think that concludes this blog post. I sure hope this was beneficial to you! So, like always, feel free to share with anyone that may benefit from this post as well.

Thanks for reading,
Scott