Adobe Illustrator Basics – Shape Tools

In this tutorial, we will learn about the basic tools for creating shapes in Adobe Illustrator.

Adobe Illustrator offers a handful of tools for creating different types of shapes, available from the drop down menu in the toolbar as seen below. These tools form the basis for creating any sort of shape you could want in Adobe Illustrator (in addition to the pencil and pen tools, to be discussed later). To start, we have the Rectangle and Ellipse tools.


We’ll start with drawing a rectangle. Click and drag to form the shape. (Note: When dragging and drawing shapes, holding the shift key will lock the object into a square when using the Rectangle tool, and a circle when using the Ellipse tool.)


Every shape in Adobe Illustrator has a stroke and body color, which are defined in the two square tiles highlighted above. On the left we have the color that our shape will be filled with, and on the right we have the stroke (the outline of the object) which can be thickened or thinned with the control to the right of the color controls (boxed in blue above). Either of these can also be set to no-fill (the white tile with a red line through it on the color panel’s upper left corner, visible below) if you wish to create only an outline or a colored shape with no border. Try changing these values to get a hang of how they modify the shape.


Here, the colors were changed to different blues with a 7 pt stroke on the edge of the rectangle. These controls can be used and applied to all of the basic shapes we are able to create in Illustrator.

Another tool in the drop down list is the Rounded Rectangle tool. This tool draws a rectangle with rounded corners which can be adjusted with the up and down arrow keys. Rounding the corners as much as possible will make a shape which looks like a rectangle sandwiched between two halves of a circle, as seen here. Note that holding shift (creating a square) while the corners are rounded as much as possible will produce a circle.


Adjusting the up and down keys will change it to look more like this.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 11.21.38 AM

In addition to this, the normal rectangle tool can be modified to have rounded corners after drawing it. If you would like to do this, draw a normal rectangle and make sure the shape is selected. Then, in the menu at the top of your screen, go to “Effect > Stylize > Round Corners” and adjust the radius in the dialogue box which pops up (checking off “Preview” will show you what the shape will look like as you increase or decrease the value of the radius).


The next shape tool at our disposal is the Polygon tool. Despite its icon showing a hexagon, this tool expands to also create triangles, pentagons, octagons, dodecagons, and so on. To begin, drag and start drawing the shape like so.


Before releasing your mouse cursor, press the up or down arrow keys on your keyboard. Pressing up will add more sides to the shape you are making, like so.


Pressing down will decrease the number of sides, down to a triangle at the minimum.


When you have the number of sides you would like on your polygon and have shaped it to your liking, release your cursor and you will have your shape.

Similar to the Polygon tool is the Star tool. Just like the Polygon tool, pressing up and down increase and decrease the number of sides while the object is being drawn. However with the star tool this increases and decreases the number of points in the star shape. The smallest “star” you can make this way is a triangle, all the way up to having dozens of points (shown in the lime green star below). Here are a few examples of star tool possibilities.


Note: The “Round corners” effect we applied to the rectangle earlier can work on polygons and stars, too. Try it out and see what happens with different shapes and sizes.

The last tool in the Rectangle/Ellipse drop down menu is the Flare tool, however this tool is more of an effect than it is a shape and will be discussed later.

Now that we have the basics of drawing all different kinds of shapes down, our next blog post will take a look at the line tools available in Illustrator.