How to make Smooth Lines in Illustrator

by Jay Hilgert
on June 25, 2007

This may seem trivial to a good many of you, but when I first started using Illustrator, it seemed to present itself as a serious challenge. I want to show you a couple different ways to make your linework a little smoother in Illustrator. With a couple easy tool settings, you’ll be making smooth lines in seconds baby!

How to make Smooth Lines in Illustrator

Illustrator can be a very intimidating program to learn because of the complexity and wide variety of tools. I know that smooth lines are something we all either need or want at some point or another. At first I started using the handlebars to try my best to smooth out my paths. Little did I know, I was wasting a lot of valuable time, when all I needed to do was get a little more familiar with Illustrators tool options. I’ll show you 2 really easy ways to smooth out your lines.

1. Pencil and Paintbrush Tool Settings

Double Click on the Pencil tool in the tools palette, and you will get the Pencil tool preferences pane. From here you can set the amount of smoothness you wish to achieve. I always drag both sliders to the maximum setting when I’m going for smooth. The smoothness option is pretty strait-forward, but the higher the fidelity, the fewer anchor points Illustrator will create. (correct me if I’m wrong about that).
How to make Smooth Lines in Illustrator

Now click ok and see how smooth you can go. No steady hand necessary. The Paintbrush Tool has the same options, for those of you who like to use the Paintbrush tool instead of the Pencil.

How to make Smooth Lines in Illustrator

2. The Smooth Tool

The second way I’m going to show you is the Smooth Tool. Click and Hold on the Pencil tool to reveal the Smooth tool. Just like the Pencil and Paintbrush, the Smooth tool has fidelity and smoothing options of its own. Just double click on it to open the Smooth tool preference pane.

How to make Smooth Lines in Illustrator

You can play around with these settings to get the right amount of smoothing for your liking, but the thing to remember is that the Smooth tool is a great way to smooth out paths that you’ve already created. I’ll show you how it works.

Draw or scribble a rough path with the pencil (or Paintbrush). Now, with your path still selected, select the Smooth tool, click and drag across your selected path to smooth it out.

How to make Smooth Lines in Illustrator

Repeat until you reach and acceptable result:

How to make Smooth Lines in Illustrator
How to make Smooth Lines in Illustrator

Ok that looks pretty smooth, done. Notice that the smooth tool also reduces the amount of anchor points in your path.

How to make Smooth Lines in Illustrator

I was surprised at how long it took me to actually start using these settings, but they can be a serious help, and a serious time saver. You have to sacrifice a little accuracy, but if you aren’t going for accuracy, the smooth tool and tool options for drawing can come in handy for making those gorgeous, serene, completely smooth lines in Illustrator. I hope it saves you a little “bitt” of time here and there ; )

About Jay Hilgert

Formally trained at Oklahoma State, Jay Hilgert is a graphic and web designer, font designer (Link), software developer (Brush Pilotâ„¢), and the founder of BittBox.

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