How To Use The Shaper Tool In Adobe Illustrator CC 2015

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How To Use The Shaper Tool In Adobe Illustrator CC 2015

Image shows progression of pin icon design using the Shaper Tool in Illustrator CC 2015
Freehand drawing just became more precise thanks to Illustrator's Shaper Tool.

If you have ever tried to draw a shape using a mouse or a pen in Illustrator you have most likely discovered the computer regards you as being nothing more than a mass of jiggling flesh. Though you can use a variety of tools – line, pen, ellipse and so on – trying to draw them freehand can be an exercise in frustration. This has been the case since the introduction of Illustrator in 1988 and it looks like it only took Adobe 28 years to get around to addressing this frustration. In the latest release of Illustrator – 2015.2.1 – a new tool- the Shaper tool was introduced to the lineup and it works on any device – desktop, Microsoft Surface or tablet that uses a mouse, a pen or even your finger as the input device.

The tool is really quite interesting. You select the tool and, using a mouse for example, you draw out shape such as an ellipse, a circle, a triangle, a hexagon or other primitive geometric shape and the wavy, jiggly lines you drew instantly become perfectly straight objects.  It is almost like magic.

The best part of this tool is you can not only draw the shapes but you can also combine those shapes to create rather complex objects which can then be subsequently edited using the other tools in the Tool bar.

With that in mind let’s get started.

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Getting Started With The Shaper Tool in Adobe Illustrator CC 2015

image shows freehand circle on the left and perfect circle create by the Shaper tool on the right.
With the Shaper Tool you are no longer a jiggling ball of flesh when drawing freehand.

To get started with the new Shaper Tool, click once on the tool – it is right under the Rectangle Tool – and then click and drag out a circle. It is going to look really rough until you release the mouse. Then it springs out to a perfectly formed circle with a stroke and a fill. Now do the same thing but draw the circle at a roughly 45-degree angle. When you release the mouse, you will see an ellipse at a 45-degree angle.

Next up, draw out a rectangle. When you release the mouse, you will see a perfectly straight rectangle.

The shapes you can draw are:

  • Square
  • Rectangle
  • Vertical Line
  • Horizontal Line
  • 45-degree Line
  • Triangle
  • Inverted Triangle
  • Circle
  • Ellipse
  • 45-degree square (Think of a diamond.)
  • 45-degree rectangle
  • Hexagon (6-sided object)

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How To Combine Shapes Using The Illustrator Shaper Tool

The shape on the right shows a squiggly line used to merge shapes
Merge shapes the same way you would use an eraser.

The Shaper Tool is one of those tools with features that make you wonder why they didn’t think of this tool earlier. For example, the Shaper tool allows you to combine shapes without a side trip to the Pathfinder panel. The way shapes are combined is so intuitive it is like using an eraser in grade school. Really!

In this example I want to create one of those red pins you see on Google Maps. To start I selected the Shaper Tool and drew a circle and a triangle. Then, using the Selection Tool , I selected both shapes and turned off the Stroke in the Tools panel.

What I wanted was was one shape, not the two that currently composes the pin. This is where you get to use an eraser. I selected the Shaper tool ad drew a squiggly line where the object intersected. If you select the Direct Selection Tool and click on the shape you will see you have the shape. If you select the Shaper Tool and place the cursor over the shape you will see the Circle and Triangle are still there. If you click on one of those shapes you can even edit the shape.

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How To Use The Shaper Tool To Fill A Shape With A Colour

The shape on the left is filled with the crosshatching indicating fill colour.
Use the Shaper Tool to edit shapes and fill shapes with colour.

Now that you know how the Shaper tool merges shapes into each other. You can also fill the shape with colour while using the Shaper tool. If you select the the Shaper Tool and click on the object the shapes will appear. Click again and the shape fills with a crosshatch pattern. This pattern tells you the shape can be filled with a colour.

You also may notice a small box off to the right containing an arrow. Clicking it switches you to shape or to fill.

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Finishing The Shaper Tool Pin Icon

The finished red icon is shown on the right.
An icon created entirely using the Shaper Tool.

A pin icon usually has a small circle at the top. No problem. Select the Shaper tool, draw out a circle, let Shaper work its magic and fill the shape with white.

I have just scratched fundamentals of this tool. If you want to learn more check out these tutorials: