Basic Line Art using the Pencil Tool in Illustrator

    ●   Create an Outline of an Image using the Pencil Tool in Illustrator.

Learn About:

Template LayersPencil ToolWorkspace Layouts

•   This tutorial is part of the CD Cover, Picture Perfect, Monster Mesh Movie Poster, Don't Buy the Lie and other projects.

  •   This tutorial is part of a series:

1 - 102-pencil-line-art-ai.htm  - 2 - 104-brush-libraries-ai.htm - 3 - 105-mesh-tool-color-ai.htm - 4 - 107-vector-eyes-ai.htm - 5 - 111-hair-ai.htm

Other People's Work:

Here are examples of work inspired by this tutorial.


Step #1: Open Illustrator ~

Open YOUR PROJECT in Illustrator

    ●   If you are working on the CD Cover Project
open that …



● OR, if you are working on the Movie Poster Project open it ...




    ●   OR, if you are working on the
Picture Perfect Project
open a picture of
your face …

    ●   OR, the Don't Buy the Lie Project, open your template …

    ●   OR, the Cereal Box Project, scan your mascot into Illustrator …

… (Remember: all these tutorials are intended to be
applied to YOUR PROJECT) …

Step #2: Template Layer ~

Select the layer that contains the artwork you want to trace click the drop down menu in the upper corner of the Layers Palette and select Template …




A "Template" layer reduces the Transparency to 50%, turns the eye  in to the template icon . and locks the layer lock.


Step #3: New Layer ~

Create a New Layer ABOVE your Template Layer …

… and name the layer Outline.

new layer

Step #4: Workspace ~

Go to: Window > Workspace > Painting or click on the bar in the upper-right to change your workspace to Painting layout.


Step #5: Pencil Tool ~

Get the Pencil Tool, or hit the keyboard shortcut letter (n) …

… Double-Click on the Pencil Tool icon …

…and uncheck both Fill New Pencil Strokes and Edit selected paths but leave Keep selected.


Also, raise the Fidelity and the Smoothness:


Fidelity: Determines how close the path is drawn to your mouse movement. Set it at a higher fidelity if your not good at drawing with your mouse.


Smoothness: The higher you set for smoothness, the less anchor point it produces, producing a smoother line.

Step #6: Color ~

Locate your Stroke and Fill colors …

… set your Stroke to Black and Fill to None .

Step #7: Zoom In ~

Zoom in VERY CLOSE by hitting Cmd (⌘) +

Step #8: Begin Tracing ~

Begin tracing your work.

Step #9: Continue ~

Continue drawing and keep going until you have a completed outline.



Be Extremely Detailed!

Every line, blemish, structure, hair, eyelash -


The more detailed you are the better the result.

Last Step: Save and Attach ~

Save your work as -

Attach it even if you're not done yet!

  •   ALWAYS save your projects using the following naming convention:

  •   DO NOT name your project any other way - Improperly named projects will not receive credit and you will be sad.

  •   NEVER leave your work on the desktop or depend on a flash drive - instead, save your work in a folder you can find later - preferably on a virtual drive where it can be backed up.