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Tools & Tips

Working With Vectors in Pixelmator

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Pixelmator is an easy-to-use, fast, and powerful image editing app for the Mac. In this tutorial, we will explain how to work with vector shapes.


Before You Get Started

In Pixelmator, there are three tools that can be used to create and manipulate vector objects. Each can be found in the Tools Palette.

  1. Pen Tool
  2. Freeform Pen Tool
  3. Custom Shape Tool
“Tools

1. The Pen Tools

The two pen tools are ideal for drawing by hand or for tracing existing images. Lets take a look at how to use them.

Step 1

Create a new image (File > New…) of 600 x 600 pixels and select the Pen Tool from the Tools Palette. Click inside the document window on the point where we want to start drawing. Then, click on another point in the document window to create the next point of the shape. Repeat this a few times. Note that you can close your shape by clicking on the starting point again. Double clicking without closing the shape will leave you with a line.

“Pen

Step 2

Select the Freeform Pen Tool from the Tools Palette. This tool is almost the same as the Pen Tool we used in the previous steps. The only difference is that we need to click and draw to create a shape. So click with the mouse on the document window and hold the mouse button. Then draw a shape with the mouse. Releasing the mouse button finalises the shape. This is the basic method for editing all types of vector shapes in Pixelmator.

“Smooth

Step 3

Select the Freeform Pen Tool from the Tools Palette. This tool is almost the same as the Pen Tool we used in the previous steps. The only difference is that we need to click and draw to create a shape. So click with the mouse on the document window and hold the mouse button. Then draw a shape with the mouse. Releasing the mouse button closes the shape.

When we Ctrl-Click on the shape and choose Make Editable or double click on the shape to make it editable, we'll see the same red handles appear for editing and we can adjust the shape further. Also notice that by default each new shape gets added on a new layer.

“Freeform

2. The Custom Shape Tool

The Custom Shape Tool consists of several standard defined shapes that we can easily add to our document.

Step 1

Delete all layers except for the standard background layer. Click on the Custom Shape Tool and hold the mouse button. A drop down menu will appear letting us choose from several pre-defined shapes. Select the Rounded Rectangle Shape.

“Custom

Step 2

From the View menu, choose Show Grid. Using a grid is a great help with making images from scratch and therefore a welcome companion when using Pixelmator's shapes functions.

The grid settings can be adjusted in the Pixelmator Preferences in the Rulers section. For this document I used a Gridline every 10 percent with 5 Subdivisions.

“Grid”

Step 3

Draw a rounded rectangle with the Custom Shape Tool. In the Tool Options Bar, we set the Fill to Color and choose a light grey color from the swatches palette as shown in the figure below.

“Rounded

The Rounded Rectangle Shape has a nifty feature that lets us adjust the radius of the corners. Adjusting this radius is done by dragging the little blue dot in the top left corner to the right or left. For our document I've set the radius to 60.

“Rounded


3. Creating a Camera Icon

Step 1

In the same way as with step 3 from the last section we draw a rounded rectangle with the Custom Shape Tool. In the Tool Options Bar, we set the Fill to Color and choose a dark grey almost black color from the swatches palette. Use a small radius for the corner.

“Camera

Step 2

From the Custom Shape Tool select the Ellipse Shape. As with selections we can also add, subtract and intersect shapes that are on the same layer. It might be that not the whole Tool Options Bar is visible, so in order to see the add and subtraction modes, you might need to enlarge the document window. Select the Add to Shape mode, when the add and subtract modes get visible. Like shown in the figure.

“Add

Step 3

When adding shapes to an existing shape layer you'll sooner or later find out that it is hard to distinguish the different shapes on the layer. By clicking on the little gear icon in the Tool Options Bar and choosing Show Outline, we get to see the outline of each shape on the layer, making it much easier to work.

“Show

Step 4

Make sure that you are in Add Mode and draw a circle over the camera body. This will be become the outline of the camera lens. In order to create a perfect circle you can hold the shift key while dragging. When you release the mouse button you'll notice that the Move Tool gets activated automatically. Making it easy to move our circle in place right away.

“Lens

Step 5

We continue with our lens by copying the circular shape we've just created. We do this by pressing Command-C on our keyboard to copy, followed by Command-V to paste. You'll see that the copy of the shape gets placed on the same layer. Switch to Subtract Mode and place the shape over the other circular shape. Now we make the subtraction shape smaller by dragging the handles inwards. Use the Option key and the Shift key at the same time while dragging, to make sure we keep the circular proportions and decrease the size of our shape from all sides at the same time.

“Lens

Step 6

Let's do this exercise one more time. In exactly the same way but now in add mode again. So with the current shape selected, we press Command-C, followed by Command-V. Switch to Add Mode, move the shape in place and make it smaller by dragging with the mouse and using the Option and Shift keys.

“Lens

Step 7

Every camera has a shutter and in order to make our shutter we choose the Rectangular Shape from the Custom Shape Tool. Make sure we are still in Add Mode and draw the rectangle for our shutter. As you see the rectangle shape doesn't come with any special options.

“Shutter”

Step 8

For the view finder we are going to use a shape from the Shapes Palette. The Shapes Palette can be accessed by choosing Show Shapes from the View menu or by opening the Custom Shape Tool and choosing Custom Shape.

From the Shapes Palette we choose the pentagon shape. Make sure to change to Subtract Mode and draw a little pentagon there where we normally see the view finder.

“Shapes

Step 9

A slider will pop up letting us choose the amount of points we want to have in our shape. This shape is also a type of shape which is called for Smart Shape in Pixelmator. Lets adjust the amount of points down to 4.

“Smart

4. Saving Custom Shapes

If everything has been done correctly you'll end up with a document consisting of three layers. The top layer being the shape of our finished camera. This camera shape can be saved and reused in later projects.

Step 1

Select the layer with the camera shape by clicking on it and drag it to the shapes palette. You'll see a plus icon appear and by releasing the mouse button the shape gets placed in the shapes palette.

“Save

Congratulations!

In this tutorial, we showed you how to quickly create a camera icon using just a few vector shapes. We showed how to use the add and subtract modes, how to edit a shape, as well as how to save shapes for later use. We hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and that you stay tuned for our next Pixelmator tutorial, which will explain how to use brushes and gradients.

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