I'm using Adobe Illustrator CC 2017.

Is there a way to make Pencil or Brush tool snap to its lines and curves while drawing? I'm trying to draw a flower made of petals, and it's very annoying to manually ensure that starting and ending points of each petal lie exactly on the curves of underlying ones.

Maybe there are better tools in Illustrator to draw this kind of picture? What is the best one for this case - pen, pencil, brush (I'm on Wacom Intuos Pro)?

In-progress flower drawing

  • Howabot just dont worry about it then use tools to fix it later? (which frankly is less work)
    – joojaa
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 13:44
  • I tried this and used Shape Tool to tream the excess lines. It kinda works, but so uncomfortable. Because of this extra lines you don't really see your drawing clear which affects the quality of work, and if you constantly switch from drawing to triming it's more time. I'm very surprised to find out that Illustrator's freehand tools don't have snapping, it is maybe the most important thing I need and there are tons of situation where freehand + snap is necesssary.
    – Evanto
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 13:56
  • Theres no shame in accepting that illustrator may not the tool for you. Or that you have to change your intended workfow to something else. There are lots of fuctionalities that id want that illustrator does not have. LIke the make me rich button ;)
    – joojaa
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 13:57
  • I just started with Illustrator and the first thing I found out was that it doesn't have the only thing I wanted from it :D
    – Evanto
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 14:12
  • i havent seen any software that does to be honest, But it shouldt matter filling should do the job.
    – joojaa
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 14:20

3 Answers 3


A desire for precision generally means the Pencil and any "drawing" Brush won't get you there. You can use the Pen Tool or shapes. The Pencil/Brush tool simply aren't designed to be precise. They are focused more on natural drawing and all the imprecision and wonder that comes with that.

It's possible to start with something simple like a single ellipse ....

enter image description here

.... and generate a "petal-like" image merely using Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform...

enter image description here
I'm just hitting up and down arrows with the Copies field highlighted in the animation. This makes more or less copies.

You just have to "tweak" the settings to your liking.

Afterwards you can use Object > Expand Appearance and you are left with simple, stacked, ellipses.

enter image description here

From here you can resize, rotate, recolor, the individual ellipses as desired.

(CS6 screenshots because that's what I have launched. But it's basically the same in CC.. the dialogs just look slightly different.)

  • Thank you for this cool tutorial! It's a surprise that in Illustrator there is no opportunity to use freehand drawing tools with snaps though, it's so commonly needed and natural thing. Your technique is cool, but for different purposes, it actually illustrates how it is impossible to get that cosy manual yet presize floral drawing with non-freehand tools.
    – Evanto
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 14:02

I would use the Pen Tool as you are working with very smooth curves here. Did you check if Smart Guides option is turned on? You can go to View -> Smart Guides or use shortcut Ctrl + U (I believe it's cmd + U on Mac). Also, make sure that Snap to Point option is selected (also in View panel).

  • Thank you, this was a useful comment for getting started with Illustrator's snapping!
    – Evanto
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 14:04

You can as well draw closed shapes with a fill, which hides, what's behind. If you want to insert the new shape below the older shapes, use drawing mode "Draw Behind". It's in the tools panel below the color selection.

You can make a pattern brush to insert shapes fast along a curve:

enter image description here

If you need a transparent "strokes only" result, you can make totally new shapes with the shape builder. You simply drag over together belonging parts.Old shapes vanish.

enter image description here

  1. Draw filled shapes. Select all. Click the shape builder tool icon. Set the wanted new stroke and fill color. Here the new fill is = none.

  2. Drag over new areas. One is done, one is under dragging.

  3. The result

  4. the resulted shapes moved apart. They have no fill.

This method does not need snaps.

Not asked, but if possible, check Inkscape. It has somehow different tools for freeform drawing, for example

  • snap to curve without a tendency to snap to anchors, if it's not wanted
  • easily readjustable smoothing strength after drawing a shape
  • several curve modes,

I feel it's possible to get regular looking curves a little easier than in Illustrator, even when drawing directly with mouse.

  • Thank you for this cool tutorial, especially for mentioning Inkscape and it's possibilities! It was quite a surprise to find out that freehand drawing with snaps is just absent in Illustrator, it's such a necessary thing to have. Hope that Inkskape works with Wacom.
    – Evanto
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 14:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.