The tangent is the line which is perpendicular to the local radius. Intuitively, it's the line "resting" or "balanced" on that point in the curve.

The perpendicular (or the normal) is the line crossing the tangent at a right angle.

How can I draw these, besides eyeballing it?


There are quite many plugins that make this easy to do. Its even relatively easy to script.

In any case you may want to know how to do this manually. I often do as not all the computers i use have all the tools i have at my workstation. This is how you do it.

  1. Insert a point to the curve where you want to be tangent.
  2. With the tangents visible use line tool to snap the tangent point, and drag to the to the point on curve that you made.
  3. (Optional) Scale this line up say to 400% or so.
  4. (Optional, for normal) Rotate the tangent by 90 degrees centered on point:
    • With rotate tool, Alt + click on the point on curve
    • Type 90 degrees
    • Hit copy.

How to make tangent to any point

Timelapse 1: How to make a tangent line in AI (Scale step missing, sorry).

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Using a free tool issued by "astute graphics" company. The free tools called SubScribe Free

this will install some useful tools in your illustrator toolbar, one of them called line tangent to two paths.

enter image description here

fly out this tool and you will see some other tools all are to make tangents and perpendiculars between lines and paths.

enter image description here

and as all astute graphics plugins it is very simple to use

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Hold Shift to constraint. This works for lines keeping them 0, 45, 90, 180 etc. degrees. You can also keep scale and rotation proportional. Or when dragging objects. Good Luck.

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For a straight line perpendicular to a straight line, rotate your line 90 degrees.

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  • 1
    I think you only partially understood the question... – Luciano Jun 26 '17 at 8:03

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