I've noticed while creating an exercice for my students that although Illustrator keeps lines straight when you hold down "Shift", the software overrides this when closing a shape. For example, if I trace a rectangle holding Shift but my last line is not properly aligned with the closing point, Illustrator will allow me to trace the path and close the shape even if I'm holding Shift, resulting in a bent path.

Here are some examples both created while holding Shift:

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I see a lot of students struggling with this when starting with the pen tool. Is there a setting or tolerance somewhere that could give a warning or keep this from happening?

I know there can be a bunch of workarounds to align the path after the fact, but I'm looking to prevent the issue altogether.

2 Answers 2


Well, there are 3 ways to deal with this. The first is very fundamental, and worth learning very early.

  1. Grid snapping. If you really need to draw accurate stuff that is co-linear then you need to use, and especially teach, grid snapping. The thing with snapping is that one needs to become comfortable with switching in on and off as needed (as well as adjust the grid to your needs).

  2. You can use alignment guides of smart guides. Again the trick to getting most out of smart guides is to know what feature is needed for what job and turning them on and off when needed. Having them all on, or even having the default ones on is often too much. So again the important lesson here is switching features on and off based on what you do.

  3. You can just draw it past the end point than snap them to intersect. Again smart guides need to be enabled.

Other options are.

  • For squares and rectangles do not draw the opposite side. Mirror the other side

PS: I do not draw shapes like this with the pen tool. Because it inferior to using the line tool, i can allays join the lines/shape builder if i need a closed shape. In fact going too early to pen tool leads to a lot of problems once you need to start evolving good curves.

PPS: I don't have a good capture software on this computer so i can not capture overlays so can not illustrate the 2 and third points very well.


The problem is, with closed paths, that first anchor, and the penultimate anchor are both set and not active. So, they can't be acted upon in terms of moving them.

Of course, after the closing of the path alignment is easy. But I know of no mechanism to force alignment of a previously placed, non-active, anchor point while sill drawing.

The standard purposeful selection and subsequent align options after the path has been closed is the only option I am aware of.

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