I want to teach my students a pen tool technique I was taught by a typographer in my last year of graphic design education. It really solved it for me when it came to using the pen tool. While I was looking for tutorials teaching it, I came across the name "Walls, Ceilings, and Floors" but it doesn't seem a very common name. Does this technique have another, more famous name?

It is portrayed in the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pl9AAS9X99I

In essence, the shape that needs to be traced is "framed" into a square so that each curves' peak has a point placed on it. It allows to keep handles straight 99% of times, if not every time.

ETA: Found another article calling it HVBH (Horizontal and Vertical Bezier Handles)

2 Answers 2


I've never heard of "wall, ceiling, floor". Or ever seen someone drag guides out like that. I mean, it makes sense, but seem like a lot of time dragging guides which aren't really necessary.

The methodology I've always used, which is basically the same thing without guides, is to merely place anchors at apogees and corners. After all, all those guides the "Dougster" is dragging out are merely there to mark the apogees and corners. You really don't need guides for corners, you can see them. Curve apogees don't have to be an exact science. As long as you are close to a curve's apogee you'll get a good path.

Overall though, I do use the same basic techniques, just without any guides . . . Holding Shift to pull smooth points at constrained angles.

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What strikes me about the video is the smart guides will not snap to a placed raster image like they are snapping in the video. In order for the snapping to take place and use it to your advantage, that screened back letterform must already be vector in nature. So essentially the video is tracing a vector glyph to make another identical vector glyph on top of it. I supposed it's okay to show the technique. I wonder how many would struggle with the fact that guides aren't snapping like they do in the video though? Without the snapping a user will have to eyeball where the apogees and corners are in order to place guides on them... so why not eyeball it while drawing rather than eyeballing it while dragging guides? I'm probably digressing too much :)

  • I totally agree about not needing guides and that the snapping might further confuse them. I won't show this particular video but I'm wondering at how the technique is named because I'd like to find other videos in French (I teach in French). I'll do my own demo in class but it's nice for the students to have a few other videos to check at home.
    – curious
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 14:53
  • On another note, I've been pondering to ask "Which software does Scott use to make his animated gifs?". I love how it prevents link rot.
    – curious
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 23:14
  • 1
    @Emilie see here: graphicdesign.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/790/…
    – Scott
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 23:27
  • Awesome! This will be put to good use. Thank you :-)
    – curious
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 1:13

Perhaps the term you are looking for is extrema points. More info on using them here: http://letterpunch.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/font-extremas.html

The use of guides in the video is interesting, but I don't think you need to use them. The extrema points can be guessed easily, and you can constrain the bézier handles to horizontal or vertical by holding down Shift.

  • Indeed, I don't personally use the guides though it will be useful for demonstrating. Indirectly, I'm also trying to find videos in my first language and found nothing if I translated the original terms to my language which had me wondering.
    – curious
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 14:51

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