Illustrator Pen tool: vectorize hand lettering

Illustrator’s Pen tool might be one of the software’s most powerful, but it’s also notoriously tricky to master. When it comes to vectorizing hand lettering, knowing exactly where to place the anchor points and handles will shave hours from your workflow.

In this short video, designer Will Paterson shares a valuable ‘box’ technique that will help you master anchor points and handles in seconds.

“It’s changed my life,” he says. “You don’t always know where the points have to go or where the handles should be directed. Having this system allows you to focus on the work itself, rather than the Pen tool.”

Vectorize type with the Pen tool


If you’re new to Illustrator’s Pen tool, the technique shown above offers a dramatically faster and more accurate way to digitize hand lettering, logotypes and any other design work involving curved lines.

“Typeface designers, logo designers and hand lettering artists will seriously benefit from this technique,” says Will. “You can easily create and edit parts of a vector, without ruining the rest.”

“This whole wordmark only took 20 minutes to finish," he adds. "Without this system, it could take an hour of trial and error.”

Be a better designer


Illustrator Pen tool tutorial

Will’s quick Pen tool tutorial is part of our #10MinSkills campaign. We're challenging you to set aside just 10 minutes every day to learn a new vector-based skill – and to help, we’ve collaborated with some of the industry’s most exciting creatives to share their best time-saving techniques. You'll find them all in the #10MinSkills section of our blog.

Here's how it works. By repeating each technique for 10 minutes every day, you’ll quickly establish handy new habits that will speed up your workflow, helping you work more efficiently and freeing up more time for the fun part: being creative.



Why is this so important? Well, because thanks to services like Instagram, anyone can be a designer at the touch of a button. That means it’s more important that ever for professional creatives to know their tools.

You need to learn your software. But software develops faster than our habits, and few of us harness the full power available at our finger tips.

We want to help change that with #10MinSkills. We'll be adding more tips, tricks and techniques to the blog over the coming weeks, so it's worth book-marking the section in your design resources.


An easier way to vectorize lettering



As well as a collection of time-saving vector techniques, you’ll also find a wealth of Illustrator plug-ins that will super-charge your workflow – whatever field you work in – on our website.

These include InkScribe, which gives you precise and intuitive vector drawing and editing, without having to remember Illustrator workarounds and shortcuts. It’s been designed to replace the Pen tool, and with ghost handles, smart remove points points and more, it’ll save you hours.

In addition, you'll find handy tools like VectorScribe – the Swiss army knife of vector editing tools; Phantasm, which gives you color control like Photoshop’s; Texturino, for adding texture in Illustrator.

Sign up for a free 14-day trial to check them out.


Meet the designer: Will Paterson


Will Paterson branding

Freelance graphic designer Will Paterson specialises in branding, hand lettering and logo design. He also runs a cracking YouTube channel, which is packed with brilliant Photoshop and Illustrator tutorials, plus pro tips and advice on everything from typography to logo design.

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