Illustrator experts' advice needed

Vagabond's picture

Hello everyone,

I am trying to get more comfortable with vector editing software these days (Adobe Illustrator in particular) and I have sort of a workflow question.

Let's say I'm trying to achieve a kinda extended letter "o" shape.


I would start with the outer vector path.


I have seen some people combining a shape out of several other ones.


But when I have to place every part in it's exact place, I can't put them in exact spots where they need to be. As a result I end up with tiny overlappings and vector imperfections. This is what I roughly get:


It would be nice to know what would be your approach to such a task.
What's the fastest way?


oldnick's picture

I use CorelDraw for my outlines, but...

In situations like this, my no-fail easy out is to give the path a stroke with round corners, then convert the outline to an object: perfect tangents every time.

HVB's picture

There is a tangent function, and there are third-party scripts that will connect an anchor point to a curve with a perfect tangent. There's a free one at, and there are others. You might take discussions like this to an Illustrator forum (free at Adobe .com)

zevbiz's picture

[Effect > Offset Path] Offset: -50px | Joins: Round
[Effect > Offset Path] Offset: 50px | Joins: Round

Vagabond's picture

Thanks guys.

rs_donsata's picture

Maybe you have activated Align to grid (View menu) or the hideous Align to pixel grid (Transform panel options).

Now, vector drawing is not a lot like geometrical construction. I would rather do that by drawing a straight corner outline and then rouding the corners with the software.

BeauW's picture

First thing to add, you can scale up your vector graphic, making it easier to see the small joins etc. and then scale it back down.

Use align pallet and groups- i.e. first two circles, group, second two (bigger circles) align and group. Align the two groups, make your shape from the centre using the pathfinder (divide, for example) and then use either the Effect>Stylize>Round Corners or the slightly more precise script "Round Any Corner" that can be found here:

washishu's picture

My approach when creating compound shapes like this in Illustrator is not to rely on what I see on the screen but to do some thinking first and work out some dimensions and create objects to these precise dimensions. Rounding off the dimensions makes it easier to do the sums (52mm rather than 52.84mm for example).

Then I can use the Move function and/or x and y co-ordinates to position things accurately. In very complex shapes I also position the first shape in this way so that I know exactly where it is located within the artboard.

DrDoc's picture

I guess this is an old thread, but—

I very rarely construct shapes out of primitives. I'll use primitives to make guides (View>Guides>Make Guides), and then I'll just draw my shape with the pen tool. If I really want it to be perfectly symmetrical, I'll draw half or a quarter of it and then flip it along its edge and combine using the Pathfinder.

Basically what I'm saying is, don't be afraid of actually drawing.

aluminum's picture

I no longer use AI, and use InkScape for most vector work. That probably doesn't help you much, but InkScape does have a wide variety of 'snap-to' options that can help with this.

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