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How to Add Handles to Anchor Points in Illustrator

How to Add Handles to Anchor Points in Illustrator

As you start working with the “Pen” (P) tool and getting involved with anchor points, you will most likely have to manipulate the anchor point’s handles to get nice and smooth curves.

Adding handles is very easy to do, it’s pretty much just a click away.

However, there are some variations when it comes to adding handles, and maybe you didn’t even know that these functions were available.

In this tutorial you will learn all you need about adding and manipulating anchor points’ handles, so you can make your line tracing process much easier.

 

Adding Handles to Anchor Points in Illustrator

Select the anchor point with the “Direct Selection” (A) tool and click on the “Convert Selected Anchor Points to Smooth” button to add handles. Press “Shift + C” to select the “Anchor Point” tool, and left-click and hold on the handle as you drag the mouse to unlock it from the other handle.

 

Adding Locked Handles to Anchor Points in Illustrator

Select the drawing using the “Selection” (V) tool. Then click on the “Direct Selection” (A) tool to display the anchor points. Next, click on the anchor point to select it. Finally, click on the “Convert Selected Anchor Points to Smooth” button on the top side toolbar to add the handles.

When you add handles to an anchor point, you get locked handles by default.

Locked means that when you manipulate one of the handles, the other one will also move in the opposite direction. Always proportionally. These handles are constrained and will always work and move as a single unit. Simultaneously.

 

Step 1:  Click on Selection Tool

How to Add Locked Handles to Anchor Points in Illustrator Step 3 

Select your drawing using the “Selection” (V) tool on the left side toolbar, or pressing “Ctrl + A” command to select all.

Next, click on the “Direct Selection” (A) tool, also located on the left side toolbar.

Now you should be able to see the anchor points.

 

Step 2:  Add Handles

How to Add Locked Handles to Anchor Points in Illustrator Step 2

With the “Direct Selection” (A) tool selected, click on the anchor point you want to add handles to.

Then click on the “Convert Selected Anchor Points to Smooth” button located on the top side toolbar to add the handles.

If you want to add handles to several anchor points, hold the “Shift” key as you click on the anchor points to keep them all selected. Then click on the “Convert Selected Anchor Points to Smooth” button.

If you are finding this topic interesting so far, make sure you check this article about “How to Curve Lines in Illustrator” to learn how to get those smooth curves you’re aiming for.

 

Step 3:  Manage Handles

How to Add Locked Handles to Anchor Points in Illustrator Step 3

Notice that, as previously stated, the anchor points’ handles are constrained to work together. They’re locked. This means if you, for instance, drag one of the handles down, the other one will move up.

 

Adding Unlocked Handles to Anchor Points in Illustrator

Select the anchor point using “Direct Selection” (A) tool. Click on the “Convert Selected Anchor Points to Smooth” button to add the handles. Press “Shift + C” to select the “Anchor Point” tool, and left-click and hold on the handle as you drag the mouse to unlock it.

If you want to freely manipulate your handles in different directions, you need to unlock them first. Let’s see how we can get this done.

 

Step 1: Add Handles

How to Add Unlocked Handles to Anchor Points in Illustrator Step 1

To add unlocked handles, you need to first add the handles as usual, and then you have to unlock them.

First, press the “Ctrl + A” command to select the whole drawing. Then click on “Direct Selection” (A) tool, and click on the anchor point to select it.

Next, click on the “Convert Selected Anchor Points to Smooth” button to add handles.

Learn other ways to smooth edges in this tutorial about “How to Smooth Edges in Illustrator”.

 

Step 2: Select “Anchor Point” Tool

How to Add Unlocked Handles to Anchor Points in Illustrator Step 2

Left-click and hold on the “Pen” (P) tool on the left side toolbar to unfold the hidden tools.

Select the “Anchor Point” (Shift + C) tool or press the “Shift + C” shortcut.

 

Step 3: Manage the Handles Separately 

How to Add Unlocked Handles to Anchor Points in Illustrator Step 3

Left-click and hold on the handle as you drag the mouse to manage it separately from the other. 

 

How to Simultaneously Manage Unlocked Anchor Points’ Handles in Illustrator

Select the anchor point using the “Direct Selection” (A) tool. Click on the “Scale” (S) tool on the left side toolbar. Now, left-click and hold on the handle as you drag the mouse to move both simultaneously.

You already know how to manipulate handles separately, but what if you need to move these unlocked handles simuntanley to get smooth curves?

Imagine you want to trace a heart shaped figure.

How would you manipulate the handles of the anchor point located on the vertex spot where the half circles converge?

You can’t do this if the handles are locked because they are aligned on the same line.

Hence, you would probably think it isn’t possible to do it with unlocked handles. But you actually can! This is what the “Scale” (S) tool is for.

If you want to know how to draw a heart shaped figure without having to deal with anchor points, check this tutorial about “How to Make a Heart in Illustrator”.

 

Step 1: Select the Anchor Point

How to Simultaneously Manage Unlocked Anchor Points’ Handles in Illustrator Step 1

Select the anchor point you want to work with with the “Direct Selection” (A) tool.

 

Step 2: Use the “Scale” (S) Tool

How to Simultaneously Manage Unlocked Anchor Points’ Handles in Illustrator Step 2

Then click on the “Scale” (S) tool located on the left side toolbar.

Notice that a light blue target will be displayed right over the anchor point we’re working with.

Now try to move one of the handles. You’ll notice that the other one will simultaneously move in the same direction even if the handles aren’t locked. It works just like a mirror.

 

Adding One Single Handle to an Anchor Point in Illustrator

Select the anchor point using “Direct Selection” (A) tool. Click on the “Convert Selected Anchor Points to Smooth” button on the top side toolbar to add the handles. Press “Shift + C” to the select “Anchor Point” tool. Left-click on the handle to select it and then press the “Del” key to delete it.

 

Step 1: Add Handles

To get one single handle, you have to first add the handles as usual, and then simply delete one of them.

You’ll have to first press the “Ctrl + A” command to select the whole drawing. Then click on the “Direct Selection” (A) tool, and click on the anchor point to select it.

Next, click on the “Convert Selected Anchor Points to Smooth” button to add handles.

 

Step 2: Delete One of the Handles

Click on the “Anchor Point” (Shift + C) tool hidden on the “Pen” tool nest, or just use the “Shift + C” shortcut.

Click on the handle you want to delete.

Press the “Del” key to delete it.

If you want to know more about this topic, we suggest you check this article about “How to Move Anchor Points in Illustrator in 4 Easy Steps”

 

Frequently Asked Questions on “How to Add Handles to Anchor Points in Illustrator”

 

How can I delete the handles of an anchor point in Illustrator?

If you want to delete handles, click on the “Direct Selection” (A) tool, and then click on the anchor point to select it. Finally, click on the “Convert Selected Anchor Points to Corner” button located on the left side of the top side menu, to get rid of those handles.

 

Why is the “Scale” (S) tool not working correctly with my handles in Illustrator?

This is probably because your handles aren’t properly aligned with each other. You will have to briefly rotate your drawing to the point the handles are perfectly aligned on the same horizontal line, as if there was a mirror in the middle. The “Scale” tool should work then.