Grappling with the Bezier pen


The bezier pen: he's a slippery little blighter, isn't he?

Occasionally I have to use a vector drawing application to produce a diagram of some kind for work, and on those occasions I hope like blazes that the diagram in question doesn't require any curves because I've never got to grips with the bezier pen. Of course, I can form perfectly nice paths with straight segments until the cows come home, but the moment I try to click and drag to form a curve, all hell breaks loose, and the resulting squiggle explosion looks like the outcome of an interaction between a sugar-crazed two-year-old and a crayon. Other people seem to be able to use it to create elegant, expressive lines and shapes, but all I get is a willful tangle.

This time, however, there was no way to get around it, and there had to be curves. So I decided to learn how to use that damn pen properly, once and for all. I did a search, and came up with a few online resources, of which this tutorial was probably the most helpful. I read, and practiced, and stabbed the undo button in a fury, but gradually, I began to see how to control this thing. My 'eureka' moment came when it dawned on me that if you want a smooth, symmetrical curve, the control handles need to be the same length as one another, and perpendicular to the curve. Those of you who are pen masters are probably thinking, "Well, duh!" right now, but it was quite an important bit of understanding for me. I think it also really helped me to have some kind of guide about where to put the points, like a circle or ellipse temporarily drawn underneath. Otherwise, it's very hard to place points properly to achieve the shape you want. I still find it a very unintuitive way to draw, rather than sketching a line (which I'm also hopeless at without a graphics tablet), but it's gradually beginning to seem less intimidating.

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