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Adobe Illustrator - Understanding Paths

This guide will show you what paths are and their importance in Illustrator workflow.


A path is a straight line between two points. All vector artwork inside of Illustrator is made up of paths.

Fills, strokes and effects act like clothing that goes on top of a skeleton. To see the underlying structure of paths inside of the artwork use outline mode.

Access Outline Mode

  1. Choose the selection tool.
  2. Press Ctrl+Y on the PC, Cmd+Y on the Mac.
    • Just the paths of the objects are now visible.
  3. To exit out of this, just press Cmd or Ctrl+Y again.

The beginning and end of each segment are marked by anchor points, which work like pins holding a string in place. A path can be closed (for example, a circle), or open, with distinct endpoints (for example, a wavy line). 

Change the shape of a path by clicking and dragging its anchor points.

Paths can have two kinds of anchor points: corner points and smooth points. At a corner point, a path abruptly changes direction. At a smooth point, path segments are connected as a continuous curve.

Select anchor points

  1. Click the points that make up the path with the Direct Selection tool  to select them.
    1. Shift-click to select multiple points.
    2. Using the Direct Selection tool and drag a boundary around the anchor points. Shift-drag around additional anchor points to select them.

Add or delete anchor points

  1. Select the path to modify.
  2. To add an anchor point, select the Pen tool or the Add Anchor Point tool, position the pointer over the path segment, and click.
  3. To delete an anchor point, do either of the following:
    • Select the point with the Direct Selection tool and click Remove Selected Anchor Points  in the Control panel.
    • Select the Pen tool or the Delete Anchor Point tool, position the pointer over the anchor point, and click.

If you need further assistance please contact the Information Technology Help Desk at 920-424-3020 or

Keywords:"Access Outline Mode", "Anchor Points", "Selecting and Transforming"   Doc ID:64306
Owner:Richard L.Group:UW Oshkosh
Created:2016-06-21 10:00 CSTUpdated:2016-12-20 12:31 CST
Sites:UW Oshkosh
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