Pen tool vs brush or pencil tool to trace


Could someone help me with a simple thing?
What is the difference between using pen tool, brush tool or pencil tool… for tracing over the rough sketch…in terms of output? I mean can we not just use pencil or brush tool to trace over all of the drawing, instead of using the pen tool at all?

Im waiting for my ipad to arrive and try out vectornator in that…watching tutorials, but mostly people use the pen tool to trace…and it seems intimidating…

Hi @Gkriti and welcome!

The Pencil and Brush tools give you approximate control, and often that’s all you want. If you are coming from a paint app background or traditional art, it probably feels more familiar.
Many times that will be all you need, and that’s OK.

However, the Pen tool gives you ultimate precision control, and vector apps are perfect for line/shape control freaks (like me). If you are coming from a design or drafting or architectural background, it is probably more familiar.

It’s the difference between painting a shape or cutting it carefully out of paper, the difference between spray painting freehand versus spray painting with a stencil, the difference between drawing a line freehand with a pencil, or drawing it using a ruler or French curve or a physical spline ruler.

With a Pencil or a Brush you can get close to what you are tracing, but with the Pen tool you can get a curve that is exactly the same.

With the Pencil and Brush tools, the app places the nodes for you, and they are not always in a convenient or ideal place for later editing or modification of a curve or shape.
With the Pen tool, you have exact placement over where your nodes go, which can be important for later editing or modification of that curve or shape.

As an alternative approach:
I have known one professional designer to place all his nodes first with straight lines between them, tap, tap, tap, then modify the node handles to shape the curve segments between them afterwards - his final artwork was often amazing, and it mostly took him less time than it would have taken him to draw it either a Pencil or Brush tool. I have seen him render a car (well, I saw him do parts of it), complete with shading and simulated reflections (using semi-transparent shapes and gradients) in a surprisingly short amount of time.

Control over curves and nodes is one of the important features that sets vector apps apart from paint apps, and mastering the use of the Pen tool to your best advantage is an important skill to acquire.

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That was so beautifully explained!! It clears everything!
Thankyou so much!!

Do you know of any app or something which would help me master pen tool on ipad?

Start by reading through the tutorial here: Pen Tool | Vectornator Learn iPad
Lots of useful tips (like double-tapping on the end node to stop drawing a curve).

There’s a file download at the top, but don’t start using it until after you’ve viewed the video at the bottom of the tutorial - that file is set up for the middle part of the video only. Navigate between the artboards by using the Layers panel (Layers icon on the top right), and tapping on the artboard names (they are the larger pale grey words). Start by reading the Instructions artboard and setting up Vectornator as it advises.
Use two fingers (two finger tips) to drag your view of the artboard around, or pinch those two finger tips in and out to change the zoom.

Then have a look at The Pen Tool
The 'Under the Hood" video is not necessary to using the Pen tool, but there is some other great Vectornator-specific advice here, including what the node colours mean, some of the gestures, and really useful controls such as changing the node types in the Styles panel (paintbrush icon in the top right).

There’s a link towards the bottom of that page to The Bézier Game, a great interactive web page that you can use to learn to use a vector Pen tool, even with your mouse on a desktop computer.

Note: the keyboard shortcuts in the game have Vectornator gesture alternatives - instead of Shift for direction snapping, start dragging the point and handle on Vectornator, then place another two finger tips somewhere on the canvas to start the direction snapping. Instead of Alt for “breaking” a pair of handles so they can each be manipulated separately, start dragging out the handle than place another sigle fingertip somewhere on the canvas.

Watch carefully when each page/shape first loads, there’s a quick preview tip/animation showing you how to solve each step. If you miss the first one on the opening page, refresh/reload the page.

You could also test the vector Pen tool at although it is a little bit clunky. After drawing a curve with the Pen tool (tap for a sharp node, drag for a smooth node, Backspace to undo the last node drawn, Esc(ape) to stop drawing a curve). Double-click an existing curve to edit nodes, click on a node to get handles, hold Ctrl while manipulating a node control handle to “break” its connection with the partner handle.

If it helps, in Vectornator think of using the Pen tool as a virtual scissors with paper. Instead of cutting and turning the scissors to get a smooth curve, tap-and-drag to get a smooth node.
Instead of two sharp snips to get a sharp corner, just tap for a sharp corner.
To get curves coming together to make a sharp point (like a claw, curved fang, shark fin, or a very stylised wave logo), tap-and-drag to make the curve on one side of the shape, then hold down another finger tip on the canvas to break the curve and drag the other handle around to sharpen the tip (unfortunately, you’re not going to see the effect on the curve until you draw the next node along).

In Vectornator, Undo will undo the last node drawn while in Pen node (you can also use a double-finger tap on the canvas to undo - and a big thank you to the Procreate developers for introducing that convention to the iPad art apps).

Here’s an extra tutorial that uses a variety of tools to show you how you can use vector tools to “build” your artwork (only a tiny use of the Pen tool).
Note: old version of Vectornator, but most of it should still work the same.

And one more, again using a mix of tools, but with more use of the Pen tool, and a look at how you can make shapes interact (like a biscuit/cookie cutter and a flat piece of dough) to produce more complex shapes. It’s a great example of how a vector app can use a very different approach to a paint app.

Thankyou so much again!
Its of great help for me
I ll start working on all of these

Take care!:blush:

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