Where is the Pencil Tool in Illustrator and How to Use It

The pencil tool is one of the hidden tools in Illustrator that you can find in the same tab as the paintbrush tool. There are so many tools in Adobe Illustrator, and the toolbar can only show a limited number of tools. 

screenshot from Adobe Illustrator CC Mac version

As a graphic designer myself, I get lost sometimes finding tools especially when it’s not shown in the toolbar. That’s why I always arrange the tools I normally use in the toolbar, and the pencil tool is definitely a tool I use a lot when I work on Illustrations.

In this article, you will learn where to find the pencil tool and how to set it up in a minute. And if you are new to Adobe Illustrator, you can also see my easy step-by-step tutorial on how to use the pencil tool. 

Ready? Let’s dive in. 

What is the Pencil Tool in Adobe Illustrator? 

The Pencil tool is used for drawing free path lines, just as if you are using an actual pencil to draw on the paper. It offers you the freedom to draw whatever you want digitally but still keeps a little bit of realistic taste. 

You can often use the Pencil tool for drawing. Once you get the hang of it, you will love it. It’s like freehand drawing, but at the same time, it has anchor points that allow you to join lines or delete lines easily. 

What’s more, you can adjust the smoothness and accuracy of your pencil strokes, change colors, etc. 

Pencil Tool Quick Set-up

First of all, you need to find the Pencil tool.

Usually, in the latest version of Adobe Illustrator (I’m currently using CC Mac version), the Pencil tool is in the same tab as the Paintbrush tool. 

If not, you can add it from the Edit Toolbar at the bottom of the toolbar. Here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Click Edit Toolbar.

Step 2: Find the Pencil tool under the Draw category.

Step 3: Click and drag the Pencil tool to wherever you want in the toolbar.

There you go! 

Or, a shortcut is always easier. The shortcut for the pencil tool is Command + N on Mac and Ctrl + N on Windows. 

As I mentioned above, you can adjust a couple of Pencil Tool Options

Double click the Pencil tool icon in the toolbar. The setting windows should pop up and you can adjust the pencil based on your need. 

How to Use the Pencil Tool in Illustrator (Quick Tutorial)

The Pencil tool is easy to use, but there are a few tricks you should know. Let’s look at a simple demonstration. 

Step 1: Select the Pencil tool. Notice here there’s a star next to the pencil, this means that it’s a new path. 

Step 2: Click and draw a path. You will see many anchor points as you release the click.

Step 3: Click on the last anchor on the path and draw if you wish to continue drawing on the same path. In this case, I continue to draw from the starting point. 

Or you can start a new path but remember to deselect the existing path. If not, you might accidentally delete or join lines. 

Happy with the line work? You can also change stroke colors, weight, and even stroke styles. 

Find the Properties panel to change the styles. 

Difference Between Pencil Tool and Pen Tool 

The biggest difference between the Pencil tool and the Pen tool is that the pencil tool is a free-path drawing while the pen tool is creating precise lines between anchor points

The pen tool is the most precise tool for creating vectors. You will find it easier to start with because you connect anchor points to create a shape and it works fine with a mouse

However, for the pencil tool, it’s highly recommended to use it on a drawing tablet. Because it’s basically hand drawing, illustration-focused tool. 


The Pencil tool is widely used by Illustrators for creating from scratch, and for creating vivid hand drawings. It’s an essential tool for graphic designers especially if you’re aiming to work in the illustration industry. You’d better get it ready. 

Have fun creating! 

About June Escalada
Graduated from Creative Advertising major, worked more than eight years as a graphic designer focusing in branding and Illustration. Yes, Adobe Illustrator is my best friend and I’m passionate about art and design.

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    • June Escalada

      You’re welcome, Amy!

  • Blanka

    Hello, please help me if you know the answer to my question. I woudl like to draw with pencil tool so that I set it in advance the 0,25 pt stroke and different shape of line – not Uniform. I know that if I draw something (stroki is default 1 pt and Uniform line) than I can mark my drawing and change stroke to 0,25 pt and another form….but can I do that in advance? Hope you understand me:). Thanks, Blanka

    • June Escalada

      Hi Blanka,

      It’s easier if you draw out everything first and then go back to change the stroke and form.