What is an Anchor Point in Illustrator?

Learn all about paths and anchor points in Adobe Illustrator!

When designing a graphic on Adobe Illustrator, you will need to craft your lines using anchor points. It doesn’t matter if you’re using the Pencil, Pen, or Paintbrush tools — all three rely on anchor points to direct every path that you draw. Below, we’ve outlined how anchor points can help you to create detailed logos, cartoons, and web graphics, giving you more control over an Illustrator project.

What is a Path?

Before diving into anchor points, we need to learn about paths, which are the foundation of Illustrator. Essentially, a path is a single line, which can be made up of several points. A basic path with two end points is called an open path, while a shape without points is called a closed path. When two or more paths are connected, the resulting design is called a compound path.

What is an Anchor Point?

Found at the ends of a path, anchor points give designers control over the path’s direction and curvature. There are two types of anchor points: corner points and smooth points. Corner points can connect straight lines, curved lines, or a combination of the two, but in all cases, the points exist so that the path can change direction. On the other hand, smooth points are designed so that a path continues as one smooth line, without any unexpected changes in direction or curvature.

How to Add or Remove Anchor Points

Ideally, your design should use as few anchor points as possible, so that it’s easier to edit on the fly. With the Pen tool selected, if you move your cursor over a path, it will change to the Add Anchor Point tool; if you move it over an anchor point, it will change to the Delete Anchor Point tool. To add an anchor point, just click on the section of the path you want to edit. Likewise, to delete an anchor point, just click on it with the Pen tool.

When creating a detailed graphic, you may also end up with stray anchor points, which aren’t linked to another anchor point on the path. To delete these stray points, first deselect the design, go to the Select top menu, and choose “Object” > “Stray Points”. Illustrator will scan the entire project for stray anchor points, and select them all. Then, you can simply press the Delete key to remove the strays.


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