December 2, 2007

TECHNIQUE: Pick a Corner... Any Corner.

In a recent post, I answered a reader's question about rounding some of the corners of a rectangle. Although the rectangle in the original question wasn't really a rectangle at all -- it was a dynamic button that was created from live text.

At the end of the post, I asked other readers to share their own ideas about to go about rounding off specific corners of an object. There were some interesting answers, including a link to a script, which was nice. Good work all around -- it's always good to get the creative juices flowing, and in the future, I hope to challenge more of you with other "projects" to participate in.

One of the things we learn about with Illustrator (more so than just about any other program), is that there are always a variety of ways to get any design task done. Some are more efficient than others. Some are easier to implement. Each offer pros and cons and each offer benefits for certain design tasks. With that in mind, I offer my solution for creating rectangles with a rounded corner (or three) of your choice...

As an example, here's a rectangle that has rounded corners on two opposite sides:

The way I did this was by creating a normal rectangle and using the normal Round Corners effect (under the Effect > Stylize menu). I then added an additional fill, which didn't have rounded corners. With the second fill targeted, I applied a Transform effect that applied a 50% scale to the fill and I instructed the Transform to be applied from a specific origin point -- a corner of my choice. This action effectively "covered up" the rounded corner with a square corner. Had I expanded the shapes, the result would look like this:

The key here is in the Transform effect. Let's see how I did this, step-by-step:

1. Draw a rectangle. Apply a fill and remove the stroke.

2. Choose Effect > Stylize > Round Corners and apply the effect.

3. Via the Appearance panel fly-out menu, add a new fill.

4. With the new fill targeted, choose Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform. In the Scale section, set both the Horizontal and Vertical values to 50%. Now for the most important part -- using the 9-point proxy, select one of the 4 corners to apply the scale from. The corner you choose will NOT have a rounded corner. Click OK to apply the effect.

5. Duplicate the fill and double-click the Transform effect in that fill. Change the origin point in that fill to specify another corner that should have a square corner. Repeat to add a third fill if you'd like. Your Appearance panel should look something like this:

Naturally, you could save this as a Graphic Style so that you could apply this with a single click. You might even create an entire library of styles that stored different corners of an object as being rounded, for any design task. Of course, these are all graphic styles with multiple fills and effects. And sometimes you need just a single plain flat object with a rounded corner. You could of course draw your rectangle, quickly apply a style, expand the appearance, and then use Pathfinder to create a single final shape. I know -- that's a lot of clicks. So having an action that would do all this for you with a simple keyboard shortcut would probably be better.

In fact, being that the holidays are upon us, I've decided to give all of my dedicated readers a gift. Two actually.

The first is a Graphic Style library that you can download. This library contains a plethora of styles with different round corner effects. All you need to do is load the style library and you're good to go. One click will give you the rounded corner(s) of your choice. Feel free to adjust the parameters as you see fit. I used a rather large round corner setting, mainly so the preview in the Graphic Styles panel clearly shows each effect.

The second is an Action that expands and combines the effect, leaving you with a flattened object. Once you load the Action, you can use the keyboard shortcut which I've assigned (Command-Shift-F12) or you can apply your own.

- Rounded Corner Graphic Style Library
- Expand and Combine Action

BTW, you can also copy and paste any of these shapes into InDesign if you'd like.

Hanukkah begins this week, and here in NY, we got a taste of winter with a bit of snow today. No matter what holiday you observe, I wish you and your loved ones only the most joyous and happiest of times. Maybe you'll be lucky enough to take a few moments to actually walk AWAY from the computer and enjoy all that life offers. I hope to do just that.


Eric said...

Great stuff! Only I can't get it to work in CS2...

Mordy Golding said...

Thanks Eric. When I upgraded to Leopard a few weeks back, I wiped my drive clean -- I don't even have CS2 on my machine anymore. Sorry. I'll see if I can whip up a CS2-compatible version for you.

Oh, one more thing I forgot to mention in my post. As a graphic style, the rounded corner effect is live -- meaning you can scale your objects as you'd like and the corners will always remain constant and perfect. Once you expand the shape however, scaling the object will also disproportionally scale the corners.

Scott said...

Thanks, Mordy. Great tutorial and thanks for the Action and Graphic Style. Frankly, without the GS, creating these rectangles seems like a lot of effort. InDesign ships with a great script called CornerEffects that allows you to do the same thing using a simple UI. These objects could then be copy/pasted into AI. Although the effects are no longer live, it's a quick way to get your shape.Is there any such script for AI you're aware of?

tim said...

Although I use Illustrator pretty much exclusively these days. It would seem to me that just a little bit of programing, and they could have brought the interactivity of Free Hands corner rounding abilities into Illustrator. I am actually a little disappointed that more Free Hand features were not incorporated into the latest version of Illustrator.
Maybe some day.

Anonymous said...

thanks a bunch man! these are really useful!

GarySped said...


I had seen it here but checked out more fully at the Creative site where you also have this posted. Nice stuff as usual.It might be good to note that once expanded you can add a stroke to the actual shape as it now exists. Otherwise it strokes the "hidden" original border but strokes can be added for variety.


sean said...

Thanks Mordy. Great tutorial. I wrote a tutorial inspired by your post

I found that it is a bit difficult working in the Appearance panel and not being able to name layers, like you can in the layers pallete.



BennyB said...

I can't understand why you think rounding corners should be limited to 4-sided, 90 degree shapes. This is supposed to be a drawing program without limitations.

Mordy Golding said...

scott - someone posted a link to a script in the previous post. You might check that out.

tim - yeah, I too was hoping for some more FH-type functionality in CS3, but at the same time, I'm very much aware of how much time the team had from when they had access to FH (they had to wait until the merger was complete) and from when they had to lock down the feature set for CS3. And between you, me, and the four walls, Adobe put a priority on AI and Flash integration (which I think they did a smashing job with) rather than FH features. But I think you'll be happy in the future. Yeah, I think you will. Hang in there buddy.

gary - thanks, good point.

sean - nice site! also, I agree that it would be nice to be able to name appearance fills and strokes to better identify them. great feature request.

benny - I can't apologize for Illustrator's shortcomings. All I'm trying to do is help people accomplish what they can with what they have. I'm like a chef with a limited set of ingredients. I can mix a few things here and hack a few things there, and I can even make a few things LOOK like something else -- but I can't make something out of thin air. I can't ever remember myself saying or even indicating that Illustrator is the end all application that does everything. You're absolutely right -- rounding a single corner on ANY object shouldn't have to be the chore it is in AI. But if my "solution" (read: hack) helps a few people here and there, then I've done my job.

John Kallios said...

There is an action I uploaded to the Studio Exchange a while ago that does this.

I've also updated it so that it shows the preview box, unfortunately the Studio exchange says the approval is still pending.

kev said...

i'm a total newbie to illustrator but i just tried this and found that it didn't quite work. when i did step 3, (in crude terms) it made a smaller replica of the same rounded rectangle in the corner i specified. In other words, it didn't give me a sharp-edged corner, just a slightly smaller-radius'ed corner.

so i tried switching step 2 and 3 and it worked. i'm surprised no one else discovered this. did i do something wrong to begin with though? as a newbie, i'm pretty confused.

kev said...

also, i used your graphic style but how do i change the properties of the corner radius after i've already created the shape? and when i try to change color, it only changes the original shape, not the "second inside" rectangle. i know i barely make sense here but any help is appreciated!

kev said...

sorry, one last thing (probably most imoprtant for me in what i'm trying to create) -- when i apply a gradient effect, it only applies to the first fill/shape, how do i just do the entire thing after the transform and everything?

Anonymous said...

This is the only way to round corners in illustrator! You can select all the points you want (doesn't have to be a rectangle) and with a live preview, change give them all a rounded corner at once. Or, you can grab a point and drag inwards to create a rounded corner on the fly. There are also plenty of other useful tools in the whole set, definitely worth a look if you find yourself having to do manual point work often.

Anonymous said...

While I would say your approach is interesting, it certainly is not quick and efficient. You can accomplish the same thing in less than thirty seconds. Make a rectangle. Copy it. Round the corners . Paste the original in front. Transform making the rectangle smaller from left and bottom. Paste in front again. Transform from right and top. select all three shapes and unite. Done. As you said though lots of ways to accomplish the same thing.

raffi said...

Thanks Mordy !
This is a great technic

I just tryed it to work with

The only prob is to change color in one go!

I find solution( temporary) for some which had the problem :

Or you change the 3 swatch colors present inside the -> Appearance palette

Or the best will be to change all the shapes colors from the Round doc

But with colors with global option activated !
And then you should change all the color in one go from the new Live Color Palette.
Which is not possible actualy since the colors are not Global : meen independant !

Shibi Kannan said...

Hi everyone,
I have found an easy way to do this and also the option of changing the radius of the rounded corner later.
Step 1. Add two more anchor points on each side of the pointed corner.
Step 2. Select the pointed corner with the direct selection tool and click convert to smooth anchor point in the toolbox.
Step 3. Drag the handles as you like and adjust the corner effect.

Note: The radius of the corner effect made in this manner correlates to the distance between the three anchor points.

Good discussion

Jorge said...

I know I come a little bit late but at first, thanks for your input.

But it's a shmae that Adobe has FH code for years and don't worry, at least, to have the best things of FH on Illustrator.

as Adobe has terminated with FH they could integrate the best tools or UI's of FH.

And I'm not only talking about this round corners issue!! =P

Anonymous said...

It's 2012 and Illustrator still has no easy way to round a single corner of an object. Nor does it seem to properly support non-90 degree corner rounding. Welcome to CS6 everyone, I think I've paid about 10,000 for the same features now, good job Adobe, quite a con you're running.

Benjamin Biazar said...

You can use this Script for free!!

You can download it here: