The Rule of Thirds for Smooth Bézier Curves

In this week’s free Deke’s Techniques episode, Deke considers how best to position control handles for creating smooth Bézier curves. This edition will be of particular interest to those of you who, like me, occasionally find their pen tool creations to be a bit, well, lumpy.

The key to Deke’s approach is to keep the "invisible" control handle in mind. For those of you who didn’t watch Deke’s Techniques a few weeks back (was your internet broken?), the third control handle is the one that you can’t see in Adobe CC interfaces, that theoretically connects the two ends of the other control handles.

After some mathematical and positional noodling, Deke arrives at the conclusion that if you keep this mystery handle at about 1/3 the total of your curve, your shape is nice and smooth. Even if your shape is like this s-curve:


Or this oval:

A smooth oval in Adobe Illustrator

Or even this…thing (featuring corner points with smooth segments in between):

An irregular shape with corner points and smooth curves in Adobe Illustrator


By the way, this episode is brought to you by Deke working on a new course, Adobe Pen Tool: Mastery, which Deke is toiling away on as we speak and is due out later this year. You can prepare your mind for this master class by watching Adobe Pen Tool: Fundamentals already there and waiting for you in the library.

If you’re not a member and you want to check it out, you can get a free 10-day trial at

Deke’s Techniques, smoothing your curves with rules of thirds.


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