Using Photoshop's Pen Path Tool

by Guest Writer

penFree Photoshop Tutorial The Pen tool is indeed probably one of the most powerful tools in Photoshop, once you learn how to use it. Special thanks go out to San Weng for sending in this tutorial! San writes :

Why use a Pen tool to draw or make selection? Because it gives you better control and higher precision that other tools cannot give you.

The Pen tool can be intimidating at first but once you learn it everything you touch with have a more professional look. You will get a clean and accurately outlined selection on all your photo. A pen path can also be saved within a .jpg file for use with other software!

Activate the Pen tool with the Tool Box or hit P on your keyboard.

pen tool   3secondclick

Click and Drag to create your first point, you will see two Direction Handles once you start dragging, they control the curvature on either side of the control points, and this is NOT the actual path. Your path will appear once you make the second click. (above, right)

5altclick   7ctrlmove

Hold Alt/Option while you are dragging if you need a sharp corner, or go back to a previously created handle and hold the Alt/Option key (note that your mouse icon turn into a > shape) than drag the handle around, a sharp corner will be created. (above left)

If you’ve miss placed the anchor and need to move it around, Hold the Ctrl/Command key than drag an anchor point. Notice the mouse icon turns to a black triangle in the picture above, right.

Series of tool indicators:

Plus sign adds an anchor point   the minus symbol means remove an anchor point   Close the Path

selecting a path 1) Clicking anywhere on Line will add point; you will see a plus sign next to your pen icon.
2) Clicking on existing anchor point of delete it
Clicking the first anchor point again will close the curve, you will notice a circle appears next to your pen icon.

Holding Shift will snap to handle angle of 45 degrees angle
3) After you break the handle you can still have the handle on both side move relative to each other by holding Ctrl/command and alt/option at the same time.
4) Use Direction Selection Tool or A on your keyboard to select your path after you are done.

Ctrl/Command & Alt/Option click on the anchor point will reset the curve handles.

layer and path Types of Path – You can create Create Shape Layer (first Icon on top) or Path (second icon). If you set it to Shape Layer, you will be able to access the Shape through the layer pallet, you can change the color and opacity of this layer as you would with any layer items. If you set it to Path, you will need to look for it in the path pallet, you will be able to save your path in your .jpg and use it a selection to outline objects in your photo.

If you select Path option you can add Shape and subtract shape using these icons. The third icon is for intersection, so your second path need to intersect the first for this to work. Or you can exclude the intersection only with the last icon.

Softer selection, under the menu in path pallet, you can set feathering to soften the selection edge.

This is pretty much the basic of the Pen tool. Don't forget to see my video below. If you have any other tips about the Path tool please share it with me, thanks!

NEXT Use the Refine Edge tool to create a even more accurate selection -- after you created your selection with the Path tool

... continues on the next page!

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