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Photoshop: Using the Pen Tool (Custom Paths)

Version: Adobe Photoshop CC 2020. Be aware that different versions of Photoshop will vary in appearance and functionality. Full Guides: Photoshop: Images, Photoshop: Graphic Design


The Pen tool is an advanced drawing tool that can be used to create custom paths and shapes, as well as to edit objects made with the various shape tools. Although it can be tricky to get used to, it’s a powerful tool that’s standard in most graphic design applications. The Pen tool works by creating anchor points and connecting lines between them.

To draw with the Pen tool:
  1. Create a new layer in the Layers panel.
  2. Select the Pen tool from the Toolbar.
    • If creating a shape, click the drop-down that has “Path” selected, and choose the “Shape” option.

  3. Single-click on the Canvas to create the first anchor point.
  4. Move the cursor and click again to create a second point. A line will be drawn between the two points.
    • Create a curve: click-and-drag when creating the anchor point instead of single-clicking. As the cursor is dragged, the curve will extend and two handles will appear.
  5. Repeat step 4 to create as many anchor points as desired.
  6. If creating a closed shape, click the first point again in order to close it. If creating an open path or line, switch to the Move tool to exit drawing.

Paths/shapes made with the Pen tool can be modified in the Options bar in many of the same ways as standard shapes. If color and stoke options aren’t available, ensure that “Shape” is selected in the drop-down to the left instead of “Path.” The path and anchor points can be modified in various ways as well, including:
  • Adjust the position of anchor points: click-and-drag the points with the Selection tool (white pointer).
  • Convert a regular anchor point into a curve (and vice versa): click-and-drag the point outwards with the Convert Point tool.
  • Adjust the curvature: click-and-drag the handles with the Selection tool (white pointer). Ensure the correct layer is selected in the Layers panel.
  • Add additional anchor points: click directly on the path with the Pen or Add Anchor Point tool.
  • Remove anchor point: click anchor point with the Pen or Delete Anchor Point tool.


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Keywords:drawing, illustrating, graphic design   Doc ID:106158
Owner:Misty B.Group:Pacific Lutheran University
Created:2020-09-24 13:29 PDTUpdated:2020-09-25 13:43 PDT
Sites:Pacific Lutheran University
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