If you’re new to Photoshop and want to learn how to utilize its many tools, the pen tool is a wonderful place to start because it only requires you to click and drag to create spectacular effects with your photographs.
The Pen tool in Photoshop is a powerful tool for creating bespoke vector forms and making custom selections. You may produce silhouettes by outlining objects, cutting pieces of an image out of the backdrop, and combining lines and curves to make easily scalable graphics with Photoshop’s pen tool.
Knowing how to use the pen tool in Photoshop is essential if you want to work as a graphic designer. The Photoshop pen tool can be used by a skilled graphic designer to isolate a portion of an image and remove it from its background, give it a translucent background, or set it on a new image.
What is Photoshop’s “Pen Tool”?
The Pen Tool in Photoshop creates complex selections, masks, and objects by drawing paths and shapes that may be duplicated and manipulated.
Unlike the Brush and Pencil Tools, which “draw” pixels on your image, the Pen Tool always draws a vector path. In the Paths Panel, these paths display as Work Paths or Shape Paths.
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Different types of the Pen Tool
Photoshop comes with a variety of Pen tools to fit your needs and creative style other than the regular pen tool. They are as follows:
- The Curvature Pen tool allows you to draw curves and straight lines with ease.
- The Freeform Pen tool allows you to draw paths on a piece of paper as if they were drawn with a pencil.
- The Magnetic Pen choices allow you to draw a path that snaps to the edges of your image’s defined areas.
- You can use the Content-Aware Tracing tool to automate the tracing process. (Technology Sneak Peek)
Shift+P on your keyboard will cycle among the tools in the Pen group.
To make complex shapes, utilize the pen tools in conjunction with the shape tools. See Drawing modes for additional information on the drawing modes available with the Pen tools.
Curvature Pen Tool
Without having to click and drag, the Curvature Photoshop Pen Tool estimates the curve you wish to make between points. As you utilize the instrument, no handles are visible.
If you have a very regular shape to follow, such as an arch or a circle, this tool is ideal. You can change your route made with the Curvature Pen Tool in the same way you would a path created with the normal Pen Tool.
Freeform Shapes Pen Tool
As you draw freely with your mouse, the Freeform Pen Tool constructs a trail. You just “draw” with the Tool instead of clicking and dragging points, exactly like you would with the Brush or Pencil Tools.
Paths made with the Freeform Pen Tool are tough to control and frequently require a lot of tweaking after they’ve been generated.
Magnetic Pen Tool
By selecting the Freeform Pen Tool and then checking the Magnetic checkbox in the options bar, you can access the Magnetic Pen Tool.
When you use this tool to draw, Photoshop tries to determine the object’s edges and snaps the path to them.
The Content-Aware Tracing Tool, which will be available as a Technology Preview in Photoshop CC in October 2020, allows you to generate vector paths and selections by just hovering over the boundaries of your image and clicking.
Then enable the Content-Aware Tracing Tool in Preferences > Technology Previews.
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The usefulness of Pen Tool in photoshop
The Pen tool, which can be found in the Toolbar, is one of Illustrator’s most powerful drawing tools. It can be used to create and modify anchor points and paths.
Before you start drawing, decide on a stroke and a fill color. To begin, select the Pen Tool from the Toolbar and in the Properties panel, set the stroke weight to 1 pt, the color to black, and the fill to none.
To make a straight line
Click and hold the mouse button to draw a straight line using the Pen tool. You’ll see a preview of the path you’re making as you move the pointer. Click and hold the mouse button to create a new anchor point. Continue clicking and releasing in different spots to add to the path’s anchor points.
To close a path, drag the cursor over the original anchor point and then press the Shift key and click the endpoint when a circle appears next to the pointer. Press the Escape key to the end drawing a path without closing it.
For Making curves
When creating an anchor point, drag to create direction handles, then release to draw a curve. When constructing or altering anchor point handles, the more you drag, the greater curve the path has.
For making a corner point (change path direction)
Drag to make a smooth point to modify the direction of a path while drawing (a curve). Remove your finger from the mouse button. To split a direction handle, move the pointer over the end of it, press the Option (macOS) or Alt (Windows) key, and drag the end of the handle.
To remove the direction controls
Click back on the last anchor point generated to remove a direction handle created while drawing with the Pen tool so you may transition from a curve to a straight line. Then go back to drawing.
The exact location of the pen tool in Photoshop
By default, the Pen Tool is located in the lower area of the Toolbar. In both Photoshop CC 2018 and 2019, if you click and hold on the Pen Tool in the Toolbar, you’ll get six different Photoshop Pen Tool possibilities (if you’re using an older version of Photoshop, you might only see five).
The Pen Tool can also be accessed by pressing the “P” key on your keyboard.
The exact location of the Paths Panel in photoshop
Because the Pen Tool and the Paths Panel work together, the Paths Panel should be visible when you start using the Pen Tool.
Select the Paths tab in the Layers Panel in the Essentials (default) workspace to access paths. If your workspace doesn’t include a Paths Panel, you can get to Paths by going to the Windows drop-down menu and selecting Paths.
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Photoshop Pen Tool Tutorial
Drawing paths to make a shape with the photoshop pen tool
If you’re new to utilizing the pen tool, the first thing you should learn is how to draw and close pathways to create a distinctive shape. The pen tool in Photoshop allows you to create straight or curved lines by simply clicking and dragging.
What exactly is a path?
In Photoshop, a route is a line that joins two points. Even though you can “create” a route with the pen tool in Photoshop, the path is not an image in and of itself. There are no pixels in this game. Do you recall what we learned about vector and raster graphics?
Let’s walk through the steps of creating a shape by plotting points and connecting them with routes.
Step 1: Create a new Photoshop document
To begin, make a new Photoshop file, name it, and adjust the size to whatever you’re comfortable with. In this lesson, we’ll just be experimenting, so any file size would suffice.
Step 2: In Photoshop, select the pen tool
Then, in the toolbar on the left, select the pen tool, which is represented by the fountain pen icon. It’s next to the path selection tool, the horizontal type tool, and the polygon tool in the same section. You can also use the P key to bring up the pen tool right away.
Step 3: Set up shape layers
Create a new layer in your Photoshop project to work with. Select the drop-down menu to the right of the pen tool icon, which is located at the top of your window. Form, route, and pixels are the three possibilities accessible.
Because we’re going to start this session by drawing shapes, choose the “shape” option. Choose a color for your shape’s fill.
The section after this is optional: To plot points more precisely by working in a grid use Ctrl+’ (the apostrophe key) and then Shift+Ctrl+; to activate snap, press Shift+Ctrl+ (the semicolon key). Alternatively, pick “Snap” from the View menu at the top.
Step 4: Create a form by plotting points
By clicking about on your blank page with the pen tool, you can begin plotting points on your grid to construct your shape. You don’t have to click and drag to plot a point; simply click and release your mouse. You’ll note that the tool creates straight routes between the spots you plot automatically.
Consider it a game of connect-the-dots. You can begin to visualize how your image is made up of various points connected by a straight line. The pen tool will automatically begin filling the image with the fill color you selected as you plot these points.
The components of a very strangely shaped gold star can be seen in the example below. It doesn’t matter if your shape is symmetrical or polished. This is simply a test run.
Using the pen tool to make a curve
Not all paths must be straight lines; they can also be curved.
Instead of releasing your mouse, try calculating a new point and then clicking and dragging your cursor. Something intriguing will occur to you: that point will serve as an anchor for a curving line.
If you hold down the left click button after setting the point, you can modify the curve.
Instead of stiff shapes comprised exclusively of straight lines, you can utilize this technique to create a curve and make organic shapes (like our star example).
After a curved segment, draw a straight line.
What if you want to make a curve at one place but don’t want the rest of your path to curve? You can use the Photoshop pen tool to interrupt a curved line so that you can add a straight line as the path’s next segment.
To do so, click the point while holding ALT (or OPTION on a Mac). The point’s second handle will vanish, indicating that the point has been cornered or is no longer curving. A straight line will be the next point you set.
Finally, Simply click the exact first point you started with when you’re ready to connect the final dot and complete your shape. This will bring the path you’ve made, or the set of lines that run from your beginning point and return to the same place, to a close.
The pen tool endpoints will display as filled-in blue squares with a little circle next to them when you hover over the initial point for your shape.
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What is the best way to add a new point to a path?
After you’ve sketched an existing path, you can use Photoshop’s pen tool to add a new point along that path. For a variety of reasons, a graphic designer may want to add a new point to a path. It might be possible to make a curved line from a straight line or vice versa. You can choose to grow your shape in one way or another. You could also want more control over the path segments that define the shape’s outline.
In Photoshop, adding a new point to an existing route is simple—it only takes two steps!
Open the Add Anchor tool first
To access pen tool options, click and hold the Pen Tool icon in the toolbar. Select the “Add Anchor” tool from the drop-down menu. In this example, an “anchor” is just another word for a point on your drawn path. Because they operate as anchors for each line segment that makes up the complete path, Photoshop considers these points to be anchors.
Step 2: To make a new point, click along the existing path
Simply click and release after you’ve found the spot on your path where you’d want a new anchor point. This will create a new point in that location automatically. Success! You’ve earned a bonus point.
After you’ve set a new point, you can always change it with Photoshop’s Direct Selection tools, as shown below.
What is the best way to delete a point from a path?
It’s just as simple to remove an existing anchor point from a path as it is to create one. To delete an anchor point, follow the instructions below.
1st step: Use the Delete Anchor tool to remove an anchor
To access Photoshop’s pen tools, click and hold the Pen Tool icon in the toolbar as we did in the previous session. This time, use the “Delete Anchor” tool. This tool works in the opposite direction as the Add Anchor tool.
Step 2: Select the place you want to erase and click on it
Simply click and hold on to the anchor point you want to delete, and it will vanish. The two closest anchor points that surrounded the removed point will now link the path segment. This will change the curvature of the path segment to fit the path between its new anchor points.
Success! An existing anchor point has been deleted.
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How to use the pen tool to carve off an image
You can also draw a selection with the Photoshop pen tool, then modify it or move it from the source image to a new layer. This is useful if you only want to clip out a portion of an image, such as the sign in the previous example, rather than the entire image.
Make sure your image is on a new layer before you begin.
Step 1: In the pen tool menu, select the route option
From the pen tool menu at the top left of your window, choose “path.” This time, instead of creating a new shape, we’ll draw a path in the image. If you keep the “shape” option selected, instead of cutting out our sign, we’ll merely draw a shape over it.
Step 2: Begin mapping out your points
This step employs the same strategy we used to generate a form in the last session. Simply click with your pen tool to map points around the image you want to choose as if you were drawing out its shape.
If you want to be more accurate, you can zoom in. Because it’s made entirely of straight lines, this image is particularly simple to trace. Don’t forget to click the shape’s starting point to close it!
Step 3: Make a pick of your course
Until we load the path we built in Step 2 as a selection, it has no meaning for what we want to achieve.
To do so, go to the Layers swatch and select the Paths tab; there should be a Work Path path in the shape of the item you just traced.
Select the dotted line circle icon. The part of the image you outlined should be highlighted with a dotted line. This means it’s been chosen and is ready to be cropped. You have now made a decision.
Step 4: Crop your image
Using the shortcut Ctrl+J, which copies and pastes the selection into a new layer, you may effortlessly crop your selection.
By unchecking the eye icons in the Layers swatch and setting the two layers behind it to invisible, you can view your newly cut-out sign over a transparent background!