Monday, January 4, 2010

Working With the Pen Tool in Photoshop By Kevin M. Sugrue Platinum Quality Author

Photoshop has multiple pen tools. The standard pen tool draws with the greatest precision. The freeform pen tool draws paths as if you were drawing with pencil on paper, and the magnetic pen option lets you draw a path that snaps to the edges of defined areas in your image. You can use the pen tools along with the shape tools to create complex shapes. When you use the standard pen tool, the following options are available in the options bar:

• Auto Add/Delete lets you add an anchor point when you click a line segment or delete an anchor point when you click it.

• Rubber Band lets you preview path segments as you drag between clicks.

Before drawing with the Pen tool, you can create a new path in the Paths palette to automatically save the work path as a named path.

The easiest path you can draw with the pen tool is a straight line. Click the pen tool and create two anchor points. By continuing to click, you create a path made of straight line segments connected by corner points.

Let's try it. Select the pen tool. Position the pen tool where you want the path to begin, and click to define the first anchor point (do not drag). The first segment you draw will not be visible until you click a second anchor point. If you select the rubber band option to preview path segments and direction lines appear, you've accidentally dragged the pen tool. Choose Edit > Undo, and click again. When you are finished, click again where you want the segment to end (Shift-click to constrain the angle of the segment to a multiple of 45°). Continue clicking to set anchor points for additional straight segments. The last anchor point you add always appears as a solid square, indicating that it is selected. Previous anchor points become hollow, and deselected, as you add more anchor points. In order to complete the path, position the pen tool over the first anchor point. A small circle appears next to the pen tool pointer when it is positioned correctly. Click or drag to close the path.

You can also create curved lines with the pen tool. Create a curve by adding an anchor point where a curve changes direction, and dragging the direction lines that shape the curve. The length and slope of the lines determine the shape of the curve. Drawing curves with as few anchor points as possible makes them easier to edit and your system can display and print them faster. Using too many points can also produce unwanted bumps in a curve. To prevent this, draw widely spaced anchor points, and practice shaping curves by adjusting the length and angles of the direction lines.

Let's practice. First, select the pen tool. Next, position the pen tool where you want the curve to begin and hold down the mouse button. The first anchor point appears, and the pen tool pointer changes to an arrowhead. The pointer changes after you start dragging. Drag to set the slope of the curved segment then release the mouse button. Extend the direction line about one third of the distance to the next anchor point you plan to draw. You can later adjust one or both sides of the direction line. If you wish to constrain the tool to multiples of 45°, hold down the shift key.

This article is written by Kevin M. Sugrue and is an extract from part of 'The Essentials of Drawing in Photoshop' Ebook. For more go to []

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