Topics   |   Free Tutorials   |   Photoshop   |   Tools & Techniques

Master the Pen Tool in Under 8 Minutes

  • Easy
  • 15
  • Add to

Master One of the Most Powerful Tools in Photoshop

The Pen Tool is a powerful and versatile tool that can be found in a variety of Adobe’s software products. In this tutorial, we break down the fundamentals, demonstrating how to use it to make elegant curves, perfect angles, and accurate selections. Whether you need to cut a subject out of a photo or create a precision shape or design, we’ve got you covered.

Download the Sample Image


Why the Pen Tool?

Simply put, the Pen Tool is the most accurate way to make selections in Photoshop. It’s ideal for any situation in which you need to follow or recreate the contours of any object with a solid edge. From editing portraits, to product photography, to graphic design, the applications are limitless.

Additionally, any time you use the Pen Tool, it will save your points as a new Path which you can always return to to make any changes. This allows you to create a selection that can constantly evolve as you edit.

Understanding Curves and Angles

Any path you create using the Pen Tool will either be a straight line, a simple curve, a complex curve, or an angle. Knowing how to identify and create each will be key to understanding the process of making precision paths.

Simple Curve
pen tool photoshop
Complex Curve



There’s no shortcut to learning and practicing the Pen Tool. Except these.

These keyboard shortcuts will help you whenever you need to adjust a curve or alter the direction of the your path.

To change a point into a curve or vice versa, use ALT or OPTN.

To move a point or a curve and change direction, use CTRL or CMD.

The Nuts and Bolts (or Points and Curves)

The basics of the Pen Tool are pretty easy to grasp. Click to create a point then click again to create the next. Photoshop will connect the two points with a straight line, which you can then adjust to become any sort of simple or complex curve. Click to create a new point and the process continues until you’ve completed your path.

Once you’re finished with the outline, you can convert the Path into a Selection. Simply open the Paths dialog, hold CTRL or CMD, then click on the thumbnail of the path you wish to load. This will create a selection in the shape of the path you created, which you can then use as you would any other selection in Photoshop.

These tips will help but the key to mastering the Pen Tool is practice and patience! Once you’ve completed this tutorial, try it again using more complex shapes. Developing a thorough understanding of how to use this tool will help you work smarter and faster in Photoshop, no matter the job.

Watch hundreds of PRO Tutorials and download Lightroom Presets, Photoshop Actions and more.
Learn More


With over 4 hours of step-by-step instruction, we cover the tools and methodology required to make any color change appear realistic and natural.
While it may seem like magic, the ability to make anything disappear in Photoshop isn’t a trick – it’s a skill that anyone can learn.
Photoshop Compositing
In this tutorial, we cover several tools and techniques that, when combined, will allow you to create perfect masks of anything from the precision curves of designer products to the messy detail of a head of hair.
Lightroom Essentials
A smarter way to master the fundamentals of Lightroom. Find and learn the skills you need to organize, edit, and manage your photos with confidence.


  1. Rated 5 out of 5

    I could never figure out how to use this tool properly….this was a great video on getting it down….thanks!!!

  2. Rated 5 out of 5

    great tutorial as always keep it. i learn so much from you.

  3. Rated 5 out of 5

    Very clever and fun video to watch. Oh! BTW it’s also extremely helpful. I’ve tried numerous times to use this maddening tool. FINALLY … tips that have solved the mystery on how to control the darn thing. Thanks!!!