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Master the Pen Tool in Under 8 Minutes

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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.

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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

Angle

Shortcuts

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.

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Reviews

  1. Rated 5 out of 5

    Hey Aaron! Thanks – I had a brain operation 5 months ago and your tutorials are giving me hope – I managed to cut out a 19th C. wine glass after your tutorial, even though I find holding down option and ctrl a complete pain- as one of my hands does not work. But I am getting better at it and would like to thank you because phlearn tutes really are so much fun that I am inspired to carry on and am making real progress Ella (Eleanor Reid UK)

  2. Rated 5 out of 5

    Thank you for the informative class. We are using these tools in class and this has become the best place that I have found to learned from. I am very happy that I have joined PHLEARN. So far I have used your clone, invisible man, and see through and now the pen tool tutorials. Great tools to have in my photography tool box.

  3. 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!!!

  4. Rated 5 out of 5

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

  5. 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!!!