Path Basics

Path Basics

Photoshop CS6 Tutorial


How to Use Paths in Photoshop



Paths can serve multiple purposes in Photoshop. The are useful in making selections, creating shapes, defining a path for text and drawing a text area box. As you add paths to your document, they are visible only as you work in Photoshop. The paths are not visible in your final printed image.

To really grasp the potential of Paths, you need an understanding of the Pen tool. For more information, see topic, Pen Tool Basics.

The most common use for the Pen tool is to make accurate selections. For more information, see topic, Selecting With the Pen Tool.


Step One

Open a new 500 pixel by 500 pixel Photoshop document (File > New).

Step Two

Using the Pen tool (p key) set to Path, click multiple times to draw a closed shape in the workspace. To close the shape, return to the first point and click once a small circle appears.

Step Three

Open the Paths panel (Window > Paths). Notice that the path you just added is listed as Work Path. Double-click the Work Path to name and save your path.

Step Four

To deselect the path, click in the lower part of the Paths panel. Click the path name to re-select it.

Step Five

You can load your path as a selection by clicking the Load Path as a Selection icon. You can press Cmd/d (PC - Ctrl/d) to stop the marching ants.

Step Six

Change the Foreground color, click the Brush tool (b key) and choose a brush in the tool options.

Step Seven

With the path activated, click the Stroke Path with Foreground Color icon. A stroke is added to the path based on the current brush. For this step you could also choose the Mixer Brush, Pencil tool, Eraser tool, etc..

Step Eight

To delete a path, click the path in the Paths panel, then click the Delete Current Path icon.

Step Nine

Paths can also be used with text. Using the Pen tool (p key), add an open path to the document.

Step Ten

Select the Text tool (t key) and move the tool over the path. Notice how the tool icon changes. Click the path and type your text. The new text follows the path.

Step Eleven

To move the text up or down the path, choose the Direct Selection tool (a key), activate the text path, then click-drag the text.

Paths and Shape Layers

Whenever you add a Shape Layer, a path is created in the Paths panel. To see the path, select the Shape Layer and open the Paths panel. You can edit the path with the Direct Selection tool, Add Anchor Point tool, Delete Anchor Point tool or Convert Point tool.