Pen Tool Basics

Pen Tool Basics

Photoshop CS6 Tutorial


How to Use the Photoshop Pen Tool



The Pen tool in Photoshop is very similar to the Pen tool in Illustrator. It can be used to create paths and modify Shape Layers. Since it is a multi-purpose tool, it is important to check the tool options bar to make sure that it is either set to Paths or Shape Layers.

Once you create a shape with the Pen tool, the shape can be modified using the Direct Selection tool, Add Anchor Point tool, Delete Anchor Point tool or Convert Point 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 with sharp corners in the workspace. To close the shape, return to the first point and click once when the small circle appears.

Step Three

To create a line with curves, click a point on the line, then drag the handle to define the curve.

Step Four

Fewer strategically placed points is better than defining a curve with a high point count.

Step Five

Use the Direct Selection tool (a key) to move a point or re-direct the handles.

Step Six

To add a point to an existing path, choose the Add Anchor Point tool, then click the curve.

Step Seven

To remove a point, choose the Delete Anchor Point tool and click the point you wish to delete.

Step Eight

The Convert Point tool is used to convert smooth corners to sharp corners. The opposite is also true.

Step Nine

As you create your line, you can switch from the Pen tool (p key) to the Direct Selection tool by pressing and holding the Cmd key (PC- Ctrl key). This allows you to move the previous points as you are drawing the path. Release the Cmd key (PC - Ctrl key) to return to the Pen tool.

Step Ten

While creating your line, you can access the Add Anchor Point tool by placing the tool over an existing line. Moving it to an existing point changes the tool to the Delete Anchor Point tool.

Step Eleven

A quick way to access the Convert Anchor point tool as you draw is to place the tool over an existing point, then press and hold the Option key (PC - Alt key). Release the Option or Alt key to return to the Pen tool.

Step Twelve

To add to an existing path, place the Pen tool over one of the path's end points, a square appears next to the icon. Click the end point, then continue adding points to construct your curve.

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.

Where's the Path?

If you find that the path disappears, open the Paths panel (Window > Paths) and click the path name in the panel. It is a good idea to save your paths so you don't loose them.