How to Use the Pen Tool in Photoshop and Other Adobe Programs

The Pen Tool is arguably the foundation of Adobe products. Yet many new users are intimidated by it. The purpose of this blog is to unravel its mysteries.

Function of the Pen Tool

The Pen Tool is used to creates paths. Paths can be open, such as a line, or closed, such as a geometric shape. The paths are defined with Anchor Points, which are created with the Pen Tool. Anchor Points can be:

  • Corner Points, which connect two straight segments of a path. To create a corner point, simply click and release the mouse.
  • Curve Points, where the arc of the path on both sides of the anchor point is controlled by Bezier Handles. Curve points are created when you click, hold and drag out the Bezier handles before releasing.
  • Connector Points, that join straight path segments to curved path segments, or curved segments of different angles. Different methods can be used to create connector points, depending on the path segments. More on that later.

Anchor point illustration, corner and curve.Anchor point illustration, connector.

How to Use the Pen Tool

As you create paths, watch the pen cursor. It clues you in as to what you’re about to do. (Note:  If Caps Lock is on, the cursor will appear as a crosshair.)

The Pen cursor changes with the process

As you create paths, adding keystrokes can greatly improve your efficiency:

Adding keystrokes while using the Pen Tool changes the point you are creating.

Editing Paths with the Pen Tool

After a path has been created, there are other tools for modifying the path. Primary among these is the Direct Selection Tool.

Direct Selection Tool

There are also tools that are grouped with the Pen Tool on the Toolbar, for editing points on a path:

Path Editing Tools

So these are the basics. To learn more about training in Adobe software, check out our Adobe training.

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