Draw straight line segments with the Pen tool

The simplest path you can draw with the Pen tool is a straight line, made by clicking the Pen tool to create two anchor points. By continuing to click, you create a path made of straight line segments connected by corner points.

Draw straight lines with pen tool
Clicking the Pen tool creates straight segments.

  1. Select the Pen tool.
  2. Position the Pen tool where you want the straight segment to begin, and click to define the first anchor point (do not drag).

    Note:

    The first segment you draw will not be visible until you click a second anchor point. (Select the Rubber Band option in Photoshop to preview path segments.) Also, if direction lines appear, you’ve accidentally dragged the Pen tool; choose Edit > Undo, and click again.

  3. Click again where you want the segment to end (Shift-click to constrain the angle of the segment to a multiple of 45°).
  4. Continue clicking to set anchor points for additional straight segments.

    The last anchor point you add always appears as a solid square, indicating that it is selected. Previously defined anchor points become hollow, and deselected, as you add more anchor points.

  5. Complete the path by doing one of the following:
    • To close the path, position the Pen tool over the first (hollow) anchor point. A small circle appears next to the Pen tool pointer  when it is positioned correctly. Click or drag to close the path.

    Note:

    To close a path in InDesign, you can also select the object and choose Object > Paths > Close Path.

    • To leave the path open, Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) anywhere away from all objects.

      To leave the path open, you can also select a different tool, or choose Select > Deselect in Illustrator or Edit >Deselect All in InDesign. In InDesign or Illustrator, you can also simply press Enter or Return to leave the path open.

Draw curves with the Pen tool

You create a curve by adding an anchor point where a curve changes direction, and dragging the direction lines that shape the curve. The length and slope of the direction lines determine the shape of the curve.

Curves are easier to edit and your system can display and print them faster if you draw them using as few anchor points as possible. Using too many points can also introduce unwanted bumps in a curve. Instead, draw widely spaced anchor points, and practice shaping curves by adjusting the length and angles of the direction lines.

  1. Select the Pen tool.
  2. Position the Pen tool where you want the curve to begin, and hold down the mouse button.

    The first anchor point appears, and the Pen tool pointer changes to an arrowhead. (In Photoshop, the pointer changes only after you’ve started dragging.)

  3. Drag to set the slope of the curve segment you’re creating, and then release the mouse button.

    In general, extend the direction line about one third of the distance to the next anchor point you plan to draw. (You can adjust one or both sides of the direction line later.)

    Hold down the Shift key to constrain the tool to multiples of 45°.

    Drawing the first point in a curve
    Drawing the first point in a curve

    A. Positioning Pen tool B. Starting to drag (mouse button pressed) C. Dragging to extend direction lines 
  4. Position the Pen tool where you want the curve segment to end, and do one of the following:
    • To create a C‑shaped curve, drag in a direction opposite to the previous direction line. Then release the mouse button.

    Drawing the second point in a curve
    Drawing the second point in a curve

    A.Starting to drag second smooth pointB.Dragging away from previous direction line, creating a C curveC.Result after releasing mouse button

    • To create an S‑shaped curve, drag in the same direction as the previous direction line. Then release the mouse button.

    Drawing an S curve
    Drawing an S curve

    A.Starting to drag new smooth pointB.Dragging in same direction as previous direction line, creating an S curveC.Result after releasing mouse button

    Note:

    (Photoshop only) To change the direction of the curve sharply, release the mouse button, and then Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) the direction point in the direction of the curve. Release the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) key and the mouse button, reposition the pointer where you want the segment to end, and drag in the opposite direction to complete the curve segment.

  5. Continue dragging the Pen tool from different locations to create a series of smooth curves. Note that you are placing anchor points at the beginning and end of each curve, not at the tip of the curve.

    Note:

    Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) direction lines to break out the direction lines of an anchor point.

  6. Complete the path by doing one of the following:
    • To close the path, position the Pen tool over the first (hollow) anchor point. A small circle appears next to the Pen tool pointer  when it is positioned correctly. Click or drag to close the path.

    Note:

    To close a path in InDesign, you can also select the object and choose Object > Paths > Close Path.

    • To leave the path open, Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) anywhere away from all objects.

      To leave the path open, you can also select a different tool, or choose Select > Deselect in Illustrator or Edit >Deselect All in InDesign.

Reposition anchor points as you draw

  • After you click to create an anchor point, keep the mouse button pressed down, hold down the spacebar, and drag to reposition the anchor point.

Finish drawing a path

Complete a path in one of the following ways:

  1. To close a path, position the Pen tool over the first (hollow) anchor point. A small circle appears next to the Pen tool pointer  when it is positioned correctly. Click or drag to close the path.

    Note:

    To close a path in InDesign, you can also select the object and choose Object > Paths > Close Path.

  2. To leave a path open, Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) anywhere away from all objects.

To leave the path open, you can also select a different tool, or choose Select > Deselect in Illustrator or Edit > Deselect All in InDesign. In InDesign, you can also simply press Enter or Return to leave the path open.

Draw straight lines followed by curves

  1. Using the Pen tool, click corner points in two locations to create a straight segment.
  2. Position the Pen tool over the selected endpoint. In Illustrator and InDesign, a convert-point icon appears next to the Pen tool when it is positioned correctly (In Photoshop, a small diagonal line, or slash, appears next to the Pen tool). To set the slope of the curved segment you’ll create next, click the anchor point, and drag the direction line that appears.
    Drawing a straight segment followed by a curved segment
    Drawing a straight segment followed by a curved segment (part 1)

    A. Straight segment completed B. Positioning Pen tool over endpoint (the Convert Point icon appears only in Illustrator and InDesign) C. Dragging direction point 
  3. Position the pen where you want the next anchor point; then click (and drag, if desired) the new anchor point to complete the curve.
    Drawing a straight segment followed by a curved segmen
    Drawing a straight segment followed by a curved segment (part 2)

    A. Positioning Pen tool B. Dragging direction line C. New curve segment completed 

Draw curves followed by straight lines

  1. Using the Pen tool, drag to create the first smooth point of the curved segment, and release the mouse button.
  2. Reposition the Pen tool where you want the curved segment to end, drag to complete the curve, and release the mouse button.
    Curved segment followed by a straight segment
    Drawing a curved segment followed by a straight segment (part 1)

    A. First smooth point of curved segment completed and Pen tool positioned over endpoint B. Dragging to complete the curve 
  3. Position the Pen tool over the selected endpoint. A convert-point icon appears next to the Pen tool when it is positioned correctly. Click the anchor point to convert the smooth point to a corner point.
  4. Reposition the Pen tool where you want the straight segment to end, and click to complete the straight segment.
    Curved segment followed by a straight segment
    Drawing a curved segment followed by a straight segment (part 2)

    A. Positioning Pen tool over existing endpoint B. Clicking endpoint C. Clicking next corner point 

Draw two curved segments connected by a corner

  1. Using the Pen tool, drag to create the first smooth point of a curved segment.
  2. Reposition the Pen tool and drag to create a curve with a second smooth point; then press and hold Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) and drag the direction line toward its opposing end to set the slope of the next curve. Release the key and the mouse button.

    This process converts the smooth point to a corner point by splitting the direction lines.

  3. Reposition the Pen tool where you want the second curved segment to end, and drag a new smooth point to complete the second curved segment.
Drawing two curves
Drawing two curves

A. Dragging a new smooth point B. Pressing Alt/Option to split direction lines while dragging, and swinging direction line up C. Result after repositioning and dragging a third time 

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