Photoshop provides multiple Pen tools. The standard Pen tool draws with the greatest precision; the Freeform Pen tool draws paths as if you were drawing with pencil on paper, and the magnetic pen option lets you draw a path that snaps to the edges of defined areas in your image. You can use the pen tools in conjunction with the shape tools to create complex shapes. When you use the standard Pen tool, the following options are available in the options bar:
Auto Add/Delete, which lets you add an anchor point when you click a line segment or delete an anchor point when you click it.
Rubber Band, which lets you preview path segments as you move the pointer between clicks. (To access this option, click the pop-up menu to the right of the Custom Shape icon.)
Before drawing with the Pen tool, you can create a new path in the Paths panel to automatically save the work path as a named path.
For more information about the modes in which you can draw with the Pen tools, see Drawing modes.
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.
- Position the Pen tool where you want the straight segment to begin, and click to define the first anchor point (do not drag).
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.
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.
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.
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°.
A. Positioning Pen tool B. Starting to drag (mouse button pressed) C. Dragging to extend direction lines
To create a C‑shaped curve, drag in a direction opposite to the previous direction line. Then release the mouse button.
To create an S‑shaped curve, drag in the same direction as the previous direction line. Then release the mouse button.
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.
- 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.
Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) direction lines to break out the direction lines of an anchor point.
The Freeform Pen tool lets you draw as if you were drawing with a pencil on paper. Anchor points are added automatically as you draw. You do not determine where the points are positioned, but you can adjust them once the path is complete. To draw with greater precision, use the Pen tool.
Position the Pen tool over the selected endpoint. 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.
A. Straight segment completed B. Positioning Pen tool over endpoint C. Dragging direction point
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
The Magnetic Pen is an option of the Freeform Pen tool that lets you draw a path that snaps to the edges of defined areas in your image. You can define the range and sensitivity of the snapping behavior, as well as the complexity of the resulting path. The Magnetic Pen and Magnetic Lasso tools share many of the same options.
- To convert the Freeform Pen tool to the Magnetic Pen tool , select Magnetic in the options bar, or click the inverted arrow next to the shape buttons in the options bar, select Magnetic, and set the following:
For Width, enter a pixel value between 1 and 256. The Magnetic Pen detects edges only within the specified distance from the pointer.
For Contrast, enter a percentage value between 1 and 100 to specify the contrast required between pixels for that area to be considered an edge. Use a higher value for low-contrast images.
For Frequency, enter a value between 0 and 100 to specify the rate at which the Pen sets anchor points. A higher value anchors the path in place more quickly.
If you are working with a stylus tablet, select or deselect Pen Pressure. When this option is selected, an increase in pen pressure causes the width to decrease.
The most recent segment of the border remains active. As you move the pointer, the active segment snaps to the strongest edge in the image, connecting the pointer to the last fastening point. Periodically, the Magnetic Pen adds fastening points to the border to anchor previous sections.