Select paths, segments, and anchor points

Before you can reshape or edit a path, you need to select the path’s anchor points, segments, or a combination of both.

Select anchor points

  • If you can see the points, you can click them with the Direct Selection tool  to select them. Shift-click to select multiple points.
  • Select the Direct Selection tool and drag a boundary around the anchor points. Shift-drag around additional anchor points to select them.
  • You can select anchor points from selected or unselected paths. Move the Direct Selection tool over the anchor point until the pointer displays a hollow square for unselected and filled square for selected paths in a magnified state, and then click the anchor point. Shift-click additional anchor points to select them.
  • (Illustrator only) Select the Lasso tool, and drag around the anchor points. Shift-drag around additional anchor points to select them.

Select path segments

Do any of the following:

  • Select the Direct Selection tool , and click within 2 pixels of the segment, or drag a marquee over part of the segment. Shift-click or Shift-drag around additional path segments to select them.
  • (Illustrator only) Select the Lasso tool , and drag around part of the path segment. Shift-drag around additional path segments to select them.

Select all anchor points and segments in a path

  1. Select the Direct Selection tool  or, in Illustrator, the Lasso tool.
  2. Drag around the entire path.

    If the path is filled, you can also click inside the path with the Direct Selection tool to select all anchor points.

Copy a path

  1. Select a path or segment with the Selection tool or Direct Selection tool and do one of the following:
    • Use the standard menu functions to copy and paste paths within or between applications.

    • Press and hold Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) and drag the path to the desired position, and then release the mouse button and Alt/Option key.

Adjust path segments

You can edit a path segment at any time, but editing existing segments is slightly different from drawing them. Keep the following tips in mind when editing segments:

  • If an anchor point connects two segments, moving that anchor point always changes both segments.

  • When drawing with the Pen tool, you can temporarily activate the Direct Selection tool (InDesign and Photoshop) so that you can adjust segments you’ve already drawn; press Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS) while drawing. In Illustrator, pressing Ctrl or Command while drawing activates the last-used selection tool.

  • When you initially draw a smooth point with the Pen tool, dragging the direction point changes the length of the direction line on both sides of the point. However, when you edit an existing smooth point with the Direct Selection tool, you change the length of the direction line only on the side you’re dragging.

Move straight segments

  1. With the Direct Selection tool , select the segment you want to adjust.
  2. Drag the segment to its new position.

Adjust the length or angle of straight segments

  1. With the Direct Selection tool , select an anchor point on the segment you want to adjust.
  2. Drag the anchor point to the desired position. Shift-drag to constrain the adjustment to multiples of 45°.

    Note:

    In Illustrator or InDesign, if you’re simply trying to make a rectangle wider or narrower, it’s easier to select it with the Selection tool and resize it using one of the handles on the sides of its bounding box.

Adjust the position or shape of curved segments

  1. With the Direct Selection tool, select a curved segment, or an anchor point on either end of the curved segment. Direction lines appear, if any are present. (Some curved segments use just one direction line.)
  2. Do any of the following:
    • To adjust the position of the segment, drag the segment. Shift-drag to constrain the adjustment to multiples of 45°.

    Adjust the position of the segment
    Click to select the curve segment. Then drag to adjust.

    • To adjust the shape of the segment on either side of a selected anchor point, drag the anchor point or the direction point. Shift-drag to constrain movement to multiples of 45°.

    Adjust the shape of the segment
    Drag the anchor point, or drag the direction point.

    Note:

    You can also apply a transformation, such as scaling or rotating, to a segment or anchor point.

Delete a segment

  1. Select the Direct Selection tool , and select the segment you want to delete.
  2. Press Backspace (Windows) or Delete (Mac OS) to delete the selected segment. Pressing Backspace or Delete again erases the rest of the path.

Delete the handle of an anchor point

  • Using the Convert Anchor Point Tool (Illustrator) or the Convert Direction Point Tool (InDesign), click the anchor point of the handle.
  • Drag the direction point and drop it onto the anchor point.

Extend an open path

  1. Using the Pen tool, position the pointer over the endpoint of the open path you want to extend. The pointer changes when it’s precisely positioned over the endpoint.

  2. Click the endpoint.

  3. Do one of the following:

    • To create a corner point, position the Pen tool where you want to end the new segment, and click. If you are extending a path that ends at a smooth point, the new segment will be curved by the existing direction line

    Note:

    In Illustrator, if you extend a path that ends in a smooth point, the new segment will be straight.

  4. To create a smooth point, position the Pen tool where you want to end the new curved segment, and drag.

Connect two open paths

  1. Using the Pen tool, position the pointer over the endpoint of the open path that you want to connect to another path. The pointer changes when it’s precisely positioned over the endpoint.
  2. Click the endpoint.
  3. Do one of the following:
    • To connect the path to another open path, click an endpoint on the other path. When you precisely position the Pen tool over the other path’s endpoint, a small merge symbol  appears next to the pointer.

    • To connect a new path to an existing path, draw the new path near the existing path, and then move the Pen tool to the existing path’s (unselected) endpoint. Click that endpoint when you see the small merge symbol that appears next to the pointer.

Note:

In InDesign, you can also use the Pathfinder panel to join paths. To close the path of an open path, use the Selection tool to select the path and click Close Path in the Pathfinder panel. To close the end points between two paths, select the paths and click Join Path. You may want to click Join Path a second time to join the second endpoint.

Move or nudge anchor points or segments using the keyboard

  1. Select the anchor point or path segment.

    Note:

    In Photoshop, you can move only anchor points in this manner.

  2. Click or hold down any of the arrow keys on the keyboard to move 1 pixel at a time in the direction of the arrow.

Hold down the Shift key in addition to the arrow key to move 10 pixels at a time.

Note:

In Illustrator and InDesign, you can change the distance of a nudge by changing the Keyboard Increment preference. When you change the default increment, holding down Shift nudges 10 times the specified distance.

Add or delete anchor points

Adding anchor points can give you more control over a path or it can extend an open path. However, it’s a good idea not to add more points than necessary. A path with fewer points is easier to edit, display, and print. You can reduce the complexity of a path by deleting unnecessary points.

The toolbox contains three tools for adding or deleting points: the Pen tool , the Add Anchor Point tool , and the Delete Anchor Point tool .

By default, the Pen tool changes to the Add Anchor Point tool as you position it over a selected path, or to the Delete Anchor Point tool as you position it over an anchor point. (In Photoshop, you must select Auto Add/Delete in the options bar to enable the Pen tool to automatically change to the Add Anchor Point or Delete Anchor Point tool.)

You can select and edit multiple paths simultaneously in Photoshop and InDesign; however, you can add or delete points to only one path at a time in Illustrator. In Photoshop and InDesign, you can reshape a path while adding anchor points by clicking and dragging as you add.

Note:

Don’t use the Delete, Backspace, and Clear keys or the Edit > Cut or Edit > Clear commands to delete anchor points: these keys and commands delete the point and the line segments that connect to that point.

Add or delete anchor points

  1. Select the path you want to modify.
  2. Select the Pen tool, the Add Anchor Point tool, or the Delete Anchor Point tool.
  3. To add an anchor point, position the pointer over a path segment and click. To delete an anchor point, position the pointer over an anchor point and click.

Note:

In Illustrator, you can add anchor points to a path by selecting the object and choosing Object > Path > Add Anchor Points.

Disable or temporarily override automatic Pen tool switching

You can override automatic switching of the Pen tool to the Add Anchor Point tool or the Delete Anchor Point tool. This is useful when you want to start a new path on top of an existing path.

  • In Photoshop, deselect Auto Add/Delete in the options bar.
  • In Illustrator, hold down Shift as you position the Pen tool over the selected path or an anchor point. (To prevent Shift from constraining the Pen tool, release Shift before you release the mouse button.)
  • In Illustrator, choose Edit > Preferences > General (Windows) or Illustrator > Preferences > General (Mac OS), and select Disable Auto Add/Delete.
  • In InDesign, hold down any shortcut key, make your edits, and then release the mouse button. For example, with the Pen tool selected, you can hold down the A key to display the Direct Selection tool, edit points, and the Pen tool is selected when you release the A key.

Convert between smooth points and corner points

Paths can have two kinds of anchor points—corner points and smooth points. At a corner point, a path abruptly changes direction. At a smooth point, path segments are connected as a continuous curve. The Convert Direction Point tool . lets you change an anchor point from a corner point to a smooth point or visa versa.

  1. Using the Direct Selection tool , select the path you want to modify.
  2. Switch to the Convert Direction Point tool . (If necessary, position the pointer over the Pen tool and drag to choose the Convert Direction Point tool.)

    Note:

    To temporarily switch from the Convert Direction Point tool to the Direct Selection tool, press Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac OS).

  3. Position the Convert Direction Point tool over the anchor point you want to convert, and do one of the following:

    To convert a corner point to a smooth point, drag direction lines out of the corner point.

    Convert a corner point to a smooth point
    Dragging direction lines out of corner point to create smooth point

    To convert a smooth point to a corner point without using direction lines, click a smooth point.

    Convert a smooth point to a corner point
    Clicking smooth point to create corner point

    • To convert a corner point without using direction lines to a corner point with independent direction lines, first drag direction lines out of a corner point (making it a smooth point). Release the mouse button, and then drag either direction line.

    • To convert a point, open the Pathfinder panel (choose Window > Object & Layout > Pathfinder), and click the Plain, Corner, Smooth, or Symmetrical button in the Convert Point section.

    • To convert a smooth point to a corner point with independent direction lines, drag either direction line.

    Converting smooth point to corner point
    Converting smooth point to corner point

Note:

To convert points, you can also use the Direct Selection tool to select a point, and then choose a command from the Object > Convert Point menu. For example, you can select the smooth point at the bottom of a “U” shape and choose Object > Convert Point > Plain. Doing so removes the direction lines and makes a “V” shape. Choose Corner to create a point with direction lines that can move independently of each other. Choose Smooth to create a point with handles that can have unequal lengths. Choose Symmetrical to create a point with handles of equal lengths.

Split a path

You can split a path, graphics frame, or empty text frame at any anchor point or along any segment. When you split a path, keep the following in mind:

  • If you want to split a closed path into two open paths, you must slice in two places along the path. If you slice a closed path only once, you get a single path with a gap in it.

  • Any paths resulting from a split inherit the path settings of the original path, such as stroke weight and fill color. You may need to reset stroke alignment from inside to outside.

Split a path using the Scissors tool

  1. (Optional) Select the path to see its current anchor points.
  2. Select the Scissors tool and click the path where you want to split it. When you split the path in the middle of a segment, the two new endpoints appear on top of the other, and one endpoint is selected.
  3. Use the Direct Selection tool to adjust the new anchor point or path segment.

Open a path using the Pathfinder panel

  1. Select the closed path.
  2. To open the Pathfinder panel, choose Window > Object & Layout > Pathfinder.
  3. Click Open Path in the Pathfinder panel.

Smooth out paths

Use the Smooth tool to remove excess angles from an existing path or a section of a path. The Smooth tool retains the original shape of the path as nearly as possible. Smoothed paths generally have fewer points, which can make them easier to edit, display, and print.

Smooth out paths
Path before and after using Smooth tool

  1. Select the path.
  2. Select the Smooth tool.

    Note:

    If the Pencil tool is selected, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) to temporarily change the Pencil to the Smooth tool.

  3. Drag the tool along the length of the path segment you want to smooth out.
  4. Continue smoothing until the stroke or path is of the desired smoothness.
  5. To change the amount of smoothing, double-click the Smooth tool and set the following options:

    Fidelity

    Controls how far your curves can stray before you have to modify the path. With lower Fidelity values, the curves will closely match the pointer’s movement, resulting in sharper angles. With higher Fidelity values, the path will ignore small pointer movements, resulting in smoother curves. The pixel value range is 0.5 to 20 pixels.

    Smoothness

    Controls the amount of smoothing applied when you use the tool. Smoothness can range from 0% to 100%; the higher the value, the smoother the path.

    Keep Selected

    Determines whether to keep the path selected after you smooth it.

Reshape closed paths or objects

  1. Using the Direct Selection tool , do one of the following:
    • Drag around the anchor points you want to select.

    • Hold down Shift as you click the anchor points you want to select.

  2. Position the pointer over the anchor point or path segment that you want to act as a focal point (that is, a point that pulls the selected path segments), and click the anchor point or path segment.
  3. Drag the highlighted anchor points to adjust the path. The amount of movement of a given path segment is relative to its distance from a highlighted point:
    • Selected points that act as the focal point move with the selection tool during dragging.

    • Selected points that aren’t the focal point move in tandem with the dragged focal point.

    • Unselected anchor points are not affected by reshaping.

About the Position tool

The Position tool  is not available in InDesign CS5. Instead, you can use the Selection tool to select and manipulate either the frame or the content within the frame. See Select objects.

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