The Pen Tool is often avoided by new Photoshop users because it can be a little tricky to use at the beginning. It is, however, a really important tool to have in your design arsenal for both drawing vectors and for making selections.
I’ve previously written a Photoshop tutorial on how to draw straight lines using the Pen Tool, but in this lesson, we’ll look at how to draw curves. You’ll learn how to draw
- a gently curving open path (easy peasy)
- a close circle path (easy)
- a complex path made from curves and straight points (a bit more tricky, but an essential skill)
Once you’ve gained an understanding of how the curves work, combined with some practice, you’ll soon find yourself becoming a Pen Tool Master!
How curved paths are created
Unlike straight paths, which are simply a matter of clicking once, then picking where you want your next point and clicking again, curved paths are created by clicking and dragging out direction handles. The first time you click and drag, you set a starting point for the curved path and importantly, you also determine the direction and size of the curve. As you continue to add a point and drag, a curved path is drawn between the previous point and the current point.
Two things happen when you click and drag with the Pen tool.
1. An anchor point is placed on the artboard when you click.
2. Direction lines and direction points are drawn when you drag.
We use the direction lines and points to determine the direction and shape of the curved path we’re drawing.
Drawing Curved Vector Paths With The Pen.
Let’s start by drawing a gentle curving line.
1. Select the Pen tool (P) from the toolbar.
2. Choose Path mode in the Options bar at the top of the screen. Note that we could use Shape mode here, but in that mode, Photoshop fills the path with colour when you start drawing and it can become confusing as to where your anchor points are. I’ll talk about drawing shapes in another post.
3. Click once to put down your first anchor point.
4. Move your pointer to the right of your first anchor point, then click again and drag up and to the right. This creates a slight curve in the path and as you can see, two handles appear either side of the second anchor point. These are the direction handles and the control the direction of the curve and the size of the curve.
5. Add another point farther to the right and click and drag in a downward direction. You should now be seeing a nice gentle wave-like path.
6. Add one more point to the right and drag out horizontally.
7.To finish drawing your path, just Ctrl + Click (Windows) / Cmd + Click (Mac). Notice how the Pen Tool cursor changes and a small asterisk appears. This indicates that when you start to draw again, you will be starting a new path.
How to draw a closed circle path with the Pen Tool
A closed vector path is simply a path where the first anchor point is the same as the last vector point, for example, a circle, a rectangle, a star. We’ll draw a circle.
1. Select the Pen tool (P) from the toolbar.
2. Choose Path mode in the Options bar at the top of the screen.
3. Click and hold and drag the pen tool pointer upwards. In this example, we’re creating an upward curve.
An anchor point appears where you first clicked and two direction lines extend above and below the anchor point.
4. Continue the curve, by clicking to add a new anchor point and holding and dragging downwards.
If you make a mistake while you’re drawing, choose Edit > Undo New Anchor Point or press Ctrl +Z (Windows) or Cmd + Z (Mac) to undo the last point you drew, and try again.
5. Move your pointer over your first anchor point and notice how a small circle appears below the pen tool cursor. This indicates that if you click on the first point, you will close the path. So go ahead and click on the point.
Your path is now closed and you should have a near perfect circle, or at least a reasonable elipse shaped path.
Remember you want to use as few anchor points as possible to get smooth curves when drawing with the Pen Tool.
Tip: If you hold down Shift as you click and drag, you constrain the slope of the directional line to 45° increments.
Combining curved and straight path segments with the Pen Tool.
Now we’ll draw paths that combine straight corner points with curved or smooth points. Curved anchor points have directional lines that are opposite each other, 180° apart. Corner points either have no directional lines, only one directional line, or two directional lines that are at an angle that is not 180°. ( A little bit confusing, I know!)
Probably the most difficult part of drawing with the Pen Tool in Photoshop is joining up two curves on a corner point. If you can do this, then you can do any type of drawing with the Pen. For his exercise we’re going to draw the path below.
1. Select the Pen tool.
2. We’re starting with a straight segment, which is dead easy, so click once for your starting point (don’t drag) and then click again to put down your second anchor.
3. Now we’re going into a curve. Move the pointer over the second anchor point and hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac), the cursor changes to show what looks like an upside down “v”. This indicates that you are going to convert the point from being a straight point to a curved point.
4. Click on the same point and drag upwards in one motion to start the curve.
5. Then click and drag downwards to create your next anchor point and finish the curve you started.
Now we need another curve. However, you will find that if you simply click and drag a new point, the curve is going down.
6. To prevent this happening and have our curve go up again, we need to start a new curve by holding down Alt / Option + Clicking on the last anchor point.You will again see the little upside down “v”. This basically resets the curved point to a straight point.
7. Click on the anchor point again and drag upwards to create a second curve going up. It will look as though you have dragged the new handle over the previous handle.
8. Add a new anchor point and drag down to finish the second curve.
9. Repeat step 6, 7 and 8 to create a third “upwards” curve.
10. To finish up, we need to convert from a curved point to a straight point. Once again, hold down Alt / Option and click once on your last anchor point.
11. Click again to put down your last anchor point. You should now have made a path that looks like this;
12. Ctrl / Cmd + click anywhere to complete the path.
You’ve no successfully joined straight and curved segments in a path drawn with the Pen Tool. This is the hardest part of drawing with the Pen Tool and the one you need to get the most practice with.
There is, of course, lots more to learn about the Pen tool, but at this stage, lots of practice combining straight segments and curves will turn you into a Pen-jockey really quickly.
A really good way to practice combining curves and straight points with the pen tool is to try drawing the outlines of letters. Start with easy ones like I and Z, then try lowercase T, S, P and so on. This is an exercise I give to my classes and they find it useful.
I hope you’ve found this tutorial on how to draw curves with the Pen Tool in Photoshop useful. There are more Pen Tool tutorials coming!
I’d be really grateful if you would share this post. Thank you! 🙂
I recently wrote an introduction to Camera Raw in Photoshop, briefly outlining what Camera Raw is, and what the raw file format is. In this follow-up, we’ll take a look at how to open up images in the Camera Raw plug-in. We can work with Raw, JPEG and TIFF files.
You can open a raw file in Photoshop, in much the same way as you would open any other type of image file. The difference is, the raw file opens in the Camera Raw window instead of the main Photoshop workspace.
Open Raw Files From The File Browser
To open a raw file from your Windows File Explorer, or Mac Finder, you can:
- Double-click the file’s icon. If Photoshop isn’t already running, your computer will launch it and then open the Camera Raw window.
- Ctrl + Click (Mac) or Right-Click (Windows) on the file and then choose Open With > Adobe Photoshop CC. This will open Photoshop if it’s not already open and then open the Camera Raw window.
As Camera Raw was originally made to process photos taken in raw format, if you double-click on a raw image on your computer it SHOULD automatically launch Photoshop and open the image within Camera Raw. If the raw file doesn’t open, check that you have the latest version of Camera Raw from Adobe’s Creative Cloud if you’re using Photoshop CC. Or check the Adobe website for updates if you’re using an older version of Photoshop.
Open Raw Images in Camera Raw From Bridge
It’s simple to open Raw, JPEG and TIFF files from Adobe Bridge. Here are three different ways to get your photo from Bridge to Camera Raw:
- Double-click a raw file in the Content panel. The image opens in Camera Raw.
- Click once on any image – Raw, JPEG or TIFF, then press Ctrl + R (Windows) or Cmd + R (Mac).
- Activate an image in the Content panel and then choose File > “Open in Camera Raw.”
Open JPEG or TIFF images in Camera Raw
You can open JPEG or TIFF files from Bridge (as mentioned above). You can also open a JPEG or TIFF from Photoshop, directly into Camera Raw, by doing the following:
- In Windows: From Photoshop’s File menu, choose Open As. Browse through your folders to find the JPEG or TIFF image you want. Click on the file you’re interested in, then change the pop-up menu at the bottom right to Camera Raw, then click Open.
- On a Mac: From Photoshop’s File menu, choose Open. The Open dialog appears. Browse through your folders to find the JPEG or TIFF image you want. Click on the file you want. In the Format pop-up menu at the bottom it will say JPEG (or TIFF if you chose a TIFF file), now click on that menu, then choose Camera Raw. Then click the Open button and your image will open in Camera Raw.
How to Make JPEGs and TIFFs Always Open In Camera Raw
If you’d like to set up so that every time you open a JPEG or TIFF, it opens directly in Camera Raw, you can do that in the Camera Raw preferences. I would recommend this for photographers, but I don’t recommend it for designers.
1. Go to Photoshop > Preferences > Camera Raw (Mac) or Edit > Preferences > Camera Raw (Windows)
2. At the bottom of the Camera Raw Preferences dialog, under JPEG and TIFF Handling, set both JPEG and TIFF to Automatically Open All Supported JPEGs and Automatically Open all Supported TIFFs, respectively.
3. Click OK. Note that this change won’t kick in until the next time you start Photoshop.
Opening more than one file at a time in Camera Raw
You can open multiple files in Camera Raw from either Bridge or Photoshop, and you can apply the same edits to multiple files simultaneously. This can be really handy if you have a pile of images that were all taken in the same environment and require the same sort of adjustments, such as creating more contrast or removing colour casts.
To open multiple files from Bridge, into Camera Raw, do the following:
1. In Bridge, open the folder holding your photos.
2. Shift + Click all of the images you want.
3. Choose File > Open In Camera Raw.
Your files open inside Camera Raw. Notice the film strip along the left side. Choose any photo to edit by simply clicking on the thumbnail.
And that’s how you can open in Camera Raw. Now you can start to have fun editing your Raw, JPEG and TIFF files.
I hope you found this post helpful. Please share it. Thank you! 🙂
What Is Adobe Camera Raw And Why Should I Use It?
Adobe Camera Raw is a plug-in piece of software in Adobe Photoshop. It is sometimes ignored (or feared) by new Photoshop learners because at first glance it looks a little confusing. The nice thing about it is, though, it’s actually pretty simple to use once you figure out which bits do what.
If you want to learn how to successfully and efficiently edit photographs, you need to know how to use it. And I’m here to help you with that 🙂
Why Should I Use Camera Raw To Edit Photos?
Camera Raw allows us to edit and enhance raw files from our digital cameras. We can also edit JPEG and TIFF files in Adobe Camera Raw.
Let’s quickly clarify what raw and Adobe Camera Raw actually are.
- A raw file contains unprocessed picture data from your digital camera’s image sensor.
- Adobe Camera Raw is the plugin we use to edit Raw files. We can use it to apply sharpening, set white balance, adjust contrast, colour and tonal range, and much much more.
One of the main advantages of editing photos in Camera Raw as opposed to editing in Photoshop, is that Camera Raw does not change or damage your original photograph. This is known as non-destructive editing. Camera Raw also includes some editing features that aren’t in Photoshop.
As we edit our photos in Camera Raw, the changes we make are a set of instructions that are applied to our photo and we see a live preview as we work. We can also go back and make changes as often as we want, or we can completely reset our changes without ever harming a single pixel. It is wonderful! 🙂
The other good news is, although Adobe Camera Raw was originally created to process photos taken in your camera’s raw format, you can also use it to process your JPEG and TIFF photos too.
If you’ve used Adobe Lightroom before, Camera Raw will look very familiar because they are essentially the same thing. They share the same image-processing technology.
File Formats and Camera Raw
Although Photoshop Camera Raw software can open and edit a raw image file, it cannot save an image in a camera raw format. You can save the image in other image formats, such as Digital Negative (DNG), JPEG, TIFF, or Photoshop (PSD) formats.
Adobe update Camera Raw fairly frequently. If you’re using Creative Cloud, make sure to keep your versions up to date.
Different camera models save camera raw images in many different formats, and the data must be interpreted differently for these formats. Camera Raw includes support for many camera models, and it can interpret many camera raw formats.
Raw File Extensions
When you download your pictures from your camera for the first time, you might notice some strange file extension that you haven’t seen before. Here are the raw file extensions from some of the biggest camera manufacturers)
- .NEF – Nikon
- .CRW – Canon
- .ARW .SRF .SR2 – Sony
- .PEF – Pentax
- .ORF – Olympus
- .3FR – Hasslebad
- .RW2 – Panasonic
There are, of course, many more camera makers and Adobe regularly put out updates to Camera Raw to support new cameras that have come on the market.
Now that you know what Camera Raw is, the next step is to actually get your photographs into it. Click here to read how to open images in Camera Raw.
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The New Document dialog
If you’ve updated Photoshop to CC 2017, you will have noticed a fairly big change in the New Document dialog box. (You can learn how to create new Photoshop documents with the new Start Screen here).
Some long-time Photoshop users are finding the new New Document dialog box to be a bit clunky and would prefer to get back to the streamlined “old school” version where you just type in the dimensions and resolution you want, without wading through presets and templates.
Here’s how you can change back to the more familiar dialog box.
- On the mac, choose Photoshop CC > Preferences > General (shortcut is Cmd + K)
On the pc, choose Edit > Preferences > General (shortcut is Ctrl + K)
- Click in the checkbox beside Use Legacy “New Document” Interface to enable it.
- Click OK to close the Preferences dialog box and next time you create a new document, you’ll see the more familiar legacy New Document dialog box.
- If you decide at a later time that you would like the new New document dialog back again, just go back into the same option in Preferences and uncheck it.
Hope you find that useful 🙂
The New Document dialog box has been completely redesigned in Photoshop CC 2017. It allows us create new documents from presets, or from our own custom settings, and it also lets us save our custom settings as new presets so we can reuse them. Another new feature in the New Document dialog box is the ability to create documents from templates, but we’ll look at that in a separate post.
Creating A New File In Photoshop
To create a new document in Photoshop, we use the New Document dialog box. There are several ways to get to this dialog box.
1. When you launch Photoshop you can click on the New… button on Photoshop’s Start screen
2. Click File > New on the Menu Bar along the top of the screen.
3. Use the keyboard shortcut, Cmd + N (Mac) / Ctrl+N (Win).
Any of these options open up the New Document dialog box.
The New Document Dialog Box
Along the top of the New Document dialog box, you’ll see a row of categories – Recent, Saved, Photo, Print, Art & Illustration, Web, Mobile, and Film & Video. By default, the Recent category is selected and you will see a set of document sizes that you’ve used recently. If this is the first time you’ve opened Photoshop, or if you have reset Photoshop to factory settings, there will be nothing in this category.
Any recently-used document sizes appear in the Recent category.
Creating New Documents From Presets
A handy time saver when creating new files is to use a preset. A preset is simply a set of pre-determined width and height dimensions, a choice of portrait or landscape orientation,resolution and colour mode. There are other options but these are the options you are most likely to be interested in.
- To choose a preset, first pick the type of document you want to make, for example, is it for web, print, a photo? Click on that category name along the top. For this example, I’ve chosen Print.
2. A set of four presets appear in the dialog box. To see more presets click on the View All Presets + link.
3. You’ll see an extra bunch of thumbnails representing various Print presets. Use the scroll bar along the right to scroll through them.
4. Click on the A5 preset. Notice how the Preset Details change on the right hand side to match the A4 details.
5. If you’re happy with this preset, click Create. The New Document dialog box closes and your new document opens in Photoshop.
How To Create A New File In Photoshop With Your Own Custom Settings
Let’s say that you want to make a document at a size that is not already available as a preset. It’s easy to add your own custom settings.
1. Choose File > New in the Menu Bar along the top of the screen.
The same New Document dialog opens as before.
2. On the right hand side, in the Preset Details section, type in the values 10 inches for width, 3 inches for height and change the colour mode to CMYK.
Now, let’s say that this is a document size that was may want to use again, then it’s a good idea to save it as a preset.
3. Click the Save Preset icon (circled in red).
4. Give it a name by typing in the Preset name field at the top. (It will say something like Untitled initially). Give it a descriptive name to make it easier for yourself to remember what the preset is. I called mine Jen – Banner – 10 x 3.
Then click Save Preset again.
Your new saved preset now appears in the Saved category. This means you can come back to it at any time and it will speed up your workflow by not having to type in the values each time you want a document of that size.
5. Click on the Create button and your new file opens.
And that’s how you make new files in Photoshop.
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The Ruler Tool
The Ruler tool is an often overlooked tool hidden beneath the eyedropper on the Photoshop toolbar. You can use it to to measure lengths, straighten photographs and place objects exact distances apart. In short, it’s very handy. Here’s a video showing you how to quickly straighten a lopsided photo.
How to Straighten A Photograph With The Ruler Tool in Photoshop (Notes)
1. With your photograph open in Photoshop, select the Ruler tool.
The Ruler tool is hidden under the Eyedropper tool in the toolbar. Press and hold, or right-click on the Eyedropper to reveal the hidden tools, then select the Ruler tool.
2. Click, then drag along the edge of something in the photograph that should be perfectly vertical or horizontal.
2. Click the Straighten button in the Options bar. If you’ve made a mistake when drawing a line with the Ruler, hit the Clear button instead of Straighten and start over.
3. To crop away the areas that have become transparent, select the Crop tool, and use the handles to drag an area that encompasses the part of the photo you want. Then hit Enter/Return on the keyboard or press the Commit button on the Options bar.
You should now have a nicely straightened and cropped photo.
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