Beginner’s Guide To Cropping & The Crop Tool In Photoshop

The Crop tool in Photoshop removes or hides whatever part of the image you choose. It’s an essential tool for anyone working with images and is useful for helping to create a focus in your photograph and for removing distractions in an image.

Over several version of Photoshop, the Crop tool has improved. A major improvement occurred with the arrival of CS6, and there hasn’t been any major change since then in how to crop your images. In this short guide, I’ll show you how to make a basic crop on your image and some of the options you have available to you when you’re cropping.

How to use the Crop Tool In Photoshop

1. Choose the Crop tool by pressing C on your keyboard, or by clicking on the Crop tool in the toolbox.  Crop Tool Photoshop

2. You’ll see that a cropping border is automatically added to your photo. You’ll also notice there are handles (small boxes) in each corner and along each side. Simply grab a handle and start to drag.

Basic-Crop-In-Photoshop1

Notice the dimmed area that appears outside of the cropping border. This is the bit that will get cropped away.

If you want to keep the proportions of your crop to be the same as your original image, press and hold the Shift key as you drag the cropping handles.  You can also move your image within the cropping area by clicking on the image itself and dragging it.

3. When you’re happy with how the crop appears, you confirm or complete the crop by either Enter (PC) or Return (Mac) on your keyboard, or by pressing the Confirm Crop icon in the Options bar at the top of the screen.

Et Voila! Your beautifully cropped image appears.

How to Cancel A Crop

Stepping back a little, if you want to cancel a crop while the cropping border is still on your image, you can either press Esc on the keyboard or, click on the Cancel Crop icon in the Options bar at the top of the screen.

If you’ve already committed or confirmed a crop, just undo by pressing Cmd + Z (Mac) or Ctrl + Z (PC). That will take you back one step.

Other Crop Options You May Like To Use

When you start to drag with one of the cropping handles, The Rule of Thirds overlay grid appears by default. If you like to adhere to the Rule of Thirds with your photography, this is very useful, but there are other Overlay Options available too. Here’s how to find them.

1. On the Options bar at the top of the screen, click on the Set The Overlay Options icon. A dropdown box appears showing you the various overlays which will appear when you start to drag the crop handles. You can cycle through the options by pressing the letter O.

Here’s a visual overview of each:

Grid Overlay

Diagonal Overlay

Basic-Crop-In-Photoshop-Diagonal-Overlay-7

Triangle Overlay

Golden Ratio

Golden Spiral

Finally, on the overlay options, there are three other settings in the menu:

  • Always Show Overlay – once you start cropping, it’s visible and stays visible
  • Never Show Overlay,
  • Auto Show Overlay – it only appears when you’re actually cropping

 

Freehand Cropping in Photoshop

We’ve just seen how to do the most basic crop i.e. click on the tool, the crop borders appear on your image and then you drag the handles. However, you can also just select the Crop tool and simply drag over the area you want to crop. It doesn’t matter that there is already a cropping border around the image, you can just click and drag out then release the mouse. Your new cropping area will appear and if you need to adjust it you can use the handles as before.

So that’s the fundamentals of cropping. There are other tricks you can perform with the Crop tool and we’ll return to it at another time.

Thanks for reading! I hope you found this useful and I would be very grateful if you could share it. 🙂

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Beginners Guide To Cropping And The Crop Tool

How To Whiten Teeth In Photoshop

This is one lesson I wish I could use permanently and physically on myself – how to get pearly white teeth. In Photoshop it’s pretty easy to do this using the Sponge tool to desaturate and the Dodge tool to lighten. The main thing to remember is not to go too crazy with the whitening, the teeth should still look natural. As always, this is just one method of whitening teeth. Often in Photoshop there are at least two ways to do everything.

1. Open the image of the person (or animal) whose teeth need a bit of whitening. I’m using this image of a laughing lion (see what I did there) by Lemuel Butler which is free to download here from Unsplash.  The lion’s teeth are yellow-orange but he’ll soon have a Hollywood smile.

01 - Laughing Lion With Yellow Teeth

2. Whenever you’re editing images, it’s always a good idea to do make changes on a duplicate layer. Press Cmd + J (mac) or Ctrl + J (windows) to make an exact copy of the photograph appear on a new layer. I renamed the duplicate as “Image Edit”.

02 - Duplicate Layer

3. Select the Sponge tool. Sponge-Tool-Photoshop
This may be hidden under the Dodge tool in the toolbar.

dodge-burn-sponge-tools photoshop

4. We’re going to use the Sponge to remove or desaturate the colour in the teeth.  In the tool Options at the top of the screen, set the Mode to Desaturate, set Flow to 100% and turn off the Vibrance so the check box is empty.

03 - Sponge Tool Options For Desaturating

5. Still in the tool Options, choose a brush size suitable for brushing over the teeth. Choose a brush with a soft edge (or hardness of 0%). You will need to make your brush bigger and smaller as you work over the lion’s teeth. A shortcut for increasing the size of a brush (on any brush-based tool) is to press the right bracket key ] . To decrease the size of the brush, press the left bracket key [ .

6. Zoom in so that you can see the teeth clearly.

7. Brush the teeth with the Sponge tool making your brush bigger and smaller as necessary. You want to make sure you’re only desaturating the teeth and not his tongue, gums or hair.

04 - Desaturate Teeth

Things are looking better already, and that’s just the top set desaturated 🙂 Keep going until you’ve desaturated all the teeth. Don’t forget the teeth at the back which have a shadow cast on them, but are still very yellow.

7. Once you’ve desaturated all the teeth, it’s time to whiten them up. Select the Dodge tool (ODodge Tool - Photoshop

8. On the tool options bar, again choose a small soft brush. Pick a brush size that is slightly larger than the teeth. Set the Range to Midtones and set the Exposure to 15%. Leave the Protect Tones box checked. This helps to keep things looking a bit more natural and retains some of the shadows and texture.

05 - Dodge Tool Options

9. Work your way around the lion’s teeth with the Dodge tool, again making the brush bigger and smaller when necessary. The Dodge tool has a build-up effect. Each time you release the mouse button and start painting again, the amount of Dodge builds up. If you feel like you’ve gone too far with the whitening, you can press Cmd + Z (mac) or Ctrl + Z (windows) to step back. Or you can choose Edit > Fade Dodge Tool to reduce the overall effect.

Here are the lion’s teeth before (on the left) and after a thorough brushing.

07 - Lions Teeth Finished

This Photoshop method works in exactly the same way for human teeth. The thing to avoid is overly bright, dazzling white teeth, but there’s no harm in a little whitening.

I hope you found this useful. I would be super grateful if you could share it. Thanks 🙂

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How To Save A Selection & How To Use An Alpha Channel In Photoshop

Here’s a quick guide to saving selections, refining them and reusing them using the alpha channel in Photoshop.

What in blue blazes is an alpha channel?

Not always the first question a person asks when they’re learning Photoshop. But I’m glad you’ve asked 🙂
An alpha channel lets you save or store a selection that you’ve made so that you can use that selection again at a later time. This is a really useful, if underused function in Photoshop.

Let’s run through an example of making a selection and then turning it into an alpha channel. If you’d like to know lots more about how to make a selection, check out my guide to using all of the selection tools in Photoshop.

Saving A Selection In Photoshop

1. In Photoshop open an image that you want to make a selection in. I’m using this photo of a skateboarder by Andrew Pons which is free to download from Unsplash.

01 - Skateboarder Image

2. Zoom in so that you can clearly see all of whatever you’re selecting.

3. Use your favourite or the most appropriate selection tools to make a selection. For this particular example, I’ve used the Magic Wand.
I picked the Magic Wand because there are large blocks of similar colours in the areas I’m selecting and they’re easy to select with this tool.

By holding down Shift while clicking with the Magic Wand, you can add to the selection. If you make a mistake and add too much to the selection, hold down the Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows) key. As you can see below, I’ve selected all of the skater, but there are a few extra bits around his right hand that should not be included. For now, though we’ll leave it and come back to it in a moment.

02 - Initial Selection Made In Photoshop
4. Now that the selection is made, you can save it in case you need to use it again or if you want to refine it further using an alpha channel. Choose Select > Save Selection. This lets you convert your selection to an alpha channel.

5. Choose New for Channel and give your selection a name. (Mine’s called skater). Click OK.

03 - Save Selection in Photoshop

At this stage, if you were happy with how your selection looks, you could continue about your business in Photoshop and come back later and choose Select > Load Selection and the exact shape of your selection will appear. However, I want to show you how to improve your saved selection.

The Channels Panel

6. Click on the Channels tab (usually in the Layers palette group) to view the new alpha channel. If you can’t see the Channels panel, you’ll find it under the menu Window > Channels.

(Optional tip) If the thumbnails in the Channels palette are very small, you might find it useful to increase their size by clicking on the Channels palette menu and choosing Palette Options. From there you can pick larger thumbnails.

04 - Channels Panel Photoshop

7. Click on the new channel (Skater) in the Channels palette. You now have a black and white view of the selection you made earlier. You can see where I made the mistake selecting around his right hand, but you can also see little black “islands” in various spots where the selection was missed.

05 - Alpha Channel Visible

8. Even though you have converted the selection to what is now a mask, you’ll see that the dancing ants still appear around the original selection. Press Cmd + D (Mac) orCtrl + D (Windows) to deselect.

Refining A Selection By Painting On The Alpha Channel

At this point, you can refine your selection further.
1. With the alpha channel still selected, choose the Paintbrush tool from the toolbar.  When working with an alpha channel, you will either paint in black or white or the shades of grey in-between. If you paint with a black Paintbrush, you are subtracting from the selection and if you paint with white you are adding to the selection. You can fill in any gaps this way.

06 - Refining The Selection

2. Paint over the obvious bits of the selection that were missed out or over selected.

3. To make it easier to see exactly what you are selecting, click on the Visibility toggle eye icon beside the RGB channel at the top of the Channels panel. You will now be able to see your image and your selection at the same time. You will see a mask. The area that you have selected will look normal, while the area outside your selection will be covered with a red transparency. This red transparency is known as a rubylith and is used in traditional masking.

07 - RGB Channel Turned On

4. Continue to paint in black or white to add or subtract from your selection until you have refined it.

08 - Selection With Rubylith

5. To convert the mask back to a selection click the Load Channel As Selection button at the bottom of the Channels palette.

09 - Load Channel As Selection

6. Click on the Visibility toggle Eye icon beside the alpha channel you made, then click on the RGB channel at the top to switch back to a full-colour composite.

The alpha channel in the original image is saved when the file is saved. Once you store the selection as an alpha channel, you can reload it at any time or even load it into another image.

Load a saved selection

When you’re ready to use your selection again you can use the Load Selection function as follows:

1. Choose Select > Load Selection.

Specify the Source options in the Load Selection dialog box:

Document: Chooses the name of the file with the selection you want to load.

Channel: Chooses the channel containing the selection you want to load, in this example it’s the alpha channel called Skater. You can save multiple selections in any Photoshop file.

Invert: Inverts the selection so previously non-selected areas will now be selected.

Select an Operation option to specify how to combine the selections if the image already has a selection:

New Selection: Adds the loaded selection.

Add To Selection: Adds the loaded selection to any existing selections in the image.

Subtract From Selection: Subtracts the loaded selection from existing selections in the image.

Intersect With Selection: Saves a selection from an area intersected by the loaded selection and existing selections in the image.

Note: If you are loading a saved selection from another image, make sure to open it. Also, make sure your destination image is active.

I hope you found this useful. I’d be super grateful if you would share it. Thank you!

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How To Draw Text On A Path In Photoshop

Adding text on a path is an important technique which designers use to create interesting text effects and it is especially useful with logo design. I’ll show you how to easily create text on a path in Photoshop using both the Pen tool and a Shape tool. You’ll see how to create text on an open curvy line, on the outside of a shape and on the inside of a shape.

Adding Text To An Open Curved Path

If you’re new to the Pen Tool in Photoshop and haven’t used it before, read my tutorial on how to create curves with the Pen Tool. Otherwise, follow along below.

1. Create a new Photoshop document. I made mine 1000 px x 1000 px at 72 ppi.

2. Select the Pen tool in the toolbox, or press P as the keyboard shortcut. Pen Tool Photoshop

3. In the Options Bar at the top of the screen, you can choose either Shape or Path from the first drop down. If you choose Shape, choose any colour for the Stroke, BUT make sure that the Fill colour is set to none. Otherwise, Photoshop will start to colour-in your curve as you draw it and it can be a bit confusing. If you choose Path, there will be no colours involved and you will simply draw a path.

2 - Pen Tool Options Bar Photoshop

3. Draw a simple curved path with the Pen Tool.

1 - Draw A Curved Path With Pen Tool

4 Select the Text tool in the Tools panel or press T on the keyboard as a shortcut. Tex Tool Photoshop

5 In the Options bar (below), choose options such as font and alignment before you type. You can always change options settings after you’ve typed the text. As you are putting text down on a white background, make sure to change your Font Colour to something other than white, otherwise, you won’t be able to see it.

4 - Text Tool Options Photoshop

6 If you chose a left text alignment, which is the default alignment, click near the left side of the path with the Text tool, then start typing. If you chose a centered text alignment, click near the center of the path you drew, then start typing. Notice how the Text tool cursor changes to an I-Beam with a path through it.

3 - Pen Tool Cursor Changes To Type On Path

As you type you’ll see that your text follows the direction of the path.

5 - Add Some Text To The Path

7. When you’re finished typing, click the checkmark icon on the Options bar to commit the text (or any changes you made) and to deselect the text.

Now the path you originally drew has disappeared and your text is floating beautifully along an invisible path.

Editing Text on a path

Editing text on a path is the same as editing “normal” text in Photoshop.  To change the font face, font size, or font colour of existing text, first use the Text tool to select the text by clicking and dragging to highlight the piece of text, then change the settings.

5a - Selecting Text To Edit

Reposition text on a path

Often your text won’t appear exactly where you want it on the path, so you can move it along the path you’ve drawn by using the Path Selection Tool (black arrow).

1. Make sure your text layer is selected, then choose the Path Selection tool. Path Selection Tool Photoshop

2. Hover the cursor near the beginning of the text.  Notice that the cursor changes to what’s known as an I-beam-and-triangle. This indicates that you can now drag the text along the path.

6 - I-Beam And Triangle Cursor

3. Drag the text along the path. It will almost feel like you’re pushing it. You’ll see the text move along and follow the curves you drew.

7 - Dragging Text Along The Path

Adding Text Around A Shape In Photoshop

Again this is another technique frequently used by designers, particularly in logo design. Let’s take a look at how to add text around a shape. In this case, I’m adding text around the outside of a circle, but you can do this with ANY vector shape.

1. Create a new document in Photoshop. I made mine 1000 x 1000 px at 72ppi.

2. Select the Ellipse Shape Tool. Ellipse Shape Tool Photoshop

It is hidden under the Rectangle Shape Tool, so click and hold on the Rectangle Tool in the toolbar and the hidden tools will appear. Choose the Ellipse.

1 - Select The Elliptical Shape Tool Photoshop

3. Click and drag out a circle on your document.
Tip: Hold down Shift to get a perfect circle as you drag.

4. Select the Text tool in the Tools panel or press T on the keyboard as a shortcut. Choose your text settings as before.

5. Move your Text Tool cursor over the circle shape and notice how it changes to indicate Type On A Path.  Start typing.
2 - Text On A Path Cursor

3 - Text added around the circular path

6. As we saw previously with Text On A Path, you can select the Path Selection tool and move the text along the path.

4 - Move Text Along The Path

Move type to the inside of a shape

We’ve seen how to add text to the outside of the path. But how do we set the text inside the shape? Here’s how:

1. Start with some text on a path, as above and move the text to the position you want.

5 - Text on the outside of the path

2. Drag the Text tool across the text on a path to select it.

6 - Text Highlighted On The Path

3. On the Character panel, go to the Baseline Shift field, and enter a negative number.  In my case, I found that -35 moved the text down and across the path into a position I wanted. Lower the Baseline Shift until you are happy with the alignment of the text with the inside of the shape.

7 - Baseline Shift On Character Panel Photoshop

4. You might find that after reducing the Baseline Shift, the letters are now very close together. You can adjust the space between letters by adjusting the value in the Tracking field on the Character Panel.

8 - Change The Tracking

5. Deselect the text. If you can still see the ellipse shape, go to the Layers panel and turn off the visibility on the ellipse shape layer. Your text should now look something like this:

9 - Hide ellipse layer visibility Photoshop

Move text to the inside bottom of a circle shape

We’ve seen how to add text to the outside of the circle and how to move inside the circle. How do we put text on the inside at the bottom of the circle? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here’s how:

1. Create your circle vector shape as before and add some text to the outside.

10 - Text Added To Outside Of Ellipse Shape

2. Select the Path Selection tool in the Tools panel and position the cursor over the text.

3. When the cursor changes to an I-beam with double arrows, click and drag the text downward until it flips upside down.

11 - Text Flipped Inside Circle Upside Down

Sometimes when you flip the text over, you might find the text runs away from you and starts sliding around the circle.

4. Your text is inside the circle, but it’s upside down and at the top. To get the text to the bottom of the circle and the right way around, continue to drag the text down the side of the shape, all the way to the bottom of the circle. It will automatically appear upright.

12 - Text At Bottom Of Ellipse

Again, if necessary, turn off the visibility of the Ellipse layer to hide the path. Your final text should look something like this:

14 - Final Text With Ellipse Hidden

I hope you found this article on creating text on a path in Photoshop useful. I would be really grateful if you would share it. Thank you! 🙂

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Beginners Guide To Using The Pen Tool In Photoshop: Part 3 – Drawing Curved Paths

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Photoshop Pen Tool

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.

In the last part of this guide, we looked at 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.

Straight Points And Curved Points

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. Pen Tool Photoshop

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.

Choose Path From Pen Tool Options

3. Click once to put down your first anchor point.

1a - 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.

1 - Adding a curved anchor point

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.

2 - Add Second Anchor point and drag

6. Add one more point to the right and drag out horizontally.

3 - Add third anchor point and drag

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.

4 - Open Path Complete

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. Pen Tool Photoshop

2. Choose Path mode in the Options bar at the top of the screen.

Choose Path From Pen Tool Options

3. Click and hold and drag the pen tool pointer upwards. In this example, we’re creating an upward curve.

2 - Draw A Circle With The Pen Tool

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.

3 - Draw A Circle With The Pen Tool

4 - Draw A Circle With The Pen Tool

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.

5 - Draw A Circle With The Pen Tool

Your path is now closed and you should have a near perfect circle, or at least a reasonable elipse shaped path.

6 - Draw A Circle With The Pen Tool

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!)

Straight Points And Curved Points

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.

Curves And Straight Points

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.
1 - Pen Tool - Draw A Straight Segment

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.

2 - Convert Anchor Point

4. Click on the same point and drag upwards in one motion to start the curve.

3 - Click And Drag Up

5. Then click and drag downwards to create your next anchor point and finish the curve you started.
4 - Click to add next anchor point

5 - Drag Down Too Create Curve

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 - Curve Going Wrong Way

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- Convert Curved Anchor Point To 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.

7b- Drag Curved Anchor Point

8. Add a new anchor point and drag down to finish the second curve.

8 - Drag Handle Up To Create New Curve

9 - Click and Drag Down With Pen

9. Repeat step 6, 7 and 8 to create a third “upwards” curve.

10 - Repeat third 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- Convert from curved to straight

11. Click again to put down your last anchor point. You should now have made a path that looks like this;

12 - Curved And Straight Path Complete

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.
image033

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! 🙂

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Beginners Guide To Using The Pen Tool In Photoshop: Part 2 – Drawing Straight Paths

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Photoshop Pen Tool

This is the second post of my guide to using the Pen Tool in Photoshop. Previously I wrote about WHY should we learn how to use the Pen tool. Now we’re going to get into the nitty gritty and actually start using it.

The Pen Tool & Straight Lines

It is super easy to draw straight lines with the pen tool, so that’s where we’ll start. Straight paths are created by simply clicking the mouse button. The first time you click, you set a starting point for a path. Each time you click after that, a straight line is drawn between the previous point and the current point.

Before we use the Pen tool, whether for making a selection or for drawing shapes, we need to configure the settings on the Options Bar.

1. Open a new blank document in Photoshop. I’ve created one at 1000 x 1000 pixels with a resolution of 72ppi.

2. In the toolbar, select the Pen Tool. Pen Tool Photoshop

The shortcut is to hit P on the keyboard.

3. In the Options bar at the top of the screen;

  • Choose Path from the first dropdown option.
  • Click the arrow for Geometry Options and make sure that the Rubber Band check box is not selected in the Path Options pop-up palette.
  • Make sure that the Auto Add/Delete option is selected.
  • Select the Combine Paths option.

Pen Tool Options In PhotoshopNote: If you’re outlining a subject for selection, or for drawing a path to add pixels to afterwards, choose the Path option. If you wanted to draw a vector shape with the Pen tool, you would choose Shape. It’s not the end of the world if you choose the wrong one, but it saves a few steps if you pick the right one before you start.

When you first select the pen tool, before you draw any points, a small x will appear beside the cursor. The x means that you are about to start drawing a new path.
Pen Tool - Start A New Path
It’s important to pay attention to the small symbols which appear beside the Pen tool cursor because it tells you how the Pen will behave.

2. Click once on the document where you want the straight line segment to begin. Do not drag.

3. Click again where you want to add the next point. The points that connect paths are called anchor points.

3 - Add Second Anchor Point

Note: If direction lines appear (they look like extra lines coming out of an anchor point), you’ve accidentally dragged the Pen tool and you will draw a curve rather than a straight line. If that happens, choose Ctrl + Z (Windows) or Cmd + Z (Mac) to undo, and click again.

Notice that the first anchor point you created when you clicked the first time is now hollow, while the last anchor point is a solid square. A solid anchor point means that it is currently selected.

4. To continue creating your straight line segments, just keep clicking on the document where you want to put an anchor point and Photoshop will create the path in between.

4 - Continue Clicking With Pen Tool

Tip: If you want to constrain the angle of the segment to a multiple of 45° hold down the Shift key as you click.

The path you see above is called an Open Path. That means the starting point and the end point are different, they do not join. You do not have to create closed paths every time you draw. Open paths are perfect for drawing all types of lines.

If you want to fill an area with colour though, it’s a good idea to close the path. To close a path, simply click back to the first point you created. You will see a small circle appears next to the Pen tool pointer indicating that the path will close correctly.
Once you close a path, the cursor will immediately change to indicate that the next time you click on the document you will be starting a brand new path.

5 - Closing The Path

If you want to leave a path open but then start another new path, Ctrl + Click (Windows) or Cmd + Click (Mac) anywhere away from the path you drew. Alternatively, you can finish a path by clicking on any other tool in the toolbox.

Adding and Deleting Anchor Points

There will, of course, be times when you want to add extra anchor points to your lines or delete existing anchor points that you don’t need. A good rule of thumb when working with vector graphics is to use as few anchor points as possible to achieve smooth lines. This is particularly true when drawing curved paths with the pen tool, which you’ll see in the next post.

Deleting an anchor point to a path

1. Select the Delete Anchor Point tool from the toolbox (hidden under the Pen tool). Delete Anchor Point Photoshop

2. Click on the point you want to delete.

7 - Delete Anchor Point From Path

Adding an anchor point to a path

1. Select the Add Anchor Point tool in the toolbar. Add-Anchor-Point-Tool Photoshop

2. Click anywhere along a line segment using the Add Anchor Point tool.

8 - Add Anchor Point To Line

Often the path shape may not look very different after you add a point to a straight segment, but when you edit the point (we’ll come to that in a future post) then you’ll see the difference.

Pen Tool Practice!

So that’s how to draw straight line segments, very easy and nothing to be frightened of there. The key to using the Pen tool is practice, practice, practice.

  • Try drawing open paths of Zig Zags.
  • Try drawing closed paths of triangles, rectangles, squares, polygons, stars and other random shapes where the first anchor point becomes the end point.
  • Get a feel for finishing paths and starting new ones. Have a go at drawing all of the shapes below. It will help you get a feel for using the pen tool

Straight paths drawn with the pen tool in photoshop
The next part of this guide will show you how to draw curves with the pen tool in Photoshop.

I hope you’re finding this guide useful and would be super grateful if you would share it. Thank you! 🙂

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