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Using the Photoshop 7.0 Pen Tool is a snap

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Old 06-29-2002, 02:17 AM
Doug Nelson's Avatar
Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is offline
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Tutorial: Pen Tool Control

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Ron Lemire saw some questions asked here, so he took the opportunity to write this tutorial on using the pen tool in PS7. It's not only a very good tutorial, but well laid-out as well.

Last edited by Doug Nelson; 01-28-2004 at 01:34 PM.
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Old 06-29-2002, 04:45 AM
etienne etienne is offline
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Extra step??

I'm curious as to the usage of the "C" anchor point. I use the Pen tool frequently because of its unmatched control and accuracy. When I lay down my second anchor I keep the mouse button pressed allowing me to affect the curve as necessary. Perhaps I'm missing something...?

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Old 06-29-2002, 05:58 AM
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CJ Swartz CJ Swartz is offline
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Thumbs down


Well done tutorial, and thanks for the help with the Pen tool -- I do use it, but not as often as I'd like since I've had trouble making the curves and this will help a lot -- I tried it on the sample photo and created a usable selection first time!
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Old 06-29-2002, 06:21 AM
Stephen M Stephen M is offline
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I agree - that is I do not agree with steps B and C, unless there is a point I am missing...

Step A, click the origin point and release mouse.

Step B, move mouse to new point click/hold that click, dont release the mouse drag the anchor point into a curve point from the initial sharp point and bend that curve till it fits, then you can release the mouse button.

Step C, when happy with curve lever handle directions and length (cmd/ctrl key to manipulate the curve lever handle or point) - move onto point C using the same approach as in B...clicking and dragging before releasing the mouse.

I have used bezier curves since Illustrator and FreeHand 3 - and the first job I had to do in Photoshop 2.0 was trace out objects with the pen tool (funny how my first raster task was vector). That was around a decade ago, and today I really appreciate how comfortable I am with bezier curves - they rule.

The simples rule is that the less points are best when describing curves. Bezier drawing tools will only use four points to define a circle or elipse.

I usually recommend zoom views of 200-400% when tracing with the pen tool.

Also of note are key modifiers as you are drawing or manipulating the points or curve levers - such as option or shift.


Stephen Marsh.
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Old 06-29-2002, 06:43 AM
Stephen M Stephen M is offline
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In a related subject to selecting a perfect curve, then this QuickTime movie or Acrobat PDF may be of help:

Although real life situations do not often present a perfectly symetrical object for selection - the point behind this technique is that the simple selection tools can be transformed...


Stephen Marsh.
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Old 06-29-2002, 09:51 AM
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Jakaleena Jakaleena is offline
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Oh, thank you!

I never knew how to control that thing until now. I always felt like I was trying to organize a handful of garden snakes...

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Old 06-29-2002, 11:33 AM
Wanda Schwind Wanda Schwind is offline
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Hey everyone, has anyone tried placing a piece of paper on their tablet for more control. I know it sounds silly, but I find that it works quite well Different thicknesses, different control. Anyhow that's what I do to make pretty decent selections For what it's worth........

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Old 06-30-2002, 01:02 AM
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Missing the point;

As etienne and Stephen M pointed out this tutorial shows an unusual approach to applying the Pen tool.

After Step 7b: I make reference to the following...
"Adjustment handles are also created if you make a new anchor point (i.e. "A", "B", & "F") and move the anchor point without holding down the Ctrl key. This is the procedure used for creating "running" corners (on the fly). This is a very difficult procedure to master".

I frequently use the "running corner" technique myself but there are times when control points just don't set the way you want them to. Members who have mastered this technique are very fortunate.

The intent of this tutorial, however, was to answer a call for a basic tutorial from those members having difficulty applying the "running corner" technique. By first inserting control points as required and then making adjustments via the Ctrl key, this tutorial shows how to maintain total control over the process. This may be perceived as a simplistic use of the Pen tool but, as users gain more confidence they can begin to apply more advanced techniques.

Which ever method is being used don't let your finger stray to far from the Ctrl key.

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Old 06-30-2002, 03:08 AM
etienne etienne is offline
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A pen tool exercise

First a little preparation.


View>click Snap(if it isn't already checked)

View>click Snap to...>Grid(ifit isn't already checked)

Edit>Preferences>Guides, Grid and Slices... and edit
"Gridline every" to | 50 | | Pixels|

Now create a file 500 px sqr. @ 72 dpi

You should now have a gridded 10*10 file

Select the pen tool and click and release on the grid intersection 1 block in from the left and 5 blocks down from the top.

Next click and hold on the grid inter. 5 blocks in from the left and 1 block down from the top. Still holding your mouse button slowly drag to the right till you're 1 block from the file edge and release.

You should now have a nice smooth curve.

Now click one block in from the right and 5 blocks almost exact copy of your first curve.

now repeat the click and draag sequence @ 1 block up from the bottom and 5 in from the right.

Finally click on your first anchor point to close the shape. And there you have it, an almost perfect circle.

You may be a bit confused as to the behaviour of the pen but its quite simple. Once the paths(lines) that the pen draw start going in one direction they want to keep going in that direction. You just plopped down the first anchor so it 's path went straight for the next anchor but as soon as you started pulling out on the second anchor you were affecting the path to teh third one. As a note, you can disengage this "pathfinding", hold down the Alt key and mouse over the anchor (you should see what looks like a tiny protractor hovering next to the tool)then click teh anchor. Now it will act like your initial anchor.
Well there you have it a little intro to the pen tool, what I con sider "THE" extraction tool in photohop.

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Old 06-30-2002, 09:53 AM
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Mike Needham Mike Needham is offline
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Just to add my two pennies to this broil - proper control over the pen tool is really about Ctrl, Shift and Alt keys. Combinations of these in conjunction with the basics will always produce the right results. To my mind Alt is the most used key for me as by pressing it on the middle anchor of last point it will delete it - on you go.
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