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Paths Tutorials

Learn how to use the Pen tools to create paths and vector graphics


Create Work Document

For the tutorials, create a working document.
  1. Show the steps
    1. Click File > New.  The New file dialog box will be displayed.
    2. Set width to 250 pixels
    3. Height to 250 pixels
    4. Resolution to 96 pixels/inch
    5. Color mode to RBG Color
    6. Bit depth to 8 bit
    7. Background Contents to white
    8. Expand Advanced settings
    9. Set Color Profile to sRGB, Adobe RGB (1998) or your usual RGB color space
    10. Click OK

 

Set Pen Tool Options

Before using a Pen tool for these tutorials, you will first want to set a few basic options.
  1. Tell me how
    1. Select any Pen tool to display the Pen tool Options bar.  In the Options bar,
      •  select the Paths option Paths Option,
      •  make sure Auto Add/Delete is checked, and
      •  make sure Add to path area (+) Add to Path option is selected.

 

Set Grid Options

For the tutorials, set the grid options.
  1. Show the steps
    1. In Edit > Preferences > Guides, Grids and Slices, set Grid Color to black, Grid Styles to Lines, Gridline Every 96 pixels and Subdivisions to 4.
    2. Make sure View > Show > Grid is checked.  A working document will have to be open to set the View options
    3. Make sure View > Snap is checked
    4. Make sure View > Snap To > Grid is checked
    5. At this time, use Ctrl + ' (Command + ') to toggle the grid off.

 

Lesson 1 - Drawing Lines

  1. Show the lesson
    1. Create a working document as described above.

      Lines
      Figure 1.  Lines

    2. If the grid is visible, use Ctrl + ' (Command + ') to toggle the grid off.
    3. Activate the Paths panel
    4. Activate the Pen tool Pen tool
    5. Make sure the Pen tool options are set as described above.  Show the options again
      1. In the Options bar,
        •  select the Paths option Paths Option,
        •  make sure Auto Add/Delete is checked, and
        •  make sure Add to path area (+) Add to Path option is selected.
    6. Click the Geometry Options down arrow.  Make sure Rubber Band is checked.
    7. Click anywhere in the document.  A small black square will appear.  This is the first anchor point.
    8. Move the mouse, without dragging the cursor, around the document.  A line will be drawn and it will follow the cursor as you move the mouse.  If you do not see a line, then the Rubber Band option is turned off.  Remember, do not click and drag the cursor as you move the mouse.
    9. Click anywhere in the document.  Another anchor point will be created and a fixed line will be drawn between the two points.
    10. Move the cursor to the side.  Another line will follow the cursor.  Ctrl + click (Command + click).  This will stop the creation of the path.  You have now created a path consisting of two static anchor points and the straight line between them.

 

Lesson 2 - Drawing Curves

  1. Show the lesson
    1. Create a working document as described above.

      Curves
      Figure 2.  Curves

    2. If the grid is visible, use Ctrl + ' (Command + ') to toggle the grid off.
    3. Activate the Paths panel
    4. Activate the Pen tool Pen tool
    5. Make sure the Pen tool options are set as described above.  Show the options again
      1. In the Options bar,
        •  select the Paths option Paths Option,
        •  make sure Auto Add/Delete is checked, and
        •  make sure Add to path area (+) Add to Path option is selected.
    6. Click the Geometry Options down arrow.  Make sure Rubber Band is checked.
    7. Somewhere in the middle of the document, click + drag the cursor straight up.  Two lines will be drawn.  However, these are not path lines.  They are dynamic anchor point handles.
    8. Drag until you are about a quarter of the way to the top.  Release the mouse.
    9. Move the cursor to the right and down without clicking and dragging the cursor.  A line will follow the cursor.
    10. When you are parallel to the first anchor point, click + drag the cursor down.  The floating line will begin to bend upward.
    11. When you have a semi-circle, release the mouse to complete the curve.  Move the cursor to the side.  Another line will follow the cursor.  Ctrl + click (Command + click) to stop the creation of the path.


It always takes at least two anchor points to create a line or curve.  When creating a simple curve, you drag the first anchor point in the direction you want the curve to follow.  You then drag the second anchor point in the opposite direction to increase the radius of the curve.

 

Lesson 3 - Drawing Squares and Rectangles

  1. Show the lesson
    1. Create a working document as described above.

      Squares and Rectangles
      Figure 3.  Squares and Rectangles

    2. If the grid is visible, use Ctrl + ' (Command + ') to toggle the grid off.
    3. Activate the Paths panel
    4. Either activate the Rectangle tool, or activate the Pen tool and in the Options bar select the Rectangle tool Rectangle tool.
    5. Make sure the options bar settings are set as described above.  Show the options again
      1. In the Options bar,
        •  select the Paths option Paths Option,
        •  make sure Auto Add/Delete is checked, and
        •  make sure Add to path area (+) Add to Path option is selected.
    6. Click the Geometry Options down arrow and select the appropriate option.  Show the geometry options
      1. Unconstrained – The rectangle will have uneven sides.
      2. Square – The rectangle will have all sides of equal length.
      3. Fixed Size – Allows you to specify an exact size.  Once specified, just click in the document window and the shape will be drawn to that size.  Be sure to specify the unit of measure, such as 100 px or 50 mm.
      4. Proportional – Allows you to specify an aspect ratio.  As you draw the rectangle, this aspect ratio will be enforced.
      5. From Center – If unchecked, the shape will begin where the cursor is clicked.  If checked, the shape's center will be located where the cursor is clicked.
      6. Snap to Pixels – If unchecked, the shape boundaries do not have to begin and end on whole pixels.  This can result in pixels being partly inside and partly outside the shape.  If checked, the shape boundaries will begin and end on whole pixels.  I recommend this option be checked for more accurate scaling.  However, if checked and a fixed size is specified, this option will force the fixed size to either expand or contract to end on whole pixels.  Therefore, the shape may not be exactly the size you specified.
    7. Click + drag to draw the shape.  If you specified a fixed size, just click once.
    8. Release the mouse when done.


To draw a rounded corner rectangle or a rounded corner square, use the same steps above, but use the Rounded Rectangle tool Rounded Rectangle tool and specify a radius for the corners.

 

Lesson 4 - Drawing Circles and Ellipses

  1. Show the lesson
    1. Create a working document as described above.

      Circles and Ellipses
      Figure 4.  Circles and Ellipses

    2. If the grid is visible, use Ctrl + ' (Command + ') to toggle the grid off.
    3. Activate the Paths panel
    4. Either activate the Ellipse tool, or activate the Pen tool and in the Options bar select the Ellipse tool Ellipse tool.
    5. Make sure the options bar settings are set as described above.  Show the options again
      1. In the Options bar,
        •  select the Paths option Paths Option,
        •  make sure Auto Add/Delete is checked, and
        •  make sure Add to path area (+) Add to Path option is selected.
    6. Click the Geometry Options down arrow and select the appropriate option.  Show the geometry options
      1. Unconstrained – The ellipse can be any shape oval.
      2. Circle – The shape will be a true circle with equal radius in all directions.
      3. Fixed Size – Allows you to specify an exact size for the shape.  If width and height are the same, a circle will be drawn.  Once specified, just click in the document window and the shape will be drawn to that size.  Be sure to specify the unit of measure, such as 100 px or 50 mm.
      4. Proportional – Allows you to specify an aspect ratio.  As you draw the ellipse, this aspect ratio will be enforced.
      5. From Center – If unchecked, the shape will begin where the cursor is clicked.  If checked, the shape's center will be located where the cursor is clicked.
    7. Click + drag to draw the shape.  If you specified a fixed size, just click once.
    8. Release the mouse when done.

 

Lesson 5 - Drawing Polygons, Stars and Equilateral triangles

  1. Show the lesson
    1. Create a working document as described above.

      Polygon
      Figure 5.  Polygon and Stars and Equilateral Triangles

    2. If the grid is visible, use Ctrl + ' (Command + ') to toggle the grid off.
    3. Activate the Paths panel
    4. Either activate the Polygon tool, or activate the Pen tool and in the Options bar select the Polygon tool Polygon tool.
    5. Make sure the options bar settings are set as described above.  Show the options again
      1. In the Options bar,
        •  select the Paths option Paths Option,
        •  make sure Auto Add/Delete is checked, and
        •  make sure Add to path area (+) Add to Path option is selected.
    6. In the Options bar, specify the number of sides.  If sides is greater than 4, a polygon will be drawn.  If sides is 4, a square will be drawn.  If sides is 3, an equilateral triangle will be drawn.  Sides cannot be less than 3 and cannot be greater than 100.  The default is 5.
    7. Click the Geometry Options down arrow and select the appropriate options.  Show the geometry options
      1. Radius – If blank, the size of the shape will be unconstrained and will be determined by how far the cursor is dragged.  If a value is specified, this will create a shape of a fixed size.
      2. Smooth Corners – The shape will be drawn with rounded corners.  If checked, the more sides to the shape, the more the shape will resemble a circle.  This option will be more noticeable when drawing a star.
      3. Star – Will draw a star with the number of sides specified.
      4. Indent Sides By – This option is only available when creating a star.  Determines how deep the star's arms are to be indented.  The value specified is a percent of the shape's radius.  For example, if 50% is specified then the distance between an imaginary line between two star tips and the base of the indent will be 50% of the radius.  The default is 50%.
      5. Smooth Indents – This option is only available when creating a star.  Denotes that the indent is to be rounded.  This option can be used in conjunction with the Smooth Corners option.  Smooth Corners will round the tips of the star.  Smooth Indents will round the base of the indent.
    8. Click + drag to draw the shape.
    9. Release the mouse when done.

 

Lesson 6 - Line shapes and Arrows

  1. Show the lesson
    1. Create a working document as described above.

      Arrow
      Figure 6.  Line Shapes and Arrows

    2. If the grid is visible, use Ctrl + ' (Command + ') to toggle the grid off.
    3. Activate the Paths panel
    4. Either activate the Line tool, or activate the Pen tool and in the Options bar select the Line tool Line tool.
    5. Make sure the options bar settings are set as described above.  Show the options again
      1. In the Options bar,
        •  select the Paths option Paths Option,
        •  make sure Auto Add/Delete is checked, and
        •  make sure Add to path area (+) Add to Path option is selected.
    6. In the Options bar, specify the Weight of the line.  This is the thickness of the line.
    7. To create a single or double headed arrow, click the Geometry Options down arrow and select the appropriate options.  Show the geometry options
      1. Start – An arrowhead will be created where you start drawing the line.
      2. End – An arrowhead will be created where you stop drawing the line.  If both Start and End are checked, a double headed arrow will be created.
      3. Width – The width of the arrowhead will be this percent of the weight specified in the Options bar.  For example, if weight is 10 pixels and width is 200% then the width of the arrowhead will be 20 pixels.  The default is 300%.
      4. Length – The length of the arrowhead will be this percent of the weight specified in the Options bar.  For example, if weight is 10 pixels and length is 300% then the length of the arrowhead will be 30 pixels.  The default is 300%.
      5. Concavity – Denotes if the base of the arrowhead is concave or convex.  Use a percent between -50% to 50%.  A positive percent will concave the base.  A negative percent will convex the percent.  If zero, the base of the arrowhead will be flat.
    8. Click + drag to draw the line or arrow.
    9. Release the mouse when done.

 

Lesson 7 - Custom Shapes

  1. Show the lesson
    1. Create a working document as described above.

      Custom Shape
      Figure 7.  Custom Shape

    2. If the grid is visible, use Ctrl + ' (Command + ') to toggle the grid off.
    3. Activate the Paths panel
    4. Either activate the Custom Shape tool, or activate the Pen tool and in the Options bar select the Custom Shape tool Custom Shape tool.
    5. Make sure the options bar settings are set as described above.  Show the options again
      1. In the Options bar,
        •  select the Paths option Paths Option,
        •  make sure Auto Add/Delete is checked, and
        •  make sure Add to path area (+) Add to Path option is selected.
    6. In the Options bar, click the Shape down arrow and select the desired shape.
    7. Click the Geometry Options down arrow and select the appropriate options.  Show the geometry options
      1. Unconstrained – The custom shape can have different aspect ratios as well as any size.
      2. Defined Proportions – The custom shape can be any size, but the aspect ratio will be preserved as you draw the shape.
      3. Defined Size – Will create the shape to it's original size.  Just click in the document window and the shape will be drawn to that size.
      4. Fixed Size – Allows you to specify an exact size for the shape.  Once specified, just click in the document window and the shape will be drawn to that size.  Be sure to specify the unit of measure, such as 100 px or 50 mm.
      5. From Center – If unchecked, the shape will begin where the cursor is clicked.  If checked, the shape's center will be located where the cursor is clicked.
    8. Click + drag to draw the shape.
    9. Release the mouse when done.

 

Saving Custom Shapes

If you create a shape that you wish to reuse, you can save it as a custom shape.
  1. Show the steps
    1. Create the desired shape
    2. In the Paths panel, select the path containing the shape you wish to save as a custom shape
    3. Click Edit > Define Custom Shape.  The Shape Name dialog box will be displayed.
    4. Enter a meaningful name and click OK
    5. Activate the Custom Shape tool Custom Shape tool
    6. Click the custom shape picker down arrow.  Be sure to click the custom shape picker down arrow and not the Geometry Options down arrow.  The new shape will appear in the list of available shapes.
    7. To save the new custom shape as part of a custom shape library, click the flyout menu Fly Out Menu and select Save Shapes.

 

Lesson 8 - Selections, Paths and Vector Masks

  1. Create a selection from a path.  Show the steps
    1. If the path is in the vector mask of a shape layer, activate the shape layer in the Layers panel.
    2. Activate the Paths panel.
    3. Click the path you wish to turn into a selection.
    4. At the bottom of the Paths panel, click the Load path as selection icon Load path as selection tool.  A selection grid will be drawn.

 

  1. Create a path from a selection.  Show the steps
    1. Draw the selection using the most appropriate tool.
    2. Activate the Paths panel.
    3. At the bottom of the Paths panel, click the Make work path from selection icon Make work path from selection.  A path will be created from the selection..
    4. If you wish for the path to be saved with the file, double click the path and give it a meaningful name.

 

  1. Create a vector mask form a path.  Show the steps
    1. Draw the path using any of the techniques described above.
    2. In the Layers panel, activate the layer you wish to add the vector mask to.
    3. Make sure you still see the path in the document window.  If you do not, activate the Paths panel, click the path and then reactivate the Layers panel.
    4. Activate the Masks panel.
    5. At the top of the Masks panel, click the Add a vector mask icon Add a vector mask.  A vector mask containing the shape created in step 1 will be created.

 

Lesson 9 - Boomerang, Drawing Multiple Curves in One Path  Windows Media Player  Quick Time Player  Flash Player  (2:49)

  1. Show the lesson
    1. Create a working document as described above.

      Polygon
      Figure 10.  Boomerang

    2. If the grid is visible, use Ctrl + ' (Command + ') to toggle the grid off.
    3. Activate the Paths panel
    4. Activate the Pen tool Pen tool
    5. Make sure the Pen tool options are set as described above.  Show the options again
      1. In the Options bar,
        •  select the Paths option Paths Option,
        •  make sure Auto Add/Delete is checked, and
        •  make sure Add to path area (+) Add to Path option is selected.
    6. Click the Geometry Options down arrow.  Make sure Rubber Band is checked.
    7. Step 1. In the upper left corner of the document, click + drag upward then release to create the first anchor point.
    8. Step 2. Move the cursor to the right.  Click + drag downward to the right and then release to create the second anchor point.
    9. Step 3. Move the cursor to the lower right corner.  Click + drag to the left and then release to create the third anchor point.
    10. Step 4. Move the cursor up, close to the second anchor point.  Click + drag upward then release to create the fourth anchor point.
    11. Step 5. Move the cursor over the first anchor point until a small circle appears in the lower right of the cursor Add to Path option.  Click to close the path.

 

 

Lesson 10 - Transitioning between Curve and Line  Windows Media Player  Quick Time Player  Flash Player  (1:10)

In this lesson, we draw two curves separated by a straight line.

  1. Show the lesson
    1. Create a working document as described above.

      Curve and Line
      Figure 9.  Transitioning Between Curve and Line

    2. If the grid is visible, use Ctrl + ' (Command + ') to toggle the grid off.
    3. Activate the Paths panel
    4. Activate the Pen tool Pen tool
    5. Make sure the Pen tool options are set as described above.  Show the options again
      1. In the Options bar,
        •  select the Paths option Paths Option,
        •  make sure Auto Add/Delete is checked, and
        •  make sure Add to path area (+) Add to Path option is selected.
    6. Click the Geometry Options down arrow.  Make sure Rubber Band is checked.
    7. Step 1. In the left side of the document, click + drag upward then release to create the first anchor point.
    8. Step 2. Move the cursor to the right.  Click + drag downward and then release to create the second anchor point.  This will create the first curve.
    9. Step 3. Alt + click (Option + click) the second anchor point you just created and then release.  This deletes the handle we will not be using.
    10. Make sure you release the Alt (Option) key.
    11. Step 4. Move the cursor to the right.  Click then release to create the third anchor point.  This will create the straight line.
    12. Step 5. Alt + click + drag (Option + click + drag) downward the third anchor point you just created and then release.
    13. Make sure you release the mouse.
    14. Step 6. Move the cursor to the right.  Click + drag upward to create the fourth anchor point.  This completes the second curve.
    15. Move the cursor to the side.  Another line will follow the cursor.  Ctrl + click (Command + click) to stop the creation of the path.

 

 

Moving Paths

If the path to be moved is stored in the Paths panel, use the Path Selection tool Path Selection tool to move it.  If the path is stored in a vector mask, use the Move tool Move tool.

 

Combining Paths

If you have two shape layers and you wish to combine them into a single shape layer, you cannot use the merge layers command.  If you use the merge layers command, it will create a pixel layer and not a vector layer.  To combine the paths from different vector masks, use the following steps.
  1. Show the steps
    1. Activate the Layers panel.
    2. Click the vector mask of the second shape layer.  The path should become visible in the document window.
    3. Click Edit > Cut.  The vector mask will be deleted and your document window will become a solid color.
    4. Click the vector mask of the first shape layer.  Its path should become visible in the document window.
    5. Click Edit > Paste.  Both paths should now be visible in the document window.
    6. Delete the second shape layer, the one whose vector mask was deleted previously.  Your document should look normal and the vector mask of the first shape layer will now have both paths