photoshop creative

Design simple posters with the Pen tool

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Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
January 19, 2016

Get creative and draw your own wall poster using the Pen tool


1. Create points


Try to start an illustration with a sketch, either digitally or scanned in. Select the Pen tool (P). Click to make your first point, drag slightly to create two anchor points. Click and drag again to make your second point; the more you drag, the bigger the curve.

2. Create shapes


Create six more points as shown, then Path. On the top toolbar, select Shape. Press U to bring up the Shape tools and select your Fill and Stroke colours for your shape. Here a red Fill, with a slightly darker red Stroke.

3. Adjust points


Reselect the Pen tool (P). Use your sketch or the tutorial image as a guide to draw more shapes. If you make a mistake with your point curve or placement, use Click/ Drag+Alt to adjust the curve, and Click/ Drag+Cmd/Ctrl to move the point.

4. Stroke paths


As well as creating shapes, you can stroke a path directly. Right-click>Stroke Path. Make sure your brush is set to 100% Hard and quite small, and select Brush from the drop-down. You can also check Stimulate Pressure to give a tapered effect.

5. Find a font


Any font can be manipulated; you can use one that you already have or download a new font from sites such as Once you’ve downloaded one you want, unzip on your computer and install as normal – it will now be usable in Photoshop.

6. Place letters on layers


Select the Text tool (T). To allow full manipulation you’ll need each letter on a different layer. Click to create a layer and type a letter, select the Move tool, reselect the Text tool and click again. This will automatically make a new layer.

7. Transform the letters


Select one of your letter layers. Hit Cmd/Ctrl+T to bring up the Transform options. Use the corner handles to Rotate and Scale. Hold down Shift to keep proportions or rotate at set angles. You can also move the letter. Transform all of your letters.

8. Reorder and recolour


You can reorder letters using the Layers palette; simply drag the layer above or below the others. Adjust the colours by highlighting the text and changing the Foreground colour. This will have to be done one letter at a time.

9. Isolate text sections


With the text that was used in this tutorial, the centre is currently blank. To isolate sections, use the Magic Wand tool (W) to click on the area that you’d like to select, in this case the centre of the letter R, so marching ants appear.

10. Fill letter sections


Create a new layer (Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+N) and use the Paint Bucket (G) to fill your selection on the new layer. This will appear as if the centre of the letter is coloured. Repeat with any other sections you want to colour, and keep the new layers in the correct order.

11. Find some textures


You can find textures online, but it’s also very easy to capture your own; we used a chalkboard. Take a photo of anything and load it onto your computer. Then drag textures onto your canvas as top layers.

12. Change blend mode


Once your texture is in place, cycle what different effects you can get. Overlay or Soft Light are often good ones to start with. Set different layers to different blend modes for interesting effects.

13. Adjust the layers


When you’re happy with how the layers blend, adjust the colours or contrast levels using adjustment layers. Select the black-and-white circle icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, and use Levels for contrast or Color Balance for colour changes.