photoshop creative

Master the pen tool (part 1)

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
October 18, 2014

Breathe life into your sketches with the Pen Tool!

1. Beginning the process

Make your sketch – it can be of anything and these steps will still be applicable, but we’re going to focus on an intricate pattern that we can turn into a masterpiece. Scan it onto your computer and paste it into Photoshop.

2. New group

A group folder will become very useful and important as you progress through this guide. Within your Layer palette, you will have an option called New Group: select it and call your folder Swirls.

3. Shape paths

Create a new layer, then select the Pen tool (P). You will be using this to trace over your original drawing. Make sure you select the Shape layer at the top-left of the toolbar. This lets you make a shape path.

4. Creating anchor points

Make a start by creating your first anchor point. To do this, click on the canvas at the point you would like to start drawing. Create a second by clicking a few millimetres away from the first point.

5. Drawing curves

Creating curves using the Pen Tool is fairly simple; when you create your next anchor point, try to drag a little bit every time you click over the canvas. Repeat this every time you create a new anchor point.

6. Visualising better

As you continue tracing over your original image, you will notice the visibility of your original drawing being obstructed by your Vector Shape. So, lower the Opacity of your current layer to 10% in order to see your original image better.

7. Pick-up path

You will eventually get to a point where you will want to alter the direction of your curve. After you have clicked and dragged to create the curve, you can then Opt/Alt-click on your current anchor point and move the tangent point into the correct position.

8. Closing the path

When you begin to finish your first shape, you will need to close the path. In order to close your shape you have to click with the Pen on the first anchor point; you will notice a little circle near the Pen. Then make the layer’s Opacity 100% again.

9. Path Selection tool

Once you closed the path to your first shape you will notice that the tangents have disappeared. Grab the Path Selection tool (A) and click on your shape in order to select and/or move existing paths – your vector shape – and to visualise where your tangents are for when editing them.

10. Convert Point tool

Once you have selected your paths, use the Convert Point tool (P) to edit your vector shape. This tool is extremely handy for adapting smooth anchor points to corner anchor points, and vice versa.

Click here for the second part!