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Exploring the Pen Tool

Many people can’t stand Photoshop’s Pen tool when they’re first learning to use it. The Pen tool seems awkward and complex at first. You’ll scream and say “this thing’s impossible to use,” and wonder why there’s such a large section dedicated to this tool. But stick with it; you’ll get the hang of it. And then you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it. It’s like learning to ride a bike. Unfortunately, Photoshop doesn’t provide us with any training wheels. You’ve just got to jump in headfirst.

Don’t worry if you can’t even draw stick people, or you don’t know the difference between van Gogh and Van Damme. You don’t have to be an artist to create incredible works of art with Photoshop. In fact, that’s part of the program’s popularity. You can express yourself creatively without having to worry about artistic technique. Photoshop’s tools (such as the Pen tool) take care of that for you.

Fire up Photoshop and create a new image. Make your image the following size:

  • Width: 775 pixels

  • Height: 420 pixels

  • Resolution: 72 pixels/inch

  • Color Mode: RGB Color 8 bit

  • Background Contents: Transparent
Now, select the Pen tool from the toolbox, as shown in figure below. Click on the arrow to open a list of Pen tools.

Select the Pen tool and hover it over the blank image window you created. You’ll notice the cursor turns into a pen tip.
Before we start creating some masterpieces, let’s take a look at the options available with the Pen tool, as displayed in figure below. These options are available from the options bar.

These options are also available with the Shape tools. These tools rest directly to the right of the Pen tools on the toolbox.
The following list summarizes these options:

  • Shapes: This option allows you to create shapes with the Pen tool. Shapes fill with whatever color you select in the Color Picker. You’ll create shapes with the Pen tool in this chapter to create a web header.

  • Paths: This option allows you to create paths with the Pen tool. Paths are similar to shapes, except they’re not filled with the currently selected color from the Color Picker.

  • Fill Pixels: This option (only available with the Vector Shape tool) fills your shape with the color currently selected in the Foreground color box.

  • Pen Tool: There are a couple choices of Pen tools you can use. This first Pen tool option represents the Standard Pen tool. You’ll probably find yourself using the Standard Pen tool the most.

  • Freeform Pen Tool: This option allows you to draw freehand. You can also choose to make the Pen tool magnetic, which works similar to the Magnetic Lasso tool.

  • Shapes: The Shapes options allow you to pick common shapes: rectangles, rounded rectangles, ellipses, polygons, lines, and custom shapes.

  • Shape Options: Some of the shapes have options (for example, with the line shape you can add arrowheads). Select a shape, and then choose the Shape Options drop-down arrow.

  • Option Selector: This option changes depending on the shape tool you’ve chosen. For example, if you select the Polygon shape, the Option Selector allows you to define the number of sides the shape has.

  • Shape Area Options: These options are similar to the selection options you explored in the last tutorial. These options allow you to create strange and irregular shapes. They include Create New Shapes, Add to Shape Area, Subtract from Shape Area, Intersect from Shape Area, and Exclude Overlapping Shape Area.

  • Set/Change Properties: This option allows you to lock or unlock the layer of your shape. Locking this layer ensures that you cannot make changes to any of its properties (such as adding a bevel and emboss effect).

  • Layer Style: This option allows you to add a style to your shape.

  • Color: This option brings up the Color Picker dialog box, which allows you to change the color of your shape.
Now that you’re familiar with the options of the Pen tool, let’s try drawing with it to create a web header.

In this tutorial:
  1. Creating Web Headers
  2. Exploring the Pen Tool
  3. Creating Curved Lines with the Pen Tool
  4. Editing with Path Selection Tools
  5. Editing with the Point Tool
  6. Changing Path to Selections
  7. Adding Patterns to your Selections


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