View Full Version : Pen Tool

05-24-2010, 01:01 PM
Does anyone know of a quality tutorial for how to use the Pen Tool. I've already run into a few times when I think it should have been use but I just fall flat every time I try to use it.

Thanks guys!

05-24-2010, 01:04 PM
Sadly it's called 'Practice, Practice, Practice'. There are tonnes of tutorials on the web, but in the end...it's just practice. What software are you using? There are shortcuts. For example if you're using photoshop and you're trying to trace around an object, it's often easier using the magnetic lassoo and quickmask to do the heavy lifting, coverting the selection into a path and tidy up with the pen tool.

05-24-2010, 05:15 PM
That's pretty much it, practice practice practice. I took a week at one point to say i'd work with nothing but the pen tool, no matter how frustrated I got with it. It paid off, it's now one of my favourite tools.

(note, the following assumes photoshop, I imagine other software could be similar)
One of the things I wish i'd been aware of sooner is the pen's behaviour when you're setting points. If you just click once and release, it will drop in a point that acts as a corner - the lines coming out either side will go at sharp angles. If you click to set the point, and (without letting go of the mouse button) drag for a bit, it will create a rounded bezier curve based on that point. Seems simple enough, but remembering that as you go will save you some time since you won't have to go back as often with the "convert point" tool :) And until you get the hang of it, more control points are better than less, so don't be afraid to go click happy while you experiment. Plus you can always set your tool to "add new point" or "delete existing point" once you have the initial line set up.
Another good thing to remember is that you can hold down the ctrl key when dealing with the bezier curves, it will cause the handles for each side of the curve to move without affecting the other handle - handy for those hard to replicate curves :)

One of the things I did to practice (besides doing every tutorial i could get my hands on) was use the font tool to drop in a letter as a selection, converted that to a path, and then messed around with it.

05-24-2010, 05:27 PM
Practice really is the way to go, but here are some things that I've picked up:

When you're trying to replicate a smooth curve, fewer points is better. Don't be afraid of really long control handles if that's what you need to get the job done.

Try to place your vertices at the midpoint of a curve. You'll get more graceful lines that way, and you'll need fewer points.

The direct selection tool is a wonderful thing--it lets you adjust a single point without affecting the rest of your curve. So you don't have to be 100% accurate when you're drawing; you can go back and correct things after you're done. Obviously, though, the more accurate you are at the beginning the less clean-up you'll have to do.

If you're in Illustrator, you can press and hold the spacebar to move a vertex around before you release the mouse button. Unfortunately, Photoshop does not act the same way. I don't know about any other programs.

05-24-2010, 05:37 PM
It's also really handy to know that in PS you can hold down control/command (PC/Mac) when using the pen tool to move a point around or the handle on a placed point. You can also hold down option and click a point to convert it from a point with handles (smooth curve) to a sharp corner. It saves a lot of time switching between tools.

Also, once you have a path, you can switch to another tool and hit enter and it strokes the path with that tool. Really handy.

05-25-2010, 03:29 PM
Thanks for the advice guys, I have a couple town maps coming up, I think I'm going to force myself to use it for the rivers/roads/walls and just get used to it.