And Modify A Path

What You'll Do

In this lesson, you'll create and name a path, expand the path to give it a wider, more curved appearance, then fill it with the foreground color.

Using Pen and Shape Tools

You have seen how you can use a clipping mask to create a mask effect. You can also create a path to serve as a mask by using any of the shape tools—the Pen Tool, the Freeform Pen Tool, or the Magnetic Pen Tool. You can modify a path using any of the following Pen tools: the Add Anchor Point Tool, Delete Anchor Point Tool, Convert Point Tool, Direct Selection Tool, and the Path Selection Tool. Table 2 describes some of these tools and their functions. When you select a pen tool, you can choose to create a shape layer or a path by choosing the appropriate option on the options bar.

Creating a Path

Unlike temporary selections, paths you create are saved with the image they were created in and stored on the Paths palette. Although you can't print paths unless they are filled or stroked, you can always display a path and make modifications to it. You can create a path based on an existing object, or you can create your own shape with a pen tool. To create a closed path, you must position the pointer on top of the first anchor point. A small circle appears next to the pointer, indicating that the path will be closed when the pointer is clicked. Figure 9 shows an image of a young woman and the Paths palette containing three paths. The active path (Starfish 1) displays the starfish in the lower-right corner. Like the Layers palette, each path thumbnail displays a representation of its path. You can click a thumbnail on the Paths palette to see a specific path. The way that you create a path depends on the tool you choose to work with. The Pen Tool requires that you click using the pointer each time you want to add a smooth (curved) or corner anchor point, whereas the Freeform Pen Tool only requires you to click once to begin creating the path, and places the anchor points for you as you drag the pointer.

Modifying a Path

After you establish a path, you can modify it and convert it into a selection. For example, you can add more curves to an existing path, widen it, or fill a path with the foreground color. Before you can modify an unselected path, you must select it with the Direct Selection Tool. When you do so, you can manipulate its individual anchor points without affecting the entire path. Moving an anchor point automatically forces the two line segments on either side of the anchor point to shrink or grow, depending on which direction you move the anchor point. You can also click individual line segments and move them to new locations. If you are working with a curved path, you can shorten or elongate the direction handles associated with each smooth point to adjust the


Multiple paths for the same image


Multiple paths for the same image

Current path Current path thumbnail

amount of curve or length of the corresponding line segment.

Other methods for modifying a path include adding anchor points, deleting anchor points, and converting corner anchor points into smooth anchor points, or vice versa. Adding anchor points splits an existing line segment into two, giving you more sides to your object. Deleting an anchor point does the reverse. Deleting anchor points is helpful when you have a bumpy path that is the result of too many anchors. Converting corner points into smooth points can give your drawing a softer appearance; converting smooth points into corner points can give your drawing a sharper appearance.


Each time you click and drag using the Add Anchor pointer, you are adding smooth anchor points. You use two direction handles attached to each anchor point to control the length, shape, and slope of the curved segment.


You can press [Alt] (Win) or [option] (Mac) while you click a path thumbnail to view the path and select it at the same time.

TABLE 2: Pen Tools




Pen Tool

Creates curved or straight line segments, connected by anchor points.

Freeform Pen Tool

Creates unique shapes by placing anchor points at each change of direction.

Magnetic Pen Tool

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(Activated by clicking the Magnetic check box on the options bar.) Lets the Freeform Pen Tool find an object's edge.

Add Anchor Point Tool

Adds an anchor point to an existing path or shape.

Delete Anchor Point Tool

Removes an anchor point from an existing path or shape.

Convert Point Tool

Converts a smooth point to a corner point and a corner point to a smooth point.

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