Reshaping paths

The white arrow tool — known in official Adobe circles as the direct selection tool — represents the foremost path-reshaping function in Photoshop. To select this tool from the keyboard, first press A to select the new black arrow tool and then press A again to toggle to the white arrow. Or just Alt-click the black arrow tool in the toolbox. (You use the black arrow to select, relocate, and duplicate entire paths or subpaths, as explained in the upcoming section "Moving and cloning paths.")

Tip Press and hold Ctrl to access the white arrow tool temporarily when one of the pen or path edit tools are selected. When you release Ctrl, the cursor returns to the selected tool. This is a great way to edit a path while you're drawing it.

However you put your hands on the white arrow, you can perform any of the following functions with it:

* Selecting points: Click a point to select it independently of other points in a path. Shift-click to select an additional point, even if the point belongs to a different subpath than other selected points. Alt-click a path to select all its points in one fell swoop. You can even marquee points by dragging in a rectangle around them. You cannot, however, apply commands from the Select menu, such as All or None, to the selection of paths.

* Drag selected points: To move one or more points, select them and then drag one of the selected points. All selected points move the same distance and direction. When you move a point while a neighboring point remains stationary, the segment between the two points shrinks, stretches, and bends to accommodate the change in distance. Segments located between two selected or deselected points remain unchanged during a move.

Tip You can move selected points in 1 pixel increments by pressing arrow keys. If both a portion of the image and points in a path are selected, the arrow keys move the points only. Because paths reside on a higher layer, they take prece dence in all functions that might concern them.

* Drag a straight segment: You also can reshape a path by dragging its segments. When you drag a straight segment, the two corner points on either side of the segment move as well. As illustrated in Figure 8-30, the neighboring segments stretch, shrink, or bend to accommodate the drag.

This technique works best with straight segments drawn with the default pen tool. Segments created by Alt-clicking with the freeform or magnetic pen may include trace control handles that make Photoshop think the segment is actually curved.

* Drag a curved segment: When you drag a curved segment, you stretch, shrink, or bend that segment, as demonstrated in Figure 8-31.

When you drag a curved segment, drag from the middle of the segment, approximately equidistant from both its points. This method provides the best leverage and ensures that the segment doesn't go flying off in some weird direction you hadn't anticipated.

Caution

Figure 8-30: Drag a straight segment to move the segment and change the length, direction, and curvature of the neighboring segments.
Figure 8-31: Drag a curved segment to change the curvature of that segment only and leave the neighboring segments unchanged.

♦ Drag a Bezier control handle: Select a point and drag either of its Bezier control handles to change the curvature of the corresponding segment without moving any of the points in the path. If the point is a smooth point, moving one handle moves both handles in the path. If you want to move a smooth handle independently of its partner, you must use the convert point tool, as discussed in the "Converting points" section later in this chapter.

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