How to Use Photoshop’s Pen Tool

By Melissa Evans

Pen Tool Tutorial Recommended for Beginner Level Photoshop Users

In this Photoshop tutorial we will explore how to use the pen tool.

First, we will look at the pen tool’s basic controls. We will examine creating paths, curvature modification and anchor point adjustments.

Next, on the flollowing page, we will use our new pen tool skills to cut out an image. This skill is so essential to know when using Adobe Photoshop, and it really illustrates the power behind the pen tool.

Finally we will see how a path created with the pen tool can be used to create custom shapes. Custom shapes are vectors so they will never pixelate or lose quality. Again this is such a handy skill, you’ll end up using it all the time!


Photoshop’s pen tool you have three options: Create a new work path, Create a new shape layer, and Fill Pixels.

Photoshop Pen Tool

We will use the Create a new work path option as this the most commonly used. You can find these options in the top left hand corner of the Photoshop window. See the image below.

Create a Path in Photoshop

Just like selection tools, the pen tool has several different options for the resulting path. The most commonly used is “add to path area”. See image below.

Pen Tool Tutorial 2a

Take your pen tool and click on a blank canvas similar to what I have done below. Each time you click you create an anchor point.

Photoshop Pen Tool Tutorial 3

Hold down Shft, move the mouse and click again. Holding down shift while making an anchor point creates it in a straight line with the last anchor point.

Photoshop Pen Tool Tutorial 4

We can add and delete anchor points on the path we have created. Right click on the pen tool on the toolbar to reveal further tools. Use the Add and Delete Anchor Point Tool to do just that!

Photoshop Pen Tool Tutorial 3

I used the Delete Anchor Point Tool to remove the forth anchor point.

Photoshop Pen Tool Tutorial 6

Now, let’s look at the Convert Point Tool for curvature modification and moving anchor points.
Photoshop Pen Tool Tutorial 7

With the convert point tool click and drag on the second anchor point. Without letting go, move the mouse around and see how it affects the curve. The line that is created is called the Tangent Line. The tangent line controls the curvature of the curve.

Photoshop Pen Tool Tutorial 8

Holding down Ctrl click on the anchor point and move the mouse, see how this allows you to move the anchor point.

Photoshop Pen Tool Tutorial 9

Click on one end of the tangent line and drag.

Photoshop Pen Tool Tutorial 10

This breaks the tangent line in half and creates sharp path changes.

Photoshop Pen Tool Tutorial 11

Move the entire path by selecting the Path Component Selection Tool from the toolbar and drag the path to a new location.

Photoshop Pen Tool Tutorial 12

Delete your path by right clicking on the path and select Delete Path.

Finally I will briefly touch on another style of creating a path. With your pen tool create two anchor points however on the second click don’t let go, drag the click to create the tangent line. The tangent line will affect the next anchor point that you create. Try it out. I don’t use this technique because I find it slower but many do…use the technique that feels right for you.

So that’s the basics of Photoshop pen tool. Try the following exercises on the next page, cutting out an image and creating a custom shape, to practice your use of the pen tool.

Pen Tool exercises >>