It only took four years (I’m a slow learner) but I’ve finally go the hand of the pen tool. (Just not typing, apparently) For those of you who have struggled with this seemingly counter-intuitive tool in photoshop and other software, do not despair – if I can do it, surely you can too!
Ok, so it’s a bit like when I was learning to drive. No gave me a proper analogy for the clutch. I work well with visual analogy. So eventually, I worked out that this was the basic function of a clutch:
The clutch is like the flappy bit (yes, that’s a technical term) keeping the gears where they should be. If you don’t lift it by depressing the clutch, then you can’t change gears. Of course, if you drive an automatic car, you don’t have to worry about this kind of thing.
So onto my eureka moment with the pen tool. I sometimes think that people are too familiar with things to actually be able to explain them properly any more. The pen tool is clearly one of those things.
So, how does one go about using it with any amount of predictability? (That was always my problem – I had no idea what way the damn curves were going to turn, as everyone had always instructed me to adjust the curves as I placed the anchor points.) It’s easy. I’m going to focus on how to draw curves for this post. So I want you to forget about drawing curves. OK?
Start with a new document. I’m not going to insult you by telling you how to do that. Also, I’m lazy and short of time.
Ladies and Gentlemen, choose your weapon. Pick the pen tool. Looks like a fountain pen. Got it?
Let’s say we want to draw an nice hemisphere. Then let’s start with a TRIANGLE!!! Who woulda thunk…..
Just click on three points. The pen tool will connect them in to an open ended triangle. If you want a closed hemisphere, then click back on the first one when finished.
Now here’s the bit I always struggled with. Select the convert point tool. Last item on the expanding menu.
Also, I’ve found that it’s easier to get a nice result if I adjust ever second point in the first instance. So here, I’m going to use the convert point tool by clicking on the second of my three points and then dragging the little handles that appear. Initially, they will expand at an equal rate in opposite directions.
Now you can pull and drag the handles individually to adjust, distort and manipulate your curve.
ANNNND, you can also swing those handles 360 degrees, so you can do stuff like this:
From here on, you can do all kinds of amazing things with paths – make custom shapes, selections, vector masks….loads of stuff I’ve still got to get my head around.
But that’s a post for another day.
Hey, before I go though, your path will initially be the Work Path in your paths menu. If you don’t give it a name, it will be lost for ever when you start to create a new path for yourself. See? Photoshop is really a philosophical tool after all.
I hope this saves even one person the years of torture I’ve had with the Pen Tool. And makes the pros smile cos of my stupidz.
Over and out.