Photoshop Pen Tool Tutorial | Create a Clipping Path

Photoshop pen tool uses to create a clipping path. But, when you don’t know how to use the Pen tool in Adobe Photoshop, you will struggle to make selections in Photoshop.

Unfortunately, most people find learning how to use the Pen tool in Photoshop, complicated, and confusing. That is why they don’t show interest in working with this tool.

This article will discuss the basics of the Pen tool in Adobe Photoshop. And you will find it easy after learning.
So, let’s start learning.

What is the Pen Tool in Photoshop?

The Pen Tool is one of the basic tools of Photoshop. When you learn about Photoshop, the Pen Tool is the first thing you will touch. The working area of the Pen Tool is vast. The Pen Tool is most probably the most used and most powerful tool you will find in Photoshop.

The first task that the Pen Tool can do is to create clipping paths and shapes all along with the artboard and wherever needed. Those shapes and paths can be duplicated and manipulated. By duplicating and manipulating those shapes and paths, one can easily create complex selections, masks, and objects.

The brush tool and pencil tool are only capable of drawing pixels over the image. But the Pen Tool is not like them. It is quite different and vast from those two tools. While using the pen tool, it always creates a vector path on the artboard.

When you see the path panel, the vector path will either appear as the work path or as the shape path. As you will use the Pen Tool mostly for freehand art, it is the most needed and most used tool.

Photoshop Pen Tool

What Are Some Common Uses for The Photoshop Pen Tool?

The Pen Tool is the commonly used tool in Photoshop by any user. There are a lot of areas where you can use the Pen Tool. This tool is also considered the most valuable tool of the entire Photoshop.
A pen works as the first touch of knowledge for any kid. In the same way, the Pen Tool also works as a pen for new users. In the path in front, that Pen Tool has more and more usage in Photoshop.

You can re-shape, modify, store, and reuse the paths and shapes you created using the Photoshop Pen Tool. It can be your major weapon in many sectors. You might need to remove the background from a product image. The Pen Tool is necessary for that.

Sometimes you may need to select any part or portion from any product image. Then change the color of it and do that with the help of the Pen Tool. It is also capable of creating multiple paths within any image.
You can also create multiple clipping path segments within any particular path by using the Photoshop Pen Tool. You can also create custom shapes with the help of the shapes and paths that you created before. As a result, you can mark any particular area of the image using it.

The shape tools can also create shapes over the image. But they will be particularly as the tool will be. Like, rectangular shape tool for a rectangular tool or an ellipse tool for an ellipse shape. But the Pen Tool comes with the option of manipulating that shape as you want.

Where is the Pen Tool in Photoshop?

While opening Photoshop, you will find a window above. After that, you will also see a toolbar on the left side of your screen. There is a working panel on your right side as well. You can customize both the toolbar, panel and window later.

The Pen Tool is not hard to find as it is located in the lower part of the toolbar on the left side. It is located there by default in Photoshop. There is a pen sign for the pen tool. Take the arrow there first. Then click and hold over there.
After that, you will see six different Pen Tools will appear as options. Choose any of them as per your need. You will find six tools if you are using CC 2020 or above version of Photoshop as the older version than CC 2018 contains five Pen Tool options.

There is a shortcut process that will take you to the pen tool. Just click P from your keyboard, and then you will see the pen tool option.

pen tool option

Where is the Paths Panel in Photoshop?

The Pen Tool and the paths panel are close as they are like hand-in-hand relations. They are both needed for each other. When you use the Photoshop Pen Tool, you will surely use the paths panel to continue your work. So, the path panel should be easily visible on the screen.

There are some options for workspace. Moreover, you can change and customize that too. The paths tab is not hard to find, as it will be visible on the Layers panel on your screen. If you don’t find that, there is another option as well.

You will see a menu named “Window” almost at the end of that bar. You have to click on that option. After clicking on that option, a long option bar will appear. On the lower half of that bar, you will see the Paths panel.
When you click on that option, the Paths panel will appear at the bottom right corner of your screen.

Where is the Paths Panel in Photoshop

Photoshop Pen Tool Settings Overview

If you want to create a new path, you will find a total of four different Pen Tool options in the Photoshop version of CC 2020 or above. They are:

  • The Basic Pen Tool
  • The Freeform Pen Tool
  • The Curvature Pen Tool
  • The Magnetic Pen Tool

Among them, the Magnetic Pen Tool will be visible when you adjust the settings options of the Freeform Pen Tool.
You may have a question about the use of the other three Tool options in the path panel. Like Add Anchor Point Tool, Delete Anchor Point Tool, and Convert Point Tool. They are not like the four Pen Tool above. Rather, you can use these three tools to change or modify any existing path or shape.

Pen Tool settings overview

When you use any of those four Pen Tools, you will see an option bar on the top-left corner of your screen. There will be two options of either the shape of the path. You can change that setting to either of them as you will need for your work in Photoshop.

When you draw anything over the artboard using the Pen Tool with selecting the Clipping path. That creates a new work path over there, that work path will appear on the Paths Panel on your screen.
On the other hand, you can draw on the artboard using the Photoshop Pen Tool while the shape is selected. It will create a new shape path. Unlike the clipping path, this shape path will appear on both the Paths Panel and the Layers Panel. You will be able to see that on the bottom-right corner of your screen.

When you are working while the shape option is selected, you can change some particular settings options. Change the fill color, shape color, and stroke thickness of that shape from the settings. But we will talk about that in the latter part of this article.

shape option is selected

When you are working in Photoshop, and choose the path option, you will notice an icon on the right side of the shape or path option. That icon will look like two small square bars overlapping each other. You will see this icon when you’ve already begun drawing your path with the shape chosen.
On that newly popped panel, you will find a total of six options when only four of them are available. Among them, you have to set any of the options as your work manual needs.
You can use the Combine shapes option if you want an initial path which you want to become a selection.

Combine shapes option

As we said, you will see other icons on that option bar. The main purpose of our article is to help you with the basic ideas. So, I will suggest you leave them in their default values.

How to Use the Photoshop Pen Tool to Create a Path

You can create straight and curved paths with the use of the Basic Pen Tool option. You can art them with accuracy. But if you want to master that tool by being a perfectionist, you have to go through some practices. 

It will seem a bit difficult when you will use them for the first time. But I will suggest you not to get discouraged by the difficulties. And find the option of adjusting the path after you will create the path. This option will help you with mastering the tool. 

To create a path, at first, you will have to choose the Basic Pen Tool. Then you need to choose the Path option from the drop-down menu bar. You will find that in the application window that is on the top-left corner of the screen.

How to use the Pen Tool in Photoshop to create a path


Creating a New Path With The Pen Tool

There are some procedures if you want to begin the drawing of your clipping path. At first, you will have to click on that, from where you want your path, to start. You have to keep the whole process of drawing the path simple and easy. 

For that, find any straight line and the edge of it. Choose the starting point of your path from there. I will help you with an easy example here. You can see an image containing a coffee cup below.  

You will see the edge of the coffee cup as there is an arrow pointing towards it. Choose that edge of the cup as the starting point of your path. On the other images, find an edge like that and start drawing the path.

Creating a New Path With The Pen Tool

After that, you have to draw the first segment of the path that you want to draw. For that, using the Photoshop Pen Tool, you have to click along the edge of that object or the image.  

In the image below, you will be able to see a straight line. That is the first segment of your clipping path. Just like that, you can create the whole path area, which will become a selection at the end. 

There is another point that I want to mention. As soon as you place the second point of the path, a path panel will pop up on your screen containing the Work Path as you will see in the image below.

Pop up containing the Work Path

Creating a Curved Path Segment With The Pen Tool

Sometimes, you may need to draw a curve for the selection process. Use the Basic Pen Tool to fulfill that task. You can see the same task in the image below.  

At first, you have to click where you want to create your next point. Then you have to drag the Pen Tool all along without releasing the mouse button. And a handlebar appears in there. 

Those handles are there for the curve being formed in the path. You will have to move the mouse for adjusting the handles. When you do that, it will adjust the curvature of the line. Continue doing this until the curve forms in the shape you want. 

Once you are happy with the angle and shape of the curve, you can release the mouse button.

Creating a Curved Path Segment With The Pen Tool

There is one thing that you have to keep in mind, the handles that were formed from the curved line will appear before and after the point, as shown in the picture below.

Creating a Curved Clipping Path Segment


While clicking for the new point to make, you can drag the mouse if you want to create new handles.

Create a Curved Clipping Path Segment

Creating a Straight Path Segment After a Curved Path Segment With the Pen Tool

After a curved path segment, you might want to have the path segment be straight. If you wish to prevent that, you have to corner the point. To do so, you have to type “Alt” from the keyboard, and at the same time, you have to click on that point. 

You have to press “Alt” if you are using a windows based computer. If you use the MAC, then press “OPTION” instead. After you do so, the second handle which was curving the path will disappear. 

Creating a Straight Path Segment

If you do all the things correctly one after another, the next point sent by you will remain unaffected from the last curve.

Create a Straight Path Segment

Closing Your Clipping Path With The Photoshop Pen Tool

Once your path will complete along with the selection, you will have to close that path. For doing so, you have to take the Pen Tool over the first point that you created for the selection. While doing so, you will see a small circle appearing. 

You will find the circle close to the Pen Tool, and all you have to do is click on the point to close your path.

Closing Clipping Path With Pen Tool

How to Save Your Clipping Path

Once you are done with the selection process, the next thing that comes to mind is how to save the selection that you created. To save the created path is very much important. If you don’t save, everything will be lost when you start doing anything over the image. It can be devastating and destroy all your courage. 

Now I will show you how to save that. First, you have to go to the Paths Panel option. From there, you will have to look for a new Work Path. Then you will need to double click on Work Path, and a blank space will appear. 

You have to write down your Path name as you want. Then click on the “OK” button beside. You will save the path in the process. You will understand the whole process better when you will see the picture below.

How to Save Your Clipping Path


How to Modify an Existing Path With The Photoshop Pen Tool

You can also modify the clipping path that you created. When you edit or modify the selection, I suggest you zoom in as much as possible to make sure which part of the path you are working on. Your work will be more accurate by doing so. 

You may not find the path in your image. If you are in such a situation, go to the Paths Panel and then click on the pathname. After that, the path area will appear over the image. Then it’s all yours to make any changes or modifications.

How to Modify an Existing Path With The Photoshop Pen Tool


How to Add Additional Paths to an Existing Path Area Using the Pen Tool

Take an example of the cup image that I have used in the article. You will see some parts are not selected in the handle area. If you want to fully isolate the cup from the background, you have to create a selection area over there. So, we need to create another path for separating the handle from the background area. 

For the process, the path option needs to be kept as it is from the Paths Panel. Then you will have to select the Pen tool from the toolbar on the left side. Then click on the overlapping square icon from the option bar that you will find above.  

From there, you will see an option named Exclude Overlapping Shapes and then click on it.

How to Add Additional Paths to an Existing Path

 The selection that you made before will be visible to you. In the meantime, start drawing the area that you want to separate from your older selection with the help of the Photoshop Pen Tool. Then close the path.

How to Add Additional Path to an Existing Path

 When you make the new selection, that selected area will be eliminated from the older selected area.

How to Modify Existing Points and Curves Along a Path

You need to find the Paths Selection tool from the toolbar on the left side if you want to modify any existing point. The icon of that toolbar will look like an arrow. 

When you click on that tool, another option bar will pop up. You will see two options of the Path Selection Tool and Direct Selection Tool there. Select the Direct Selection Tool, which will contain the white arrow sign.

Modify Existing Points and Curves Along a Path

 You will be able to change and fix the positions of the points in the clipping path. You can drag the handles and the points with the help of this Direct Selection Tool. As a result, you can fix any error in the path, points, and handles.

How to Modify Existing Points and Curves Along a Path

How to Add New Points to a Path

If you want to make any additional changes to the points that were created before, you can do that using the Add Anchor Point tool. You will find this tool on the toolbar on the left side. 

First, click on the Pen Tool sign. Then you will see a total of six options. From there, click on the fourth option named “Add Anchor Point Tool”. With the help of this tool, you can add extra points to the path.

Add New Points to a Path

 You can create a new point wherever you want on the older selected path with the help of this Add Anchor Point tool.

How to Add New Points to a Path

Once you have planted the new point in the path, you can change the position of it and make modifications. The Direct Selection Tool will help you in this matter.  

How to Remove Points from a Path

Sometimes, you may need to delete any points from the path that you created before. You will find the Delete Anchor Point Tool right next to the Add Anchor Point tool.

Remove Points from a Path

You can delete any anchor point with the help of this tool. At first, select which point you want to delete, then take the arrow on that point with the Delete Anchor Point Tool selected. After that, give a click and the point will be deleted. 

The points before and after will join together once the selected point is deleted.

How to Remove Points from a Path

How to Use the Convert Point Tool

You can easily manipulate the handles using the Convert Point tool. The job is almost the same as the Direct Selection Tool.

Use the Convert Point Tool

 You cannot move the existing point with the help of this Convert Point tool. This tool will convert the straight lines into curved lines and vice-versa as well.  

When you click on the points which have the handle, the handle will disappear. Then the point will take the shape of a corner. If the anchor points beside contain the curving handle, these can affect the converted point.

How to use the Convert Point tool

If any point does not have any handles and you click on them with the Convert Point tool, they will react differently. It will affect the anchor point by growing handles from the two sides of that point. As a result, both sides will be curved.  

Though you can manipulate them using the Direct Selection Tool and the Convert Point Tool.

How to use Convert Point tool

How to Create a Selection From a Path

For creating a selection from a clipping path, first, open the Paths Panel from the Windows drop-down menu. Now select the path in the Paths Panel. On the bottom of the Panel, you’ll see an icon of circular shape with a dotted outline. Click on that. After clicking on that, you’ll see a selection in that shape has appeared.

create a selection from a path

 Using the Photoshop Pen tool, you can also create a clipping path Selection. To do so, you have to select the path and the pen tool. Then click on the Selection option which is in the options bar next to Make.

How to Create a Selection From a Path

A dialog box will appear on your screen, and that will allow you to adjust the selection. Your purpose of the selection may be to make the object separate from the background. Then put the value 0 to the Feather radius and check the Anti-Aliased box. For the very first selection, select the New Selection and click OK.

put the value 0 to the Feather radius

 After making the selection, you can remove the selection from its background. You can do color manipulations as well.

How to Create a Selection From a Clipping Path

How to Cut Out an Object From The Background

To cut an object from its background, at first, you have to select it from the Paths panel. After selecting the object, you can easily copy the object from one layer to another or, you can create a Layer Mask. 

For copying it or creating a layer mask, you have to be in that particular layer that contains an image with the object you want to separate.

Removing a Background by Copying a Selection

You can copy the selection that you made by clicking on “CTRL+C” if you are a windows user. The same thing can be done on the Mac by clicking “COMMAND+C”.  

After that, you can also copy what you pasted by typing “CTRL+V” for windows and “COMMAND+V” on the Mac. By doing so, the selected area will appear as an entirely new layer. 

Then you can make the old layer invisible from the Layers Panel. To do so, you will have to unlock the layer first. After that, you will be able to see the isolated object that you particularly selected.

Removing a Background by Copying a Selection

Removing a Background by Creating a Layer Mask

You can also remove the background with the help of the layer mask. At first, you have to locate the Layer Mask icon. You will find the icon in two places. Either you will find it at the Paths Panel or you will see that on the Layers Panel.

In both places, the icon of the Layer Mask will look like a white rectangle with a circle inside of it.

Removing a Background by Creating a Layer Mask

In this part, you will have to select the part which you want to delete. Then you have to click on the “CTRL + Layer Thumbnail” and for MacBook “COMMAND + Layer Thumbnail”. Then click on the Layer Mask icon.

Thus, you will be able to create a Layer Mask.

How to Remove Background by Creating a Layer Mask

How to Create a Shape Using the Photoshop Pen Tool

You can also create any shape by using the Photoshop Pen Tool. You can do so by selecting the Shape option from the upper left corner. 

I have given a hint in the earlier part of the article. You know where the Shape option is. Next to that, you will find the color option for the shape. There will be a total of five options. They are: 

  • Transparent (No Fill) 
  • Gradient Color 
  • Solid Color 
  • Custom Color 
  • Available swatches 
Custom Color

The outline of any shape is also changeable. Find the Stroke option right next to the Fill option. You can change the stroke color by clicking on that Stroke icon. You will find the option of changing the Stroke Width and Stroke Length from the option beside. 

How to Create a Shape Using the Pen Tool

When all the settings procedures are right, you can draw the shape. The shape can be drawn in the same way as to create a clipping path using the Basic Pen Tool.

How to Create a Shape Using the Photoshop Pen Tool

Once you create the shape with the Pen Tool, a Layer will be created on the Layer Panel with the shape you have drawn. At the same time, you will find A Shape Path in the Paths Panel.

Shape Path in the Paths Panel

How to Transform or Scale a Shape Path

You can transform the shape that you created. You will see the “Edit” option from the menu bar at the top of the screen. Click on there. Another menu bar will appear from up to down. There will be an option named “Transform” on the lower half of that bar. 

When you click there, you will see another menu bar. On the first half of that bar, you will see the “Rotate” option. You can transform the shape from there.

How to transform or scale a Shape Path

The regular path is also transformable by using these functions. But that will never be necessary.

Can You Use Other Photoshop Pen Tools?

There are a total of four types of Pen Tool as we have mentioned earlier. You can use them as the situation demands from you. Any of the four tools can be used as you need.

Freeform Pen Tool

You will find the Freeform Pen Tool right under the Basic Pen Tool. The name of this tool represents the nature of the entire tool. As you can see on the name containing “Free”. You can art freely on the artboard using the Freeform Pen Tool.  

This Freeform Pen Tool is quite similar to the Brush Tool and the Pencil Tool. You don’t have to click many times. Just click at the beginning and draw as you want by moving and dragging the mouse. It will automatically create the path with anchor points. 

But the thing is, the Freeform Pen Tool is pretty tough to control. The clipping path created may need ample modifications as well.

Freeform Pen Tool Photoshop

Curvature Pen Tool

The third option on the Pen Tool Panel is the Curvature Pen Tool. Select the Path option as usual. You can use that tool where you need the path to become a curve.  

When you use this tool, it will not create any handle. This tool is capable of following any uniform shape. You can even change and modify the whole shape and path. The modification process is the same as the modification process of the Basic Pen Tool. 

Though you will not always use the Curvature Pen Tool, on some occasions you will need this tool for your assist.

Curvature Pen Tool Photoshop

Magnetic Pen Tool

The fourth option on the list is the Magnetic Pen Tool. You can access the Magnetic Pen Tool from the Freeform Pen Tool. You will see an option on the above called “Magnetic”. Select the option by ticking on the box beside the option. 

While using this Magnetic Pen Tool, it will attract the object and will automatically create the anchor points. When you will move the mouse, the Magnetic Pen Tool will do the job on its own. 

But the thing is, the Magnetic Pen Tool is not that accurate in every situation.

Magnetic Pen Tool Photoshop

Can You Use a Stylus With Photoshop and the Pen Tool?

Normally, you use the touchpad or the mouse to work on Photoshop. It might take some time to master all the processes if you use a mouse or touchpad. A stylus can do the job in a better way though. 

You can tap to form the Anchor Points on the artboard. If you want to create curved handles, you need to tap and drag the stylus. I hope you will find all this information helpful. I will feel overwhelmed if you get any help from the article.

Last Words Photoshop Pen Tool

Didn’t you find it so simple? So far, this article covered a lot of information on the basics of the Pen tool in Adobe Photoshop. 

Learning about the Pen tool, you will never struggle to work with it in the upcoming days. If you are still confused or not getting enough time to modify your images, take assistance from a photo editing service.

You may also read:

A Guide to Remove White Background Using Photoshop Tools

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