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Photoshop CS5: The Missing Manual by Lesa Snider

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Drawing Paths with the Pen Tool

The Pen tool made its debut in Adobe Illustrator way back in the late '80s and offered people precision and control the likes of which they'd never seen. The only problem was that the tool was (and still is) darn hard to use. It was met with all kinds of resistance from the artistic community because it didn't conform to the way folks were used to working with digital graphics (not to mention pens and pencils). Instead of dragging to draw a line, when you use the Pen tool, you create anchor points and control handles, which are collectively referred to as vector paths or Bezier curves (named for their inventor). The handles aren't actually part of the line; they're little levers you use to control each line segment's shape (see Figure 13-3).

As you learned back in Chapter 2 (Opening an Existing Document), you can edit and resize vectors without losing quality. For example, you can adjust an object's points and paths (see Figure 13-3, bottom) to tweak its shape and then use Free Transform (The Transformers) to resize, rotate, distort, warp, or flip your object. When it's just right, you can fill the shape with color (Filling a Path), trace its outline with one of the painting tools (Adding a Stroke to a Path), or use it to create a layer mask (Making Selections and Masks with Paths).

Top: The mighty Pen tool lives near the middle of the Tools panel.Bottom: This boomerang shape is made from a series of points and paths. The points mark the beginning and end of each line segment; in Photoshop-ese, a line segment is called a path. To change a path's shape, you can drag the points, adjust the control handles, and add or subtract points.

Figure 13-3. Top: The mighty Pen tool lives near the middle of the Tools ...

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