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Photoshop Pen Tool Functionality and Usability with Clipping Path Tutorial

Category : Photoshop Tutorials

Clipping Path

Today I would like to introduce a tutorial about how to draw a clipping path using photoshop pen tool. At the beginning stage in this tutorial we can learn the basic functionality and usability of photoshop pen tool and the second stage we can learn how to draw clipping path using photoshop pen tool. So why not have a try…

Concept About Photoshop Pen Tool:

How We can Use Photoshop Pen Tool?

Before we start talking about what the Pen Tool is or how to use it, we should look at where to find it in Photoshop first.

You’ll find the Pen Tool in the Tools palette, grouped in with the Shape Tools, the Type Tool, and the Path Selection (the white arrow) and Direct Selection (the black arrow) Tools (see the image below).

Functionality and Usability of Pentool in Photoshop

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.

Functionality and Usability of Pentool 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:

Functionality and Usability of Pentool in Photoshop

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.

Functionality and Usability of Pentool in Photoshop

Hold down Shift, 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.

Functionality and Usability of Pentool in Photoshop

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!

Functionality and Usability of Pentool in Photoshop

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

Functionality and Usability of Pentool in Photoshop

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

Functionality and Usability of Pentool in Photoshop

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.

Functionality and Usability of Pentool in Photoshop

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

Functionality and Usability of Pentool in Photoshop

Click on one end of the tangent line and drag.

Functionality and Usability of Pentool in Photoshop

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

Functionality and Usability of Pentool in Photoshop

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

Functionality and Usability of Pentool in Photoshop

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. Lets Try the following exercises below, cutting out or making clipping paths of an image to practice by using of the pen tool.

For example, if you’re a sculptor, jewelry maker, or any type of 3D artist and you want to have clean, professional images of your work, it’s often best to remove everything but your artwork from the picture.

Using the pen tool, you can perfectly outline or make clipping path your artwork, and then delete everything else around it so that nothing detracts from your art.

How to Draw Clipping Path using Photoshop Pen Tool:

If you don’t know how to draw clipping path using the pen tool for an image , just keep reading—in the following paragraphs I’ll explain how to use the pen tool to outline or clipping path any type object. (And I’m going to use picture of a delicious looking strawberry cake on a plate as an example.)

The first thing you need to do is open up a photograph of your artwork in photoshop and zoom in a bit, just like I did. You’re going to match the curves and angles of your object as exactly as possible, so getting close helps.

strawberry cake clipping path

Select the pen tool from your toolbar and pick a spot on the edge of your object—any spot, it doesn’t matter.

Although on second thought, I should probably explain what’s going to happen when you click, before we get into outlining or draw clipping path.

How to Draw Clipping Path in Photoshop

If you just click once with the pen tool, you’ll create a single “active” anchor point.

How to Draw Clipping Path in Photoshop

Click a second time, and a line will appear connecting that first anchor point to the second one. The second anchor point is now “active” (see how it’s darker) so if you click again, the next line would start from the active point, not the first one.

How to Draw Clipping Path in Photoshop

Take a second and check to see if you have your “Paths” window open.

How to Draw Clipping Path in Photoshop

If it is, a new “Work Path” will have appeared. (If you don’t see that window, click on “Window” in the top Menu bar and select “Paths.”

You can double click on the blue section to rename your path if you’d like.

When you do, you’ll be able to start a second path separately from the first. Until then you’ll just have one path the whole time.

Now here’s where it gets fun. . .

Create a new anchor point, but click AND DRAG before letting up. Something I like to call “handlebars” will appear on your screen.

Photoshop Pen Tool Functionality and Usability with Clipping Path Tutorial

(Notice how they’re not really a part of the image—they extend outside of the work space.) Click again, and unlike the first straight line, you’ll get a nice curve.

Photoshop Pen Tool Functionality and Usability with Clipping Path Tutorial

So what happened? Well, the endpoint of the handlebar is acting sort of like a magnet for the line you just created. It’s PULLING the line towards it.

And, if you hold down the ALT key and over your mouse over that handlebar endpoint, a little “V” will appear. You can use that “V” to click and drag on the handlebar even more, thereby changing the curve.

Photoshop Pen Tool Functionality and Usability with Clipping Path Tutorial

You can also use the “V” on an existing anchor that doesn’t have handlebars yet and drag out handlebars that way too.

OK, so that’s the basics of the pen tool right there. What makes things interesting is that all anchor points can have handlebars on them, pointing any which way, making for some very complex curves.

So let’s get back to the strawberry cake and put this pen tool to work. Pick a spot to start, then click and drag out handlebars according to the curve you think you will need.

clipping paths

I’m planning on curving around the plate of strawberry cake, so I picked a spot leading into the curve, and dragged out what I thought was the correct distance.

On your next click you’ll find out how well you did—if you picked the right distance for the handlebar, your curve will be perfect. (Don’t worry, you can always go back and adjust the handlebars later too.)

clipping path strawberry cake2

I did all right—and notice how I immediately dragged out a new set of handlebars on the next click, too. You pretty much always want to drag out handlebars so that your curves will smoothly transition into each other.

If I’d have just clicked without dragging out handlebars, I would have had a sharp angle in the middle of my curve.

And of course, if you have to fit into a tight corner, just zoom in and reposition your leading handlebar (using your ALT key of course) to get that handlebar back on track.

clipping path strawberry cake3

clipping path strawberry cake4

Now that you’ve got the hang of it, I’m going to jump ahead to where I’ve completely drawn clipping path for the strawberry cake with plate and show you how to finish up the process.

clipping path strawberry cake5

Once your entire object is outlined with a path, you’ll need to change that path into a “selection” before you can delete everything in the background around your object.

Find your “Paths” window again and click on the button near the bottom that looks like a dotted-line circle.

Photoshop Pen Tool Functionality and Usability with Clipping Path Tutorial

That should do the trick—you’ll see something like the outline of dotted lines below.

clipping path strawberry cake 6

Next, you’ll need to invert your selection so that it’s actually selecting everything BUT your object.

Click on “Select” in the menu bar, and the “Inverse”.

Photoshop Pen Tool Functionality and Usability with Clipping Path Tutorial

It might not look as though much has changed (after all, the dotted lines are still there, they’re just surrounding outwards instead of inwards) but you’ll know once you press “Delete” whether you’ve done it right.

And after deleting everything inside the selection, your image should look like this:

clipping path strawberry cake

Hope you enjoy this tutorial & find it useful.

We feel really glad if you give us feedback through comment below. Soon we are going to share more useful & amazing photoshop tutorials so please stay tuned.

Have a nice day !

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Comments (2)

Very nice article. BTW, helpful for beginners.

Thanks Afraz. Please stay tuned & enjoy innovative tutorials :)

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