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How to Create Curved Paths in Photoshop CS6

You’re probably never going to create a work path in Photoshop CS6 that doesn’t have curves as well as straight lines. After all, not much in life is perfectly linear. Most things have undulations here and there. Follow these steps to create curved paths:

  1. If you’re adding on to a previously created open path, be sure to position your cursor on the last anchor point you created on that open path before you continue.

    A slash mark or a small square appears next to your cursor. If you’re starting a new path, position the cursor where the curve begins.

  2. Whichever appears — the slash mark or the square — click and drag toward the direction you want the bump of the curve to go. Release the mouse button when you’re done.

    Here are some quick pointers for this stage of the procedure:

    • If you’re creating a new path, an anchor point and two direction lines (which have direction points at their ends) appear. If you’re adding a curve to your straight segment, an anchor point and one direction line with one direction point appear. The direction lines and direction points control the angle and pitch of the curve.

    • How do you know how far you should drag? Use the rule of thirds. Imagine that your curve is a piece of string that you’ve laid out in a straight line. Divide that line into thirds. Generally, the distance you drag your mouse cursor is approximately one-third the length of that line.

    • How do you establish the angle? Drag straight from the anchor point for a steeper curve and at an angle from the anchor point for a flatter curve. The area of the van in the example is not a really steep curve; therefore, drag to the right and at a shallower angle.

      [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Maxian Image #6293744]
      Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Maxian Image #6293744
  3. Move the cursor to the end of the curve and click and drag in the opposite direction, away from the bump.

    Another anchor point and a set of two direction lines (if both points are smooth) and points appear. Photoshop creates the curve segment between the anchor points. Here are a couple other handy pointers:

    • If you drag both direction lines in the same direction, you create a curve shaped like an S.

    • On the Options bar, under the gear icon, choose the Rubber Band option. With this option selected, Photoshop draws a segment between the last anchor point you created and wherever your cursor is located, which gives you a kind of animated preview of how the path will appear. Many find the option distracting, but some users love it.

  4. To draw more alternating curves, repeat these steps, dragging in an opposite direction each time.

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