How to Edit Paths in Photoshop CS6

Often in Photoshop CS6, using the Pen tool to get a reasonably decent, but not perfect, path is easier and less time consuming than striving for perfection. After you have that path, go back and edit it for more accuracy using the Path Selection and Direct Selection tools.

Photoshop offers editing tools that can make your path repair a snap. These tools even share the Pen tool’s flyout menu. Additionally, the arrow tools, which Adobe calls the Path Selection and Direct Selection tools, are extremely helpful when it comes to fine-tuning your path.

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To edit a path, follow these steps:

  1. If you can’t see the path you want to edit, select the path in the Paths panel.

    This selection activates the path.

  2. To see the individual anchor points so that you can edit them, select the Direct Selection tool (the white arrow) and then click anywhere along the path.

    You now see the individual anchor points and segments that comprise the path. Most of the anchor points, if not all, are hollow because they’re unselected.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Maxian Image #6293744]
    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Maxian Image #6293744
  3. If you need to move an anchor point, click it with the Direct Selection tool.

    When selected, the point becomes solid.

  4. Drag to move the anchor point.

    If you need to, you can move a curved or straight segment in the same fashion.

  5. If you need to move an entire path, use the Path Selection tool (the black arrow).

    You can also select multiple paths by holding down the Shift key while clicking the paths.

    If you move any part of the path beyond the boundary of the image canvas, it’s still available — just not visible. Use the Zoom tool to zoom out until you see the hidden portion of the path.

  6. Using the Direct Selection tool, manipulate the direction lines to change the shape of the curve. First, click the anchor point of the curve to select it. Then, click and drag the direction point going the same direction as the bump.

    By lengthening or shortening the direction line, you can control how steep or flat the curve is. By rotating the direction line, you change the slope of the curve. Here are a few more editing pointers:

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Maxian Image #6293744]
    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Maxian Image #6293744
    • To add an anchor point in your path: Use the Add Anchor Point tool. Click in the path where you need an anchor point. This tool always adds a smooth point, no matter where you click.

    • To delete an anchor point: Select the Delete Anchor Point tool, position the cursor over the anchor point, and click it. The anchor point disappears, while you keep your path intact.

    • To convert an anchor point from smooth to corner or vice versa: Select the Convert Point tool. Position your cursor over your desired anchor point. If the anchor point is a corner point, drag away from the anchor point to create the direction lines that create a smooth point. If the point is a smooth point, simply click and release the anchor point to convert it into a corner point.

    • To convert a smooth point to a cusp point: Make sure the direction lines are showing and then drag a direction line to break it into independent direction lines. Finally, to convert a cusp point back to a smooth point, just drag out from the anchor point.

    • To copy a path: Select the path by using the Path Selection tool. Then, hold down Alt and drag away from the path. While you drag, you carry a copied path with you.

    • To delete a path: Select the path by using the Path Selection tool and press the Backspace key. You can also select a point on the path by using the Direct Selection tool and pressing Backspace twice.

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