Paths and Strokes in CS5 - dummies

By Jennifer Smith, Christopher Smith, Fred Gerantabee

Paths are the vector lines and outlines you create in an Adobe Creative Studio document. You can use paths to outline an image, separate areas of text, or be part of an illustration you create.

You typically make paths using a Line tool or a Pen tool or the shape tools. You can use these tools to create paths of different shapes and sizes. You also can use tools to modify the color and size of strokes (the actual line that makes up a path).

You can use paths to create clipping paths and paths for text. Clipping paths are used to mask (or hide) elements on a page. You define that mask with paths to create a shape for the area you need to hide. Clipping paths can even be saved in a file and imported into a different design pattern.

A common workflow is to create an image in Photoshop CS5 with a clipping path and import the image into InDesign. Because InDesign can interpret the clipping path, you can automatically remove the area you want to mask.

When you want to create text that flows along a path, begin by creating a new path and then use the Type On a Path tool to type text directly on that path. For example, in Illustrator, you create a path with the Pen tool and then select the Type On a Path tool in the Tools panel.

If you click the tool on the path you created, you can type new text along that path.

If you have an existing path, you can select the Pen tool and cross over the select path. The Type tool cursor changes to indicate that it is loaded as a Type On a Path tool as you see in the figure. Click on the path, and the type is attached to the path.


A stroke is the color, width, and style of the line that makes up the path you create. You might draw a line with the Pen tool, and the line making up that path is the stroke.

However, that path can also have no stroke (represented as a diagonal line in the Tools panel), which means that you don’t see the path itself. However, you may see a color or pattern filling that stroke (the fill), as shown in the figure.


You can change the color, width, style (or type), and shape of a stroke using controls and tools in the Tools panel and the Stroke panel in Illustrator and InDesign. You can also therefore create dashed or solid strokes of different patterns that are wide or narrow. Some strokes are shown.