How to Choose and Create Your First Work Path in Photoshop CS6

By Barbara Obermeier

Once you choose the Path mode to use with the Pen tool in Photoshop CS6, you then need to indicate what you want to do with that path. Make your first Pen click and make your choice. Or, you can wait until your path is drawn. Either way, choose from the following options:

  • Selection: This option converts your path into a selection. The Make Selection dialog box appears. Provide settings for feathering, anti-aliasing, and what kind of operation you are doing.

  • Mask: This option creates a vector mask on your layer. (You must have a layer in your file for this option to be available.) Note that you will see a second thumbnail next to your image thumbnail. Everything inside of your path will be visible and everything outside of your path will be masked, or hidden.

  • Shape: This option creates a new vector layer in which your shape will reside. It will fill with the foreground color, but the fill and stroke can always be edited later.

Making a work path is the mode you will most likely use the most frequently after you get the hang of using the Pen tool. The following steps show you how to create a simple, straight path:

  1. Open an image you want to practice on.

    Choose an image that has an element with straight edges and curves.

  2. Select the Pen tool from the Tools panel.

    You can just press the P key, too.

  3. On the Options bar, click the Path button.

    image0.jpg

  4. To create a straight line, click and release your mouse button at the points where you want the line to begin and to end, leaving anchor points at those positions.

    Don’t drag to create straight segments. When you click and add your anchor points, Photoshop creates straight segments that connect the anchor points.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Maxian Image #6293744]

    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Maxian Image #6293744
  5. To draw a constrained line — horizontal, vertical, or 45-degree angle — hold down the Shift key while you click.

  6. To end the path, click the Pen tool in the Tools panel to deselect it.

    Or use this very handy shortcut:

    • Hold down the Ctrl key (Command on the Mac).

      The Direct Selection tool (the white arrow) appears.

    • Click away from the line and release the Ctrl key (Command on the Mac).

      The Pen tool reappears.

      With your path now deselected, you’re free to start another, unconnected path, if you need to.