How to Use Options for Pen or Path/Direct Selection in Photoshop CS6

By Barbara Obermeier

Quite a few options appear on the Options bar in Photoshop CS6 when the Pen tool or Path Selection/Direct Selection tools are active. Here’s the scoop on those options:

  • Path Operations: Most of the commands in this option category apply only to shape layers. However, you can use the Merge Shape Components option to combine two or more paths into a single path if paths are overlapping. If paths are not overlapping, they will simply be grouped together to move as a single unit.

  • Path Alignment: Align two or more paths and distribute three or more paths. The icons give you a good visual clue as to how the alignment or distribution will appear. The Align to Selection option aligns your selected path)s to a selection that you loaded as a path. The Align to Canvas option aligns your selected path(s) to the canvas’ border.

  • Path Arrangement: These options will rearrange the stacking order of your paths. Choose from bringing paths to the front or forward (one level) or to the back or backward (one level).

  • Rubber Band option (gear icon): 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.

  • Auto Add/Delete: Enables you to add or delete an anchor point by using the regular Pen tool.

  • Align Edges: This option aligns your vector objects to the pixel grid to ensure crisp, sharp edges rather than the sometimes blurry edges that can occur due to misalignment.

  • Constrain Path Dragging: Leave this option unchecked to have your Direct Selection tool drag your path segments (not anchor points) more intuitively. For example, dragging a path segment on an elliptical path will now not flip over itself. Select the option to get the tool to act the way it did prior to CS6.