Photoshop CS5 Pen Tool Options - dummies

By Jennifer Smith, Christopher Smith, Fred Gerantabee

The Pen tool in Photoshop Creative Suite 5 is the ultimate method to make precise selections. You can also use it to create vector shapes and clipping paths (silhouettes). Use the Pen tool as much as you can to truly master its capabilities. If you don’t use it regularly, it will seem awkward, though it gets easier!

When you start creating with the Pen tool, Photoshop automatically, as a default, creates a path. But you can also choose to make a vector shape or, in the rare instance that you might need it, a fill (which essentially creates pixeled, nonvector shapes and paths). Select the Pen tool and note the default setting on the left side of the Options bar. You can choose from the following options:

  • Shape layers: Creates a new shape layer, a filled layer that contains the vector path.

  • Paths: Creates a path only; no layer is created.

  • Fill pixels: Creates pixels directly on the image. No editable path or layer is created. This option may not be useful to new users, but some existing users prefer to use this method because it’s the only way to access the Line tool from earlier versions.