8 tips on using pen tool in Adobe programs

sharp angles

The pen tool is quite a handful if you are used to working with a graphic tablet. I know I had a lot of trouble getting used to it and it took me quite a while to get decent at it. So to help you out I’ve compiled a few tips to make life easier on you.

1. Holding shift while placing anchor point

Assuming you already have an anchor placed if you place another anchor while holding the shift key on your keyboard it will create a straight line in the direction you place the next anchor. It will either place it straight up, down, left or right or at a 45° angle.

Shift + placing an anchor

2. Holding shift while curving anchor point

If you hold shift while curving the anchor point it will curve it symmetrically to the left or right. If you are curving just one half of the path it will curve it linearly.

Shift + ciurving an anchor

3. Moving anchor points with the convert anchor point tool

The shift key is really becoming a tool for everything it seems. If you have the convert anchor point tool selected you can usually just curve the points with it. But if you press the shift key on your keyboard and click on an anchor point you can move the anchor point around. This tip increases productivity since you don’t have to switch to the direct selection tool every time you want to move an anchor point.

Convert anchor point tool

4. Resetting an anchor point

You just created a curve but you are really not satisfied with it. No problem… Just click on the anchor point with the convert anchor point tool and it will become a sharp angle again.

5. Hold the click to curve anchor points

I usually used to curve anchor points with the convert anchor point tool. But for that you would have to place the anchor point first and a lot of time reposition it after you placed it. It’s way easier to place a new anchor point but NOT let go of the left mouse button. Instead drag it left or right. You will see the anchor point start to curve on one side. If you then place another anchor point the curve will continue according to the direction you curved the other half.

6. Clicking on the anchor point to make sharp angles

This tip picks up where the last one left off. Imagine you want to have one half of the anchor point curved but the other one at a sharp angle. By using tip number 5 when creating the next anchor point a curve will be generated automatically. But if you first curve the anchor point and then click on the point with the pen tool again it will remove one of the anchor point handles and enable you to make a sharp angle.

7. Splitting a path

Sometimes you create a path but you want to put a split in to it. That can be achieved by using the add anchor point tool and adding an anchor point where you want the split to be. Select the point with the direct selection tool and press delete on your keyboard. This will remove the path up to the nearest two anchor points.

Splitting path

8. Press P button

You need to quickly place multiple unconnected anchor points but you don’t want to keep selecting the direct selection tool to deselect the points you just placed. A fast way around is to simply press the P key on your keyboard. This will reselect the pen tool and reset any selection on the screen.