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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

The Pen tool

To learn to use the Pen tool, see pages 160–163. The Pen tool is very different from any other tool. If you use a Pen tool in InDesign or Illustrator, you’ll find this one similar.

When you draw with the Pen tool, Photoshop automatically stores a path in the Paths panel. If you don’t see the Paths panel on your screen, choose “Paths” from the Window menu.


You can have many paths on an individual Paths layer (although if they are unrelated to each other, make separate layers for each one). You can apply a fill and stroke to any path, but the fill and stroke do not stick to the path itself—they appear on another layer as raster images.

We often draw a path around irregular objects (or people) that we want to separate from a background. The path we draw can be made into a selection, then we can use that selection to delete the background. For instance, in the example below, we want to put the stones on a layer by themselves, so we can add whatever background we want. I’ve drawn a path around each stone. All three paths are on one path layer in the Paths panel.

  1. Open an image, then open the Paths panel (as mentioned above).
  2. Click the Create new path button at the bottom of the Paths panel.
  3. With the new path layer selected, select the Pen tool in the Tools panel and draw a path around each stone.
  4. Click the Load path as a selection button (bottom of the Paths panel). The path turns into a marching ants selection.
  5. The stones are selected, but we want to inverse the selection so we can delete the image background: From the Select menu, choose “Inverse” (below, left).
  6. Press Delete to erase the image background.
    • If the stones are on a Background layer, the background is replaced by the current Background color.
    • If the stones are on a regular layer, the background is replaced by transparency (shown below, right). We can now create another layer below the stones layer, and fill it with a new background color or image.
  7. To add drop shadows, double-click the stones layer and select the “Drop Shadow” option in the Layer Style dialog (see pages 102–103).
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