The Pen tool in Photoshop is the same tool found in Illustrator and InDesign. It’s a tool that people just love to hate. If you’re one of those folks who want to pull their hair out at the mere mention of the Pen tool, take heart. With a few simple pointers and a little bit of practice, you’ll be on your way to mastery.
First is to know what all the icons mean as the tools function changes as you use it so knowing what the little indicators stand for will make using it much easier.
The Pen tool provides this visual feedback through contextual indicators that appear at the lower right of the pen icon on the cursor.
The many faces of the Pen tool cursor defined:
A. Ready to draw a new path (no new path started yet).
B. A path is being drawn.
C. Click an endpoint on an existing path to pick up and continue drawing.
D. Click to close the path.
E. Click to snap to guide (only available when Snap to Guides is turned on).
F. Add anchor point.
G. Delete anchor point.
H. Convert direction point.
I. Join anchor points.
Working efficiently with the Pen tool entails use of several keyboard shortcuts, when you have the Pen tool selected.
1. Holding the Ctrl/Command key switches temporarily to the Direct Selection tool. When you release the key, the Pen tool returns. You’ll be placing points as you draw with the Pen tool, and there will be times when you’ll need the Direct Selection tool to select and manipulate those points, especially to move them.
2. Holding the Alt/Option key to switch temporarily to the Convert Direction Point tool, this allows you to manipulate the handles on a point either to adjust them, remove them or add them. When you release the key, the Pen tool returns.
3. Holding the Shift key will cause the next point to be placed in a straight Horz/Vert line or at 45 degrees from the last anchor point. When the Ctrl/Command key is pressed then pressing the Shift key at the same time will allow multiple anchor points to be select and moved together.
So as you can imagine these shortcut combinations will come in quite handy when using the pen tool.