2007 SLP Curriculum Guide #25 Intro: Pen Tool and Options
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Up to this point in the guides on Vectors we have used the Pen tool only to activate the nodes so they can be manipulated. However, one can use the Pen Tool to draw curves, lines, and manipulate the respective nodes in order to draw unique curves and shapes. In this guide we will explore the Pen Tool Options for drawing lines, point to point or bezier curves and free hand drawing. We will also explore the Edit Context menu. In following guides we will work with some exercises and examples.

As we explore the various options, take time with each option to try various aspects of the options and the Edit context menu items. As you go through them as you explore you will become familiar with how the Pen Mode works on a vector layer.

When selecting the Pen Tool the path is automatically established on a Vector layer. The Pen Tool has five modes and various options which allow for various actions to occur.



  • Edit: Allows one to manipulate the nodes and is best used when activating the Edit context menu for various ways to edit the object and nodes.
  • Knife: Will cut lines drawn so that ends of each cut can be manipulated separately.
  • Lines and Polygons: One draws lines or polygon shapes.
  • Point to Point (bezier) Curves: One draws curves.
  • Free Hand: One can draw lines, shapes, curves in a freehand manner.

Connect Segments

  • When drawing and this box is checked, each time after the first node is set a line is drawn to the position of the next node. In this fashion one can create just a single line or other shapes such as a triangle or polygon. (If your shape displays a fill then either use the 'Properties Dialogue' (Pick || Properties) and uncheck the 'Fill Box'.)
  • If the Connect Segments box is unchecked and you want to connect a line first click on a node on the drawn line and then click at a position where you want the line drawn.


  • This option only available when Freehand Mode is active.
  • This option sets where and how many nodes are created on the freehand shape.
  • Lower values will create many more nodes while larger values create less nodes.
  • Experiment with this option to see not only how it works but how to control the number of nodes to manipulate.

Transformation Type

  • These option values control how various transformation of selected nodes will change. Such changes include flip and mirror (which do not require option values), Rotate, Skew X and Skew Y (coordinates on the canvas for positioning the drawing), Contract and Expand, Duplicate and Duplicate/Offset. Basically, the object selected and nodes selected (all or some) can be manipulated with Transform Selected Nodes accessed when activating the Edit Menu (right clicking on the object and selecting 'Edit' or 'Transform Selected Nodes').
    • Select the down arrow for the Transformation Type and select one of the six (6) options in order to set the option values for X and/or Y.
    • Duplication and Offset determines how much down/up and left/right the duplicated object is drawn. Minus values are up/left while positive values are down/right.
    • Rotate will set values for rotating the object to the right (plus values) or left (minus values).
    • Skew X and Skew Y cause the object to become skewed (experimentation will clarify).
    • Contract and Expand will contract or expand the object by the values set.

Other Options

The other options (Line Style, Width, Anti-Alias check box, Join for corners and its Miter Limit) are options that set the object lines (stroke) and for corners the join type (square, rounded) and its size.


After drawing a line or curve one can edit it. Although editing can occur even if the tool is active which requires very precise clicking on nodes it is often best to activate the Edit Tool. Right Click either in the canvas somewhere or if you have already selected some or all nodes right click on the object to bring up the Edit Context Menu.

  1. Cut, Copy, Paste, Delete will effect selected nodes.
  2. Select All/None will select/deselect nodes. Often Select All is used before using the Edit Context menu in order to work with all nodes. However, one can select just some of the nodes and work just on those nodes.
  3. Invert Selection does just what it says of inverting the selected nodes. It is worth experimenting with this item on various shapes as it will create some interesting results.
  4. Join is not always active. It does depend in part on the shape/lines displayed and nodes selected. One can run their cursor over nodes and find the Start and End nodes. Once can Join a start or end node from one drawn object to the start or end node of another drawn object. In this fashion one can create separate shapes and then join then as needed.
  5. Merge will delete or merge the node back into the line or curve.
  6. Break, like the Knife Tool, causes a break at the selected node and will create nodes at each end. The Knife tool can draw through a curve or line while break requires a node to be selected.
  7. Lines are open when they do not connect with one another. However one can close a shape by selecting the two nodes where one wants a line to close.
  8. Reverse Contour is used as done in previous guides to create cutout of overlapping shapes.
  9. Reverse Path only reverses the path of the shape, either from left to right or right to left. The handles on node types when nodes are selected will display which direction the path flows.
  10. Duplicate and Offset when all nodes (or some nodes) are selected will duplicate the object and offset it by the values set in the pen tool transformation types. If the duplicated shape has its contours reversed then a cutout will occur.
  11. Duplicate just duplicates the nodes selected directly over those nodes. One then can move it to a new position.
  1. Asymmetric allows the handles to be moved in/out independently. Rotating the handle will move one end down and other end moves up or visa versa.
  2. Symmetric allows both handles to be moved in/out together and rotates as does the Asymmetric node type.
  3. Cusp allows each handle to be moved independently of the other and to rotate the node/curve independently as well.
  4. Smooth/Tangent will smooth out the line when that node is highlighted.
  5. Convert to Line is used when one want a curve to be made into a line.
  6. Line Before or Line After will covert the curve before or after the selected node to a line.
  7. Curve Before or Curve After converts a line to a curve before or after the selected node on a curve.


  1. When completing a tutorial or series of tutorials, and having placed them upon your web page, post in the SLP Forum your completed work using this layout:
    • Name or Screen Name.
    • Web Site URL.
    • Version of PSP using.
    • List of Tutorials completed.
  2. Post your Work:
    • List what you did, feature, options used, values.
    • Indicate steps taken and results.
    • Indicate things you found interesting, worthwhile and any other comments.
  3. Comment on any particular techniques you used or discovered, any particular results you found perhaps by accident and any ideas you have for creating a particular result.
  4. Post any questions and comments in the SLP Forum.

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