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Photoshop 101 - Path and Direct Selection Tools

The path and selection tools let you quickly move and manipulate any shape with a path. Part of the workhorse tools of Photoshop they will let you shift and change shapes quickly.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Table of contents

Not very sexy but very useful

The Path and Selection tools are not going to give you a shiny reflection or a eye pleasing gradient. But they will help you move and position things exactly the way you want. If you use the Pen tool you will find yourself using this tool heavily to move and manipulate the paths you have created.

What is a path in Photoshop?

A path is a straight or curved shape. It is rather like a road - it can curve one way or the other but it is always part of the same path. There are sections in a path defined by anchor points.

A path can be open or closed, so either a straight line or a circle. Pretty much any shape you draw is a path and can be changed or moved using the path selection tools.

The Path Selection Tool

The shortcut for these tools is 0

Using this tool you can move your path around and resize it if you wish. In the toolbar you can select “Show Bounding Box” to show the box around the path. This will let you enlarge or shrink it if you wish.

Lets have a look at a path that we have selected using the Direct Selection Tool.

Path Example

When you select a path with the direct selection tool you will see the anchor points and direction lines appear. If the anchor point is dark it means it is selected and you can do things with it. The lines that come off the anchor points are the direction points. If the anchor point is selected you can drag the line to change the direction and nature of the path. Click and hold the small square at the end of the direction line, known as the direction point.

Have a look at the short video to see the shape being moved and changed using these tools. This shape was created using the Pen tool.

Photoshop 101 - Path Selection from George Ornbo on Vimeo.

Particularly for adding fine details and fine tuning the paths you have drawn this is an invaluable tool.

Have an update or suggestion for this article? You can edit it here and send me a pull request.

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