A Beginner’s Guide to Mastering the Pen Tool in Photoshop

Los Angeles-based automotive photographer Dave Cox (AKA @ShootingDave) has put together a useful beginner’s guide that will help you master what he’s calling “the sexiest tool” in Photoshop: the Pen Tool. “Sexy” might sound like a stretch, but Dave has a point. The Pen Tool can make detailed masking a breeze… if you know how to use it.

“I light paint cars at night which requires multiple exposures. This can be a little problematic when trying to keep your masking an adjustments neat and logical,” Dave tells PetaPixel. “Using the Pen Tool allows me to create refined masks that I can use to control lighting on the car separate to the background. I know it can be daunting to a lot of people so hopefully I made it as simple as possible for people to follow along with.”

Using only the most basic functions built into the Pen Tool is how he was able to create complicated masks and create the photos you see below:

In this video, his goal is to get you up and running so you can make selections like this yourself. He covers how to use the Pen Tool to draw straight lines, how to create bezier curves, how to add and remove points with both curved and straight edges, and how to create selections and masks from the paths you’ve drawn.

To see all of this in action, check out the full video up top. Maybe some day Adobe’s Select Subject and Select Object tools will get so advanced that you’ll never need to manually draw out a selection or path again. Admittedly, they’ve already gotten pretty advanced. But for now, the Pen Tool is anything but obsolete.

In fact, if you believe Dave, it’s the sexiest tool in Photoshop.

Image credits: All photos by Dave Cox/Shooting Dave and used with permission.