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Reagan Ray is the lead designer and resident illustrator for Paravel.

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Pen Tool Shortcuts

July 23, 2011

The pen tool is a powerful medium for creating vector art in both Illustrator and Photoshop (although Photoshop technically renders the vectors as pixels). But whenever I’m building a shape, I always need to manipulate the shape while I’m creating anchor points and this requires switching to the direct selection tool. Switching back and forth between the pen tool and the direct selection tool can constrain your workflow, even when using keyboard shortcuts.

Thankfully, you can temporarily activate the direct selection tool while using the pen tool by holding the command (⌘) key – but there’s a catch. The command key will call up whichever tool you used last, the selection tool (black arrow that moves the whole shape) or the direct selection tool (white arrow that moves individual or multiple anchor points). Just make sure you select the direct selection tool first (keyboard shortcut: “a” key) and then select the pen tool (keyboard shortcut: “p” key). This method applies to every tool as well, not just the pen tool.

You can also quickly access the convert anchor point tool (the nearly upside-down “v”) by holding the option key while using the pen tool.

Moreover, you can quickly duplicate shapes while using the pen tool if you hold the command and option keys while clicking and dragging a shape (this will work while using any tool & doesn’t matter if you used the selection tool or the direct selection tool last).

In synopsis:
Any tool: Holding ⌘ temporarily accesses the selection or direct selection tool (whichever one was used last).
Any tool: Holding ⌘+⌥ while dragging a shape will duplicate it.
Pen tool: Holding ⌥ will let you access the convert anchor point tool.

Produced By

Chandler Van De Water

Designer
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