Empowered User: Pen Tool Master



Ah, the pen tool. Some love it. Many hate it. This "elegant but demanding drawing tool" is arguably misnamed. Though it is capable of drawing strokes like a fountain pen, it is actually a powerful tool for highlighting and selecting content with almost complete precision. Because so few people have mastered the pen tool, it is a particularly valuable skill to have in your toolkit. There are some design shops that would hire you on the spot if you could prove that you know the pen tool inside out.


  1. Skim the article titled "Your Pen Tool." This short article is eleven years old, but it includes some very helpful pen tool tips. The car analogy is particularly strong.
  2. Experiment with the pen tool. For 10 or 15 minutes, experiment with the tool in Photoshop. Can you draw a star? How about a four-leaf clover?
  3. Turn your attention to the article "Learn to use the pen tool by playing a game."
  4. Point your browser toward the Bezier Game and experiment further with the pen tool.
  5. Read Simon Hubbert's web-based tutorial "Become a master of the pen tool in under 30 minutes."
  6. Download Hubbert's source files, follow his instructions, and create the penguin silhouette. This is just for practice. You will not be turning in your penguin.
  7. Locate an image depicting a human in motion. This might be a personal photograph or an image that you have found on the web. Save two copies of this image. One will be the "before" version, and one will be the "after" version of the image. You will need to post these images as part of the badge deliverables.
  8. Create a silhouette of the human shape. If you're not sure how to do this, you can skim Steve Patterson's tutorial "Fun with silhouettes in Photoshop." When you are finished, save the silhouette as the "after" version of the image.
  9. Make yourself famous. Ever wanted to see a picture of yourself on the cover of a well-known magazine? Have you dreamed of being photographed alongside a well-known world leader? This is your chance to do so. Track down an iconic photograph or an interesting magazine cover, and find a good picture of yourself. Use your pen tool skills to extract yourself from the source image, and then insert yourself into the photograph or magazine cover.
  10. Blog about your findings. In a short (4 to 6 paragraph) posting on your personal blog, discuss your experience with the pen tool. What difficulties, if any, did you encounter? Can you share any tips or tricks for others who seek to master the pen tool? Which resources did you find most useful? Reflecting on your own learning style, do you find video tutorials to be more effective than written tutorials? Your blog posting should be accompanied by captioned images depicting your creative process. Be sure to include the before/after photos from steps seven and nine.
  11. Remember to complete the badge assignment by e-mailing Dr. Delwiche with the subject line "Pending: Empowered User Pen Tool" and be sure to link to your blog posting in that message.


Last Revised: January 3, 2017
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