Keyboard Shortcuts For The Pen

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Draw Faster By Making Fewer Trips To The Tool Palette

This tutorial is for applications that use the pen: Adobe® Photoshop®, Adobe Illustrator® and Macromedia® FreeHand®. When drawing with the pen you will inevitably have to stop mid-path and make adjustments to anchor points, control handles or line segments.

Note: Different software packages use different terms for the same things, and since this article is using mixed terminology please consult the table of equivalent terminology for clarification of terms.

Usually, when first learning the software, the novice will go to the tool palette to switch back and forth between the pen and other tools. This is very time consuming and there are provisions in the software to switch tools without having to select them from the tool palette. The keys on both the right-hand and left-hand sides of the spacebar are used for this purpose. Shown below are the keyboard hand positions for a right-handed mouse:

Left hand keys - Windows®           Left hand keys - Macintosh®
Shift =Shift
Alt =Option
Ctrl =Command



 The diagram above shows the hand positions (for a right handed mouse) to take advantage of keyboard shortcuts for drawing with the pen. This is the quickest way to use the pen.

Mac® users will use various combinations of the Shift, Option and Command keys, while Windows users will use parallel combinations of the Shift, Ctrl and Alt keys.

For example, while actively drawing a path with the pen tool, Windows Illustrator users can press the Ctrl key to switch between the pen and the selection tool while at the same time press the Shift key to constrain a line to 45° increments. When finished making the adjustment, the user simply releases the keys and resumes drawing with the pen tool - all without resorting to the tool palette.

Following this tutorial are step by step examples to drill the point.