Pen Tool Basics: An Fstoppers Post Production Tutorial by Sean Armenta

Hello Fstoppers! My name is Sean Armenta, and this is my little spot on Fstoppers called The Post Production Tutorial. If you enjoy these videos, feel free to subscribe to my new Fstoppers PPT Youtube Channel for the latest updates. This time around, we will talk about how to use the Photoshop Pen Tool. Granted, it's not as flashy and exciting as other aspects of retouching, but the Pen Tool is definitely something everyone should learn. 

To be honest, the Pen Tool is something I use quite often, especially when a client requests a color change on an object or background, or even when retouching hair. Stay tuned for more videos coming up soon and feel free to leave me any comments below with questions on this video or about suggestions for future videos.

According to Patrick and much to my surprise, not everyone is on a Mac. :) So for you PC users out there, the keyboard equivalent for the command (CMD) key is CTRL, and the equivalent for option (OPT) is ALT.

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Nicholas Thomas's picture

Awesome, awesome tutorial!

Brian Moore's picture

Finally it has arrived!!!

Been waiting patiently since you announced your video series here on FStoppers.

When will #3 arrive? whats the release schedule? weekly? monthly? random? please lets not do random.

thanks again!

Patrick Hall's picture

These are supposed to be bi monthly...glad you enjoy them but you gotta hold your horses :)

Adam Ottke's picture

I get it now!!!!!! Thank you!!!!

Nicholas gonzalez's picture

Great video. The pen tool actually SAVES the time of photographers who still use a mouse. I just converted to using a Wacom pen tablet and it's even easier. Sean presents the tool very user friendly. It is because he is a good teacher. Thanks fstoppers.

Nicola's picture

Fantastic!!! Sean is an awesome teacher and I always learn so much from his tutorials.

Jim Cunningham's picture

as usual, Sean does it again! great tutorial!

Kellen's picture

this is the kind of usefulness i wouldn't mind paying for.

Alex's picture

Very useful... and don't think it seems so easy. What software do you use to make the introduction video?

Patrick Hall's picture

I'm not sure how Sean is creating his opening sequence but the new Fstoppers PPT motion are was created by Dan Dawley at Swell Motion Graphics...check him out at

@Kellen, but we are happy to bring you all our content for free :)

Shannon Wimberly's picture

I've been using the pen tool since Illustrator 88..... I work very fast with this tool....

Luke Copping's picture

Great tutorial. Should open the eyes of a lot of people who have been neglecting this simple but powerful tool

kenward's picture

These are awesome, thanks to Sean and FStoppers. Glad this has become a regular segment

Kristopher Armstead's picture

on a different note.... Sean's lighting is awesome!

Marc Lilius's picture

Oh man a monkey has been lifted off my back. I've used the Pen tool in Ai in the past on numerous times (don't really use Ai anymore) but never really in PS, for some strange reason. But that tutorial has changed things for me. Don't you just hate it when using the Plygonal Lasso tool and you click once too many and it creates a selection in totally the wrong area. No more!

Wouter van der Linde's picture

Hey Sean,
I got an request:
l Ioved the eye retouch video! very helpful! I saw in some other videos you did that you use Portraiture.. I have Portraiture 2, maybe you could make an little video about how to work with that program?

Thanks in advance!


Shane Parker's picture

I couldn't live without the combination of a Wacom and the Pen tool. I use it daily and it makes life soooooo much easier. I've been using the pen tool for years, but I'm definitely going to watch this tonight as there are always different ways to do things and I'm sure this video will show me something I didn't already know.

These are great, guys!

John Hwe's picture

Love your video's Sean. Keep em coming!

martin's picture

A pretty good video but I don't usually use 'make selection from path'. I rather make a vector mask cos it's more flexible and non destructive. Anyway a great video. And I'd love to have the same pen tool in Ps as is in the Illustrator :( . Maybe someday :)

Bill's picture

hey........that was great! thanks

Jarad Clement's picture

Very cool! I didn't know about control clicking the center after using the pen tool, that helps A LOT!

Theo's picture

Isn't using masks easier? It's basically the same pen-tool, but no select-feather-copy-paste

Sean Armenta's picture

the pen tool is a selection tool. what you do with your selection afterwards is entirely up to you. jump it to a new layer, create a layer mask with it, save it as an alpha channel, make custom shapes, make a vector mask, etc. but more importantly do what works for you. :)

Theo's picture

Thanks for your great vids, Sean. I appreciate what you are doing! =)

Daniel Suzuki's picture

It's actually a lot quicker and more precise if instead of killing the leading anchor by option clicking on the point, you hold down the option and change the anchor angle after clicking.

The action is:
Click to make the initial point. Then click hold on the new location. Before letting go of the mouse, click and hold the option button and change the leading anchor to the direction of your next point. Then move on to the next point.

If you use this method correctly, each angle looks smoother because you are using the leading anchor to give you a bezier curve.

Hope this helps.

Lloyd Barnes's picture

Thanks for a great tutorial on using the pen tool - I always found it confusing but this helped me a lot!

Nicole Chan's picture

Sean Armenta is seriously a god. THANK YOU! Keep 'em coming! Your videos have been some of my favorites. :)

Thanks Sean!  I have seen many tutorials on the use of the pen tool, but none as comprehensive as yours.  You are truly blessed to have the ability to teach others well and love what you do.

Great tutorial, kind of basic for the more advanced user, but still very good.
One thing he didn't mention and I think is essencial with this tool is the use of the rubber band option with the pen tool. That way you can actually see where your line is going all the time. It is located at the tool's menu on the top (small black triangle besides the ameba shaped thing...) - tick the rubber band option and voila! 
Have a try.

romain VERNEDE's picture

wow thanks a lot for this tutorial!!

great thank you very much guys!

Td Konkara's picture

Thanks so much for this!

Ken Yuen's picture

Always love Sean's beauty retouch. 

Cant watch the Video in my Country :-/. Would you mind to use royalty Free Music next time? or sty like that? 

Dey Manuel's picture

Hey Sean,

can you do a tutorial on how to retouch the legs & arms of the model. some models have that dark discoloration on their legs and arms especially when it's cold. i been having difficulty retouching those parts without losing skin texture on them. i have no issue retouching the face. it's just the arms, legs, elbows & knees. Thanks in advance!