New Options for Paths in Adobe Photoshop CS6

New Options for Paths in Adobe Photoshop CS6

There are some new options in Photoshop CS6 which appears in Options bar when working with Path tool mode. Path tool mode means that only path will be drawn without any fill or new shape layer created. Paths are one of most powerful features in Photoshop and if you do not use them this is best time to get started. Paths are vector objects which can be resized without any lost in quality and used as clipping paths, to create shape layers, save custom shapes, to fill them with color, gradient, pattern or even to create selection. Another use is to fill or stroke path with painting, retouching, selection tools. Very, very powerful and useful feature so lets see new options which are great improvement in my opinion and one can get quickly get job done without to know any tip or trick for paths.

How to draw path
When Shape or Pen tools are active you have option from Pick tool mode drop-down list in Tools option bar to choose Path which allows you to draw only vector path without any fill, stroke or new shape layer created. So select any of vector drawing tool and choose Path from options bar.
Choose Path from Pick tool mode drop-down list
Choose Path from Pick tool mode drop-down list

When drawing paths there is no need to have any layer selected and you wont make any permanent change in open document, in fact you will have only temporary Work Path in the Paths panel. In this particular case i will use Freeform Pen tool which works similarly like Pencil but instead pixels it draws freeform paths.
Draw path using any vector drawing tools
Draw path using any vector drawing tools

Create selection, vector mask or shape from path
After drawing your path you can use Direct Selection tool to modify it by selecting individual anchor points and easy change curvines or move anchor points around what is big advantage of using paths over selection tools in some cases.
Adjust individual anchor points
Adjust individual anchor points
When you are done adjusting shape (actually path), select any drawing tool (with Path tool mode) and ensure that Work Path in Paths panel is selected (must have light blue background). Take a look in Tools option bar for new and excellent improvements. Buttons: Selection, Mask and Shape will be active for you to create selection (which you can save or create layer mask), vector mask or shape layer with one click. If you want to define new custom shape and save it permanently for later use in any document then right click on path and choose Define Custom Shape.
Create Selection, Vector Mask or Shape Layer from selected path
Create Selection, Vector Mask or Shape Layer from selected path
When Work Path or Path in the Paths panel is selected, creating new adjustments layer will use path to create vector mask for that Adjustments layer.

When using Shape option, new Shape layer will be created above currently selected layer.

Mask button is not active
If Mask button (creates vector mask) in options bar is not active, the reason is because Background or Shape layer is selected in Layers panel or layer already have applied vector mask. Convert Background layer to normal or select any other than Shape layer, which is not locked by the way, in order to have Mask button active.
You must have regular or other than Shape layer selected to have Mask button active

Create layer or vector mask from Paths panel
One more good improvement in CS6 is Ad a mask button which creates layer mask from selection, new layer mask filled with white or vector mask from selected Path/Work Path (Ctrl + Ad a mask to create vector mask). This button is next to Make work path from selection?. Designer decided to not place this button next to Load path as a selection to not confuse you.
Ad a mask button in Paths panel
Ad a mask button in Paths panel

Conclusion
I am very satisfied with new options to work with paths in Photoshop CS6. It may seem just three buttons because everything available through buttons (like create shape layer from path) was possible in earlier versions but they are great time savers and now anyone who owns Photoshop can easily create selection, vector mask or shape layer from Work or saved Path without to know tips and tricks.

Reference:
Improvements to Shape Tool Options in Photoshop CS6
Photoshop Help / What's new in CS6

Product used in this tutorial: Adobe Photoshop CS6

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