Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video Getting to the Arrow tools on the fly, part of Adobe Pen Tool: Fundamentals.
- In this chapter, I'm going to walk you through every possible way to use the arrow tools, a.k.a. the selection tools in Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop. And the reason we're examining the arrow tools before we get to the pen tool, is this. No matter how second nature the pen tool becomes, you're never going to draw every path outline right the first time. In fact, I daresay most of us spend more time editing paths than drawing them. And you can edit a path any old time. Seconds after you draw it, days after, it doesn't matter.
You can even edit the path on the fly, point by point, handle by handle, as you draw it, which requires knowledge of the arrow tools, especially the white arrow. Now, in these movies, I'm going to be slinging a ton of information at you. There are a bunch of modifier keys you can press, some of which will make sense at first, some of which will have to sink in over time. My purpose of course is to tell you everything there is to know. Now if you haven't spent much time with Adobe's vector-based drawing tools, it might fee a little bit overwhelming, in which case, you can always come back and re-watch these movies later, after you get some experience under your belt.
Now regardless of who you are, I don't expect you to memorize everything I'm about to shows you. But we are going to be taking advantage of a lot of these tricks over and over in future chapters. So if nothing else, what I show you later will seem at least vaguely familiar based on what I'm about to show you now. So assuming you're up for the challenge, let's see how the arrow tools work. Alright, in this movie, I'm going to show you how to get to the arrow tools, on the fly, when using any other tool such as the pen tool.
So what we have here are the two selection tools according to Adobe. They are the selection tool, or the path selection tool in Photoshop, over here on the left, and the direct selection tool over here on the right. But as you know, I prefer to call them what they are which is the black arrow tool and the white arrow tool. The black arrow tool selects entire objects, such as path outlines, groups, and so forth. And the white arrow tool selects independent elements, such as anchor points and segments, and as we'll see, it also allows you to select path outlines inside groups.
Alright, so here's how to get to the arrow tools. You already know about these guys, you can press the V key for the black tool inside Illustrator and InDesign, and you can press the A key to get to the white arrow tool in those two programs. The A key gets you to either arrow tool inside Photoshop. But, there's more. And that more includes this. If you want to access an arrow tool on the fly, regardless of which tool is active, then inside Illustrator and InDesign here on the PC you press and hold the Control key, on the Mac you press and hold the Command key.
And that's what's known as a spring-loaded trick. So, as long as you have that key down, Control or Command, you will select the last used arrow tool, which might be the black arrow tool or the white arrow tool. As soon as you release that key, you'll return to the tool at hand. For example, the pen tool. For example, the pen tool. Now anytime you see an asterisk like this, there is a caveat, and in this case it's in InDesign, which sometimes pays attention to which tool is active. For example, if you're using the pen tool, then when you press Control or Command, depending on the platform, you always get the white arrow tool regardless of which arrow tool you used last.
Alright, now because Photoshop is a pixel-based program first and a vector-based editor second, it works a little differently. First you have to hover your cursor over a path outline. Again, we have a little caveat here. Then, on the PC, you press and hold the Control key, just as above, and on a Mac you press and hold the Command key. And as long as that key is down, you get access specifically to the white arrow tool. So it doesn't matter which arrow tool you used last, you'll get the white arrow tool on the fly. Now the caveat is that otherwise, that is to say if you don't have your cursor hovered over a path outline, pressing either Control or Command gets you the move tool, and pressing the V key by the way, which is the standard keyboard shortcut for the black arrow tool in both Illustrator and InDesign, that always gets you the move tool in Photoshop.
So as I say, there's a lot going on here, I'm throwing a lot of information at you, but I want you to at least have access, if only as a reference, to this information. Now because of that last used thing, where you're always getting to the last used arrow tool, especially in Illustrator, you can toggle between the black and white arrow tools as you're using the arrow tool on the fly. So imagine you have the Control key down, or the Command key on the Mac, and what you really want is the white arrow tool. Then specifically inside Illustrator, on the PC, you press Control tilde, And a tilde key is located in the upper left corner of an American keyboard.
On the Mac, you press Command Option Tab, so these are very different keyboard shortcuts. And let me show you what that looks like. Notice that I currently have the black arrow tool selected, up here at the top of the tool box, here inside Illustrator. If I now switch over to the pen tool, notice if I press and hold the Control key, that's the Command key on a Mac, I'm going to get to the black arrow tool. But let's say that's not what I want. What I want is the white arrow tool. Well, I can go ahead and release that key, select the white arrow tool, and then go back to the pen tool, that way the white arrow tool will be the last one I used, or I can take advantage of this keyboard shortcut.
And again, what I do is press the Control key, hold it down, that's the Command key on the Mac, and then if I want the white arrow tool instead, I would just go ahead and tap the tilde key, because the control key is already down. And notice I am now seeing the white arrow. On the Mac, that looks like this. Let's say I've got the pen tool selected, and then I press and hold the Command key, well I'm seeing the white arrow tool, because it's the last tool I used. Now all I need to do is add Option and Tab. Just go ahead and tap those two keys, and I'll switch back to the black arrow tool.
Now these might seem like pretty weird keyboard shortcuts, but there's good reasons for them. It has to do with the way the operating systems work. But if you want to change the keyboard shortcuts, if you don't like them, then here inside Illustrator you can choose edit keyboard shortcuts, switch to the menus command, and scroll down to other select. And that looks like this. I'll go up to the edit menu and choose keyboard shortcuts. And then I'll switch from tools to menu commands, and then it's this guy right there. Other select, you just go ahead and twirl it open, click on that guy, and you can change it to anything you want.
Alright, I'm going to go ahead and cancel out. Now, Photoshop of course, works differently. In Photoshop, you switch from one arrow tool to the other, that is to say from the black arrow tool to the white arrow tool, or vice versa, when you have the opposite arrow selected, so you might be switching from the black arrow to the white arrow, or from the white arrow to the black arrow, and you do that by pressing Shift A. And the caveat this time is that again, in Photoshop, just remember that pressing the V key selects the move tool, which lets you move and align whole layers, incidentally, whereas pressing A selects the last used arrow tool.
Alright, now if you aren't just completely overwhelmed by this point, in the spirit of full disclosure, we have a few more shortcuts. When an arrow tool is is active, you can access the opposite arrow on the fly. And so in Illustrator and Photoshop, this time around, on the PC you press and hold the Control key, and on the Mac you press and hold the Command key. Now you may wonder what in the world I'm talking about at this point. Notice if I switch back to the black arrow tool, which of course I can get by pressing the V key. If I want to switch to the white arrow tool for just a moment on the fly, I press and hold the Control key, either in Illustrator or Photoshop.
On the Mac, of course, you press and hold the Command key. And then as soon as I release that key, I go back to the active arrow tool. In InDesign, what you do is, this is so weird, is you press and hold the A key to get the white arrow tool, or the V key to get the black arrow tool on the fly. So in other words, if some other tool is selected, and it doesn't matter which tool it is, you can press the A key to get the white arrow tool, press and hold it, or the V key to get the black arrow tool, and then as soon as you release that key, you'll return to the active tool.
And just so you know, this is what's known as a spring-loaded tool, which is a feature inside both InDesign and Photoshop. Illustrator does not currently have this function. So as promised, I'm flinging a ton of information at you, but that is every way at least that I know of to get to the arrow tools on the fly inside of Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop.
- Understanding how anchor points, segments, and control handles work
- Adding and deleting anchor points
- Working with smooth and cusp points
- Selecting and deselecting with the arrow tools
- Drawing vector-based paths
- Connecting open paths
- Repositioning points and segments as you draw
- Inserting and deleting points on the fly
- Converting multiple points with a single click