Top 10 Most Useful Things to Know about the Pen Tool

What is the Pen Tool Used for?

  • Draw shapes
  • Create lines
  • Select sections of an image
  • Manually trace an image

Where to find it:

The Pen tool is found along the left toolbar and looks like a fountain pen nib.

The keyboard shortcut is P.

Using the Pen Tool is kind of like drawing a dot to dot image. It’s perfect for drawing in Affinity when you don’t have a drawing tablet. Every time you click with the mouse, it will add a new node (“dot”) to your canvas.

To terminate a shape or line:

With the exception of Line Mode, the Pen Tool will keep adding points until you either: 1. Close the shape by clicking on your starting node, or 2. Press the escape key. If you don’t wan’t a closed shape, then use the Escape key.

Pen Mode:

In the contextual tool bar, you can choose from 4 different modes. When you click and create nodes in Pen Mode, they will be square nodes and have sharp turns between each segment of the line. When you hold the left mouse button while clicking new nodes, you will get a smooth node, allow you to create rounded corners at each node. The Pen Tool allows use to create both kinds of nodes just by adjusting how you are using your mouse.

Smart Mode:

Smart Mode will only create smooth nodes. Perfect for organic shapes and blobs. Holding the left mouse button will only re-position your latest node.

Polygon Mode:

Polygon Mode will only create sharp (square) nodes. Each segment will be a straight line between nodes. Holding the left mouse button only serves to reposition your current node.

Line Mode:

Unlike the previous modes, this mode will only draw a single line segment. Click two points on your Canvas and it will connect them with a line. This is used for creating journal and notebook lines in Affinity.

Preserve Selection When Creating New Curves:

The next few options are found in the contextual toolbar just to the right of the modes. When you create a new shape, a new layer is started and the previous shape is de-selected. With this option enabled your previous shapes will remain selected.

Add New Curve to Selected Object:

When this option is enabled, every shape you create will appear on the same layer instead of new layers. This might be handy if you were drawing a coloring page and you wanted a complex image (let’s say a house) all be on the same layer.

Rubber Band:

With this option turned on, you can get a preview of the next line segment before you click and place your next node. It’s like a stretchy string following your mouse cursor. Useful for newcomers to using the Pen tool.

Break Curve at Selected Node:

You can also reach this Action from the Node tool at any time. This action will break your shape or object at the selected node, allowing you to separate the two ends and move them around.

Construction Snapping:

This is found in the snapping options in the contextual toolbar. It will give you pop up guides and measurements to help you more accurately place your nodes, especially when aligning them to other objects on your Canvas.

Watch the video above for more detailed explanations and demonstrations of these features.

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