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How to paint along the path

Sometimes, it can be difficult to create a freehand brush stroke in a very specific shape, like a circle, for example. But Photoshop makes it easy to create a path and then stroke that path with a painting tool.

So I’ve created a new document that’s four by six, filled the background color with white, and let’s create a new layer in order to create or place this paint stroke onto. I’ll tap the u key in order to select my shape tools and I’m going to select the ellipse tool. I want to make sure that it’s set to draw a path, so I’ll choose that in the options bar. And then, I’ll click and drag out the path. I’ll hold down the shift key in order to constrain it to a circle, and I’ll hold down the space bar if I want to reposition the path in the image area, releasing the space bar, and then releasing the cursor. We can see in the Paths panel that I now have a work path. Before I stoke the path, I need to set up the brush, so I’ll tap the b key. That selects the brush tool. I’ll right-click in the options bar in order to reset that tool. And then from the brush preset picker, I’ll scroll up to the general brushes and I’ll just select the hard round pressure size brush. I’ll tap Enter in order to hide the brush preset picker and use the right bracket to get a little bit larger of a brush. Then, from the Paths panel, I’ll use the flyout menu, and I’ll choose Stroke Path. I’ll choose the brush that we just set up and then click OK. But it’s rather boring, right? So let’s undo that. I’ll use Command Z on Mac or Control-Z on Windows. And this time, when I choose to stroke the path, I’m also going to simulate pressure, click OK, and we get a very different line. I’ll click off the work path in order to hide it.

This technique can also be useful for dodging and burning in a photograph. If you have an edge that you want to lighten or darken, you can draw a path along that edge and then stroke it with a dodge or burn tool.

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