Photoshop Pen Tool - Shortcut keys (shift/option) changing the path operation. Worked in older Photoshop Version

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  • Updated 3 months ago
Being able to add/subtract to an existing shape or mask path using the pen tool is a huge time saver for people that create complex clipping paths with the pen tool. This functionality existed in past versions of Photoshop, but has been removed in newer versions.

For example, make an ellipse with the ellipse shape tool. Then hold down shift and a little + shows up allowing you to add to that shape.

Now try to draw an organic shape with the pen tool. When you hold down shift or alt to add or subtract from the shape, nothing happens, no + or - shows next to the cursor. It used to!

So the solution is to draw another shape, click the direct select tool to select the whole shape, control + C to copy, then select the shape you want to add it to, and paste it. Then go to the drop down menu to set the path operation. This needs to end so PSD maskers can save time.
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Adam Kolbo

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  • frustrated, annoyed

Posted 2 years ago

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eartho, Champion

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When a tool is selected, there are options in the option bar which control this behavior.
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Eric Floch, Employee

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So the keyboard shortcuts you're talking about are for path operations with the Shape tools. I went back as far as Photoshop CS6 (which was well before my time working with Paths and Shapes) and looked at the Pen tool in both Path and Shape modes and those shortcuts aren't working as you suggested even back in THAT version.

I'll do some more digging around but can you remember which version you remember these shortcuts working in with the Pen tool?

Here are some Pen tool shortcuts that should work...

To get Direct Selection tool while using Pen -- Ctrl
Switch between Add-Anchor and Delete-Anchor Point tools (if one of those tools is selected) -- Alt
Switch from Path Selection tool to Convert Point tool when pointer is over anchor point -- Ctrl-Alt
To Select a whole path w/Direct Selection tool -- Alt-Click
Convert path to a selection -- Ctrl-Click on path name (in Paths panel)

Unfortunately, the last one is not working currently, but we are aware of it, have a bug on the issue, and we'll be looking into it.

If you can remember the version where this was working, it would be very helpful. Thanks!

-Eric Floch
Photoshop Quality Engineer
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tobias mayr

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This has probably been abandoned, but I'll try anyway.

while working with shapes I noticed that I repeatedly tried shift/alt modifiers to add/substract from the shape. Since it didn't work, I started wondering WHY is was trying to do so. 

Then I googled and found this post. Turns out that it describes exactly the behavior I remembered.

I know it worked this way before the Pen tool was split into pixel/path/shape mode. I understand that a lot of artists don't use keyboard shortcuts nowadays, but in terms of producitivity there's a major reason why using the drop-down for path operations is a bad idea:

it forces you to move the cursor away from the area you're working on, breaking the flow. since the shift/alt/shift+alt modifiers still work in pixel selection mode I'd really recommend putting those back into path operations.

thanks for listening.

EDIT: it's not quite the same, but the +/- keys on the numpad allow toggling the mode for each shape now.