I can't understand why when I manipulate the handle on the last anchor point of my path, it does not affect the curve of the path segment, whereas if I manipulate the handle on the first anchor point, it does affect the segment curve.

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Please see the example video, where the handle on the first anchor point (on the right) changes the curve, but the handle on the last anchor point (on the left) does not change the curve: VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhTUTTVJTuQ


It looks like the issue relates to different behavior resulting from using the convert point tool directly from the toolbar, vs activating the convert point tool by pressing OPTION while using the pen tool...

New video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAX9XL39ITE

  • 00.19 - Using the pen tool I hover over a regular path point, and press OPTION to activate the convert point tool. I then click and drag to create a curve with handles.
  • 00.28 - I try to do the same thing on the end point, but when I press OPTION I get a slightly different icon - instead of being the convert tool "V", I get a pen tool icon with a smaller "V" in the bottom-right corner. When I click and drag to create a handle, the handle has no affect on the line segment.
  • 00.41 - HOWEVER, if I go to the toolbar and explicitly select the convert point tool, and then try the same thing on the end point, this time it acts as I expected, where I get a full "V" icon and it creates handles that add curve to the line segment.

This was tripping me up. I expected the Pen + OPTION shortcut to act like a normal convert point tool, but clearly it's doing something different. Why does it behave differently?


1 Answer 1


You can't adjust the curve of the section preceding the highlighted anchor because that anchor is a corner point and not a smooth point.

With a corner point each side of the anchor is treated individually. With a smooth point both sides of the anchor are treated symmetrically or in unison.

The handle you see is for the next section of path which will be added when you create another point (continuing the path). It is not a smooth point which would subsequently control both sides of the anchor.

Additional for edit;

The Pen Tool Alt/Option shortcut has different abilities based upon the existing anchor you are/will click.

Kind of complicated... the short answer is, because it's an end anchor point.

Longer answer... corner points have handles too, you simply don't see them because they are at 0. So they hide. When you Alt/Option-drag an end anchor with the Pen Tool, you are pulling out a handle for the open side of the anchor, creating a non-symmetrical curve.

After pulling the handle, the next point you add (continue with) will have a curve to the path section joining the anchors. Check this out: bezier.method.ac if you are struggling with the pen tool.

Why it's different based on the tool...

The Convert Anchor Tool merely converts between corner and smooth points. It doesn't matter if it's an end anchor or a middle anchor... it just converts the anchor. It's assumed if you are using that actual tool, you want to change the nature of the anchor, not merely it's handles.

If you drag out a smooth point with the Convert Anchor Tool, you can then use the Convert Anchor Tool to click-drag one of the handles to break the symmetry of the curve.

I'd also point out that Photoshop's Pen Tool operations are sort of reconstructed/reworked based upon Illustrator's Pen Tool operations. I've been using Illustrator's Pen tool for literally decades. At times, I'm surprised at how things work with Photoshop's Pen Tool.

If you are learning the pen tool, and have access to Illustrator, I'd strongly suggest you learn the Pen Tool in Illustrator. Everything you learn in Illustrator will immediately transfer to Photoshop. However, you'll also understand that some operations may merely be a "quirk" or limitation in Photoshop's Pen Tool and not "impossible" everywhere.

  • Thanks @Scott, I thought I knew how corner points work, but couldn't understand why I couldn't get a handle created for the existing segment. On top of that, something else was tripping me up: using the convert point tool from the toolbar was behaving differently than the Pen + OPTION shortcut. Would you mind taking a look at the update I posted in the question?
    – Yarin
    Jan 27, 2022 at 16:08
  • @Yarin answer updated.
    – Scott
    Jan 27, 2022 at 20:13
  • Great point on possible differences between PS/AI. I actually cut my teeth on AI's pen tool way back, so good to know. I'll check out that link as well. Thanks for sticking with me on this!
    – Yarin
    Jan 27, 2022 at 22:04

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