Let's say that to select an object from a photograph, I create an approximate shape with the Pen Tool so that it consists of sharp corners.

Then, with cmd-click, I drag each anchor point to a more precise spot so they really are where I want them (along the outline of the object).

Last, I just drag the handles either symmetrically or asymmetrically to crate the curves I want.

Okay, I do get the work done. But what's always baffled me is the logic of how the handles work; to bring the handle visible and start adjusting the curve, you have to drag it, usually somewhat along to the direction of the actual path if the point is to smooth out the sharp corner.

Sometimes when you do that, it goes as expected, but sometimes it makes a 'knot' so you'll have to rotate the handles 180 degrees around the anchor point to straighten it. What's the logic behind this, how can I know which direction to start pulling in order to avoid this unpractical knot? Here's an illustration.


  • When you draw the path manually, the handles will follow the path direction. When you use a premade shape, it's a bit of a guessing game, but all you need to do is rotate them in the other direction once you see the knot.
    – Manly
    Dec 6, 2016 at 18:15

1 Answer 1


Pull in the direction you created that segment of path.

Simple example:

enter image description here

If changes direction again, its based on that segment:

enter image description here

(totally missed a point but not taking the time to correct it)

Vs on the same shape but a different segment:

enter image description here

  • Thank you, THIS is indeed the logic that I was looking for! I created a test file in which I created one hexagon clockwise, another anti-clockwise, now I see it. I just never paid attention to which way around I was making the path, because you can start it from anywhere you like, and if you create several shapes, you won't even remember how you created each one. Knowing this now, maybe I'll make a habit of always creating every path clockwise, just to keep it consistent.
    – user158589
    Dec 6, 2016 at 18:46

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