How to Draw an Arch in Photoshop

By Amy Stanbrough

Use the pen and marquee tools to draw arches in Photoshop.
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If you use Photoshop to edit and retouch photos, you'll might also need to use its drawing tools to create simple shapes such as an arch. Creating and designing your own arch from within the program prevents problems you could have importing an arch from another program. You can size it exactly, avoid white backgrounds and preserve your color scheme. By saving the paths, you can use the arch again for duplicates and patterns.

Pen Tool

Look on the Tools palette for an icon resembling the tip of an old-fashioned fountain pen. That's the Pen tool, which can be used to make lines and S-shapes in vector format. To make an arch, create a blank white canvas about the size of a postcard or larger. Select the Pen and draw your arch by clicking the Pen to create line segments. Hold down the "Shift" key as you work to keep the lines proportionate and straight. When you need to draw the curved portion at the top, click and drag the Pen downward to pull up the shape. To eliminate the long handlebar and move to the next section of the arch, hold down the "Alt" key and click the Pen on the anchor point.


The marquee method also produces an arch. Open a blank canvas and select the marquee icon from the Toolbar. The marquee icon is located below the Move tool and looks like a circle or square made of dotted lines. Choose the elliptical -- or circle-shaped -- marquee first. Click and drag an elongated oval onto the canvas. This will be the top, curved portion of the arch. Leave the oval on the canvas and select the square marquee from the Toolbar. Aim the cross hair at the very end of the oval, hold down the "Shift" key, and drag all the way across and down until you reach the end of the oval. When you release your mouse, the two marquees will merge together in an arch. Choose "Edit" followed by "Stroke" to outline the arch.

Saving and Altering Paths

Modifying lines drawn with the Pen tool requires the Direct selection tool. Select it from the Tools palette and use it to open the anchor points in your path. It's tricky to use: Make sure to click on a line near the anchor point you want to change before clicking on the point itself. Then click and drag the point to its new position. To turn your path into a selection, open the Paths palette by choosing "Paths" from the "Window" menu. Click your path's name from the palette (you should be able to recognize it from its shape), then access Path options by clicking the icon in the righthand corner of the palette and choosing "make selection."

Saving and Altering Marquees

Once you have a marquee of a basic arch shape, you can modify it by saving it as a path. With the marquee active, open the Paths palette and choose "make work path" by clicking the options icon in the upper righthand corner of the Paths palette. Set the tolerance to at least "2" so you can see your path. Once the path is created, you can use the options to stroke it, fill it or convert it back to a selection. Another method is to save the selection as an alpha channel. With your arch selected, open the Channels palette and click the "save selection as channel" icon, resembling a rectangle with a circle inside. Your arch shape will then be listed as an alpha channel, which you can use as a mask when working with layers, textures and gradients.