Bezier Lines in PSP - A Mini-Tutorial

bezier creation

Created May 16, 2003 © Copyright SuzShook
Made "Version-Independent" March 2009
Property of SuzShook

This tutorial is my own creation;
however, most of the techniques used in this tutorial, I have learned from others!
Therefore, if you recognize any contribution you have made, I thank you!
And I thank you as well for respecting this as my work by not posting it,
in whole or in part,
in any other location without written permission from me!

Individuals and PSP graphics groups are invited to share my tutorials with others with TEXT LINKS ONLY.
You can e-mail me to let me know you are adding one or more of my tutorials to your list if you like -
it's always fun to know who is doing them!

This tutorial is a simple introduction to creating Bezier lines, or curves, in PSP after PSP 7. The tools and the process are different, but the results are the same as those seen in pre-PSP 8 versions of PSP. The basic concept for creating Bezier lines in this fashion was posted in the PSP 8 beta newsgroup by Flarelocke, and is used here with his permission. Thanks, Flarelocke!

I make my tutorials as brief as possible, without the customary paths, details, and how-to's. For those veterans among you, this will be welcome! But for those less familiar with PSP, I included a "Glossary" that contains all the details omitted in the tutorial. If you need a little extra help, check the Glossary section. Just click on the button below - the Glossary will open in a new window.

PSP glossary button

This tutorial assumes you have a working knowledge of Paint Shop Pro at the intermediate level (or advanced beginner level with the Glossary). It was originally written in and for PSP Version 8, and now made "version-independent". Screen shots for this tutorial can come from any version of PSP - where there are significant differences from version to version, a green "Version Note" will be included, along with multiple screen shots if necessary.

Where a note/tip refers to a version of PSP and all higher versions, a + sign will be used to indicate this. For example, if a note/tip applies to PSP X and higher versions, I will use the convention "PSP X+".

If you try this tutorial, and find something is inaccurate for your version of PSP, please EMAIL ME to let me know so I can fix it!

Screen shots in this tutorial are resized - your work will be larger than this!

Supplies - For this tutorial, you will need the following:

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OK, now we're ready to begin. Grab your mouse and let's get started.

Remember to save often.

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For those familiar with drawing Bezier lines in PSP 7, the approach I will take in this tutorial should look somewhat familiar. For those who never used PSP 7, or at least never drew Bezier lines in PSP 7, this approach should be equally comprehensible to you. So here we go!

When PSP 8 first came out, which was a total revamping of PSP, we thought at first we had lost the ability to draw Bezier lines, or curves. We soon discovered that the ability to draw these "elastic lines" was still there in the "new" PSP - it was just done a little differently. In fact, drawing Bezier curves in PSP now is even easier than in it was in PSP 7. You'll see they can be drawn using the same basic strategy you learned in PSP 7, with those endpoint and control points. In addition, curved lines are now much more flexible and much easier to make. You can now draw lines with many curves, and you can manipulate those curves much more easily.

By definition, a Bezier curve is a line connecting two endpoints, whose curve is determined by one or more control points which do not lie on the curve.

In this tutorial, we will always start to draw a Bezier line keeping in mind four points:

  • The first point, designated as point A in this tutorial, is always the starting point of the Bezier line.
  • The second point, designated as point B in this tutorial, is always the ending point of the Bezier line.
  • The third point, designated as point C in this tutorial, is the control point which sets the angle and target point from the start of the line, or point A.
  • The fourth point, designated as point D in this tutorial, is the control point which sets the angle and target point from the end of the line, or point B.

In PSP 7, we used the same four points to draw Bezier lines - we just did it a bit differently. The line itself was drown from point A to point B, and then the control points were set by clicking on each of them. In the following set of images, Image 1 shows the line drawn from A to B; Image 2 shows clicking on the first control point at C; Image 3 shows clicking on the second control point at D; and Image 4 shows the finished line.

Bezier Lines in PSP 7
bezier line - step 1
bezier line - step 2
Image 1
Image 2
bezier line - step 3
bezier line - final image
Image 3
Image 4

We can achieve exactly the same line in PSP now, using the Pen tool pen tool (V), with the Mode set to "Draw Point to Point - Bezier Curves":

pen tool options for bezier line
Version Note: In PSP XI, the "Draw Point to Point - Bezier Curves" mode icon changed - it still works the same way, but has a new look: pen tool

While we're looking at the Pen tool Tool Options palette, there are some other options of interest when drawing Bezier lines:

  • If you wish to create several segments, mark the Connect Segments check box. For our purposes in this tutorial, we will be drawing only a single segment, so we'll leave this box UNchecked.
  • Mark the Show Nodes check box to display the curve's nodes during creation. We want to check this box.
  • Mark the Create on vector check box to place the curve on the current vector layer - if there is no vector layer, a new one will be created. We want to check this box, too.
Note: One last important note - for drawing Bezier lines, be sure the Foreground Material style is set to color and the Background Material style is set to transparent:

color material
transparent material

Now that we have our options set, we will create the Bezier curve with the same arrangement of end points and control points as used in PSP 7. In the images below, the points are "imaginary", but you can actually create these points if it makes it easier for you to learn this technique - just use the Paintbrush tool and create the dots on a raster layer, as in Image 5 below.

Note: We're going to create the Bezier curve by clicking and dragging with the Pen tool in "Draw Point to Point - Bezier Curves" mode. I want you to notice that as you drag, two control arms will appear. One control arm follows the direction in which you drag the mouse, and has an arrow at the end - this arrow is called its "handle". The other control arm has a small circle as its handle, and moves in the opposite direction from the arrow handle. Be sure to notice this when you draw your Bezier curve.

Now we're ready to create the Bezier curve:

  • Using the left mouse button, click on point A and drag toward point C so that the arrow handle of the control arm rests on point C (Image 6); then release the mouse button.
  • Using the left mouse button, click on point B and drag away from point D so that the circle handle of the control arm rests on point D (Image 7); then release the mouse button.

Bezier Lines in PSP 8
bezier line end and control points
bezier line - first step
Image 5
Image 6
bezier line - second step
completed bezier line
Image 7
Image 8

As you can see in the finished image (Image 8), the curve is identical to the Bezier line done in PSP 7 (Image 4).

Note: If your curve does not look like the above, be sure that when you click on point B you drag AWAY from point D....that's the key!

Many times, for the second point, you will have to drag the control arm off the canvas. This is perfectly okay - as long as when you click on point B, you drag away from point D until the circle control handle rests on point D.

In PSP 7, the only time you could adjust the shape of the line was at the precise moment when you clicked on one of the control points (C or D) - once you released the mouse button, the curve was set and the only way to change the curve of the line was to start over! Not very user-friendly! As you will see shortly, it's very easy in PSP 8 and above to adjust the shape of your curve. None of your points are set when you create your Bezier curves as vector objects - there are nodes at both points A and B, so you can adjust the shape of the line using the control arms from either or both nodes, and you can readjust your curve at any time.

To complete the Bezier curve:

  1. Click the "Start New Contour-Move To" button ( new contour button - pen tool ) on the Pen tool Tool Options palette.
    Version Note: The "Start New Contour-Move To" icon changed somewhat in PSP XI - here's the new look: ( new contour button - pen tool ). In any version, hovering your mouse cursor over a button on the toolbar should give you a "tool tip" which identifies the button's function. In the image below, the red arrow points to the tool tip for the "Start New Contour-Move To" button in PSP X2:

    tool tip for start new contour button

    If neither of the above "Start New Contour-Move To" buttons looks like something on your version's Pen tool Tool Options palette, hover your mouse cursor over the buttons until you find it!

  2. Finally, click the Apply button ( apply button - pen tool ) on the Pen tool Tool Options palette to complete your Bezier curve and deselect it.

To open a Bezier curve in node edit mode so that its shape can be adjusted, activate the Pen tool (V), and click on the Edit Mode button:

edit mode - pen tool

Now click on the curve, and the nodes will once again be visible. Click on any node to see and manipulate its arms - this will allow you to change the shape of the curve. The nodes may be very tiny, especially in more recent versions of PSP - you may have to zoom in considerably. You need to click on a node to activate its arms, so zoom in enough to click on the node.

Right-clicking on any node activates the Pen tool context menu, which contains many other commands such as edit commands for the curve, commands to change node types and commands to perform node transformations.

And as with other vector objects, you can change the line's properties, including size, color, line style, visibility, and anti-alias status. To activate the Vector Property dialog, do any of the following:

  • Activate the Pick tool pick tool (K) and click on the Properties button properties button on the Tool Options palette.
    Version Note: The Pick tool was new in PSP X - in prior versions, use the Object Selection tool object selection tool (O). Note that the Object Selection tool is still available in higher levels of PSP - it's not on the default Tool toolbar, but it still exists, can be accessed by its former Shortcut key, O, and can even be moved back to the Tools toolbar if desired using PSP's Customize facility. In the remainder of this tutorial, whenever I refer to the Pick (K) tool, remember to use the Object Selection (O) tool instead if you are using PSP 8 or 9.
  • Right click on the Bezier curve with the Pick tool (K) and select Properties from the context menu.

  • Double-click on the vector object's Layer Name button - be sure you click on the objects Layer Name button (the one called New Path), NOT the Vector 1 button.

  • Choose Objects...Properties.

Lots of times it helps to turn the grid on (CTRL+ALT+G) when creating Bezier curves so you can see precisely where your control points are located.

Note: Once you've clicked the Apply button, any other object you draw will be on a new sublayer of the active vector layer. If the active layer is a raster layer, a new vector layer will be added.


Here are some other Bezier curves you can create - start each one by clicking at point A and dragging toward point C (control arms shown in green) so that the arrow control handle rests on point C. Then click on point B, and drag away from point D (control arms shown in red) so that the circle control handle rests on point D. The second image in each pair shows the Bezier line without the control arms.

bezier line bezier line
Image 9
In this image, points C and D are at the same location, so the arrow control handle from the first node and the circle control handle for the second node rest at the same location.

bezier line bezier line
Image 10
In this image, point C is at the same location as point B, so the second node is placed where the arrow control handle from the first node terminates.

bezier line bezier line
Image 11
In this image, points A and B are very close together, but still separate and distinct points.

bezier line bezier line
Image 12
In this image, all 4 points are separate and distinct.
Note: Remember, if your curves do not look like mine, be sure that when you click on point B you drag AWAY from point D....that's the key!

You can do so many things with Bezier curves! The image at the beginning of this tutorial was made entirely from the curve in Image 12 above, duplicated, mirrored, flipped, rotated, resized, and colored with gradients.

This Bezier flower was constructed from the curve in Image 11 above:

bezier flower

If you'd like to try your hand at Bezier flowers, try my Simple Bezier Flowers tutorial.

If you have any problems, comments, or questions, please do not hesitate to Email me.


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