The Pentool… A mighty sword erm weapon -sigh-

border tag pentool

Border primarily made from pentool for a tag (the top piece is a render only because I didn’t like the curve I had made there)


I suppose its too late to convince you of my innocence isn’t it? So moving on … my platform of choice when making tags or any graphic is Adobe Photoshop, it is the general go to staple for a lot of artists. One of the tools that I think doesn’t get enough recognition … or respect is the pentool. Its not just for making renders… I have a serious love for border tags I love the thought of making something appear 3d on a flat canvas.

let them eat cake

Title Let Them Eat Cake

It really delights me, so when I first learned that instead of creating something that looks like this tag to the right  titled Let Them Eat Cake ->









I could create something that looks like the border above which is the finished border-complete with my layer styles, adjustments and such- I made for a tag (which I’ll share at the end) I was beside myself. But the pentool can seem daunting to many… Don’t be afraid to use the force –cough– um tool (you know I can see that this entire post is going to be full of puns … allow me to pre- [post?] apologize… I’m just so so very sorry) It takes a little practice and has been known to become time consuming but doesn’t everything at some point turn out that way? If you use PS and you’re interested in making border tags using the pentool I applaud you and urge you to keep at it! There are other really super cool ways to make border tags… there’s using render pieces to build a border which is mostly more of a robotic technical feel, it can also be a polished metal or even what I like to call controlled abstract style (meaning you have various render pieces that you piece together but they don’t necessarily make a uniformed shape of any kind)I’ve seen other artists use wood (see emotional tagging -that was all pentool but I used various adjustments and textures to give me a wooden effect-) I feel the sky is the limit to how you choose to make a border tag but today we’re talking about the mighty pentool.

As encouragement I’m doing a short walk-through on how I make my borders, cause I’ve noticed that finding a tutorial in English on using the pentool to make this particular type of tag is virtually non-existent. You can find a few for sure in Portuguese or French on YouTube … I’m not sure why that is but I’ll try to explain the process as simply and concise as I can so: … this is not a tut guys its just a walk-through

Difficulty: Advanced beginner/Intermediate

1. Whatever size your canvas is you’re gonna take your ruler guides and place them in the center the layer. (The vertical guide must be dead center but the horizontal guide can be further down depending on how much of an inside opening you want your finished border to have … so instead of making a t you’d make an L if that makes sense)

2. You’re gonna make one side only of your border the other side is simply a flipped duplication (which makes sense because there’s no way you can re-create the first set of shapes you made by hand 100% accurately … I don’t care how good you are)

3. Using the pentool on a new layer you’ll start making your shapes curves or points.(Every shape goes on a separate layer)

Below is a cheat sheet for beginners done by Jason Hoppe of Creative Techs which gives a break down of how to achieve the type of curves or points you want etc.


Jason Hoppe-Cheatsheet


4. When you’ve made a satisfactory border, you’re going to group all your shape layers and duplicate it flip it horizontally line it up against the original and bam you have a sexy border

5. This step I think can be done before or after duplication whatever makes you comfortable. Use layer styles (bevel and emboss plays a big role -> get friendly with it), adjustments,textures,patterns to give the shapes depth and realism(so to speak) and whatever other effects you want to achieve

6. Now you’re ready to make a tag using your know how

7. Background and related fx you use should (in my opinion) be masked so it only shows within the inside of your border (The exceptions to that rule are your focal[render], reflections, if you make a tag with a floor going in a flat perspective [like grass or cracked earth and such], props [border elements] that enhance the overall tag [buildings, clouds, fairies stuff like that]

8. And viola! pure sexy awesomness.

thorny girl

Title: Garden


Give it a go! Share what you did (but only if you feel like it) And I hope it was helpful … or informative maybe? anyway my finished product above titled Garden guys. 🙂 Enjoy




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s