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Photoshop Top 40
Illustration by John Hersey

32. The Pen tool


From:

Photoshop Top 40

with Deke McClelland

Video: 32. The Pen tool

Here we are looking at this image from Stas Perov and if you were with me for feature #33, you'll recall that we use the calculations command in order to merge the Red and Blue channels to create this base mask rank here. Now our hair is in pretty darn good shape. We're going to be able use this hair detail in order to establish bright white hair against the dark black background. But we have some problems with the arms and dress area. We have very poor definition where the arms and the dress are concerned. Now we're not worried about the face. I could switch over to Lasso tool and I could you select this face region like so and then press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete to fill it with white because white is currently my foreground color.

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Photoshop Top 40
7h 13m Intermediate Dec 21, 2009

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

There's nothing people love more than lists, and Photoshop Top 40 offers a great one, highlighting the best features in Photoshop. Deke McClelland counts down to #1 with a new video each week, detailing one great feature after another in this popular digital imaging application. The videos cover tools, commands, and concepts, emphasizing what's really important in Photoshop.

This is an ongoing course that will be updated monthly.

For the newest updates please go to our blog entry for Deke's Photoshop Top 40.

Topics include:
  • Assembling multiple pieces of artwork with layer comps
  • Creating a black-and-white image from a color photograph
  • Merging multiple channels to create an alpha channel with calculations
  • Selecting images with the Pen tool
  • Masking images using the Brush tool
Subjects:
Design Photography
Software:
Photoshop
Author:
Deke McClelland

32. The Pen tool

Here we are looking at this image from Stas Perov and if you were with me for feature #33, you'll recall that we use the calculations command in order to merge the Red and Blue channels to create this base mask rank here. Now our hair is in pretty darn good shape. We're going to be able use this hair detail in order to establish bright white hair against the dark black background. But we have some problems with the arms and dress area. We have very poor definition where the arms and the dress are concerned. Now we're not worried about the face. I could switch over to Lasso tool and I could you select this face region like so and then press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete to fill it with white because white is currently my foreground color.

Just to send that detail away because it needs to be white in the final mask. However we need to come up with a better way to select the arm and dress details and that better way is one of the finest selection tools in all the Photoshop, lets you select anything down to the most minute detail and that is the Pen tool. So I'm going go ahead and press Ctrl+D or Cmd+D on the Mac to deselect that region and I'm going to switchover here to the PATHS palette, which allows me to store the paths that I've drawn with the Pen tool. And then I'll click on this body path in order to make it active and you can see that we have this path that's drawn around the arms and the dress region.

I've created that in advance for you. I'm going to re-create some of these details so that you can get a sense of how the Pen tool works but first let's switch back to the Channels palette, click on RGB so that we can see the full color image no reason to see the mask at this point and now I'm going to switchover to the Arrow tool here, click on it to bring up the flyout menu and choose the Direct Selection tool which I call the white arrow tool because it's white, whereas the black arrow tool is and we have a keyboard shortcut of A for arrow. All right, having selected the white arrow tool, whatever you decide to call it, I'll go ahead and zoom in on this detail right here and I'm going to marquee around some of these points like so.

And I'm Shift+marqueeing around a few others in order to select them and then I'll press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac in order to delete those selected points so that we can re-draw them using the Pen tool. Here is the Pen tool by the way and you can get to it by pressing the P key and I'll start things off by showing you how to create corner points because this is the simplest kind of anchor points to create. All you do is you click to create a new point and then you click again in order to connect those two points with the straight segment, continue to click in order to continue to add straight segments like so and then when you get to the first point in the path and click on it, you close that shape.

Problem is with drawing these kinds of free-form polygons. They don't really represent any human forms. We as human beings and other animals as well are not a bunch of polygons walking around. So what we need is smooth contours, so this thing isn't going to do us any good at all. I'm going to switchback over to the black arrow tool. I'm going to click on the shape right here because the arrow tool selects entire shapes at a time and I'll press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac in order to get rid of it. Now I'm going to switchback to the Pen tool and I'll show you how to draw the other kind of point inside a Photoshop and that's the smooth point.

To make a smooth point instead of clicking, you drag. So you click and drag like so and where you started your drag becomes the Anchor Point and where you end your drag becomes us thing called the control handle, which stretches at the segment in order to cause it to curve. Notice that there's another control handle going the exact opposite direction of the first one and that is going to establish a nice smooth contour at this location. All right now I would click over here let's say, and drag like so in order to pull at a control handle on either side and you'll notice that I'm moving forward through the shape.

So I'm moving in my case in a counterclockwise rotation around the shape that I'm drawing, so that previous control handle that's going in the opposite direction is curving the current segment. So you can see that segment stretched toward the control handle and then stretch back when the control handle comes closer to it. So the farther you stretch your control handle away the more curvature you get. The shallower the control handle, the less curvature you get. And then I would just continue dragging along like so and then I'd complete the shape. All right so it's sort of a little floppy circle right there.

Let's get rid of it. We don't want it either, so I'll click on it with a black arrow tool, Press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac. Here is what we want to do. We want to continue this path that I've already started drawing. I'll go to get my Pen tool. Now this point right there has already been established as a corner point, so if I drag from it, I'll just pull out this single control handle like so, not pulling out two control handles and I'm going to drag it upward just so that we're following the contour of this arm and then I will create another smooth point at this location right there and I don't want to take that control handle too far in but I do want to take that other control handle the opposite one there, out quite a distance and typically what you want to do is cover about two-thirds of the segment with the length of these levers right there.

Now, if you find that you've gone too far with one side of the control handle because after all they start off as being symmetrical then you can Press and Hold the Ctrl key or the Cmd key on the Mac and what that's going do is it's going to temporarily get you the white arrow tool. So with control or command down you can now drag this point back without affecting the links of the opposite control handle and then you would release the control key or the command key on the Mac and set about creating some more smooth points inside of this image. All right, I'll go ahead and create a small one down there that is those levers associated with the control handles are fairly small, then I'll drag out the control handles at this location midway up the arm.

Now here we're presented with what's known as a cusp right there in the underarm and what that means is it's a sharp corner that joins two curving segments together or what will be two curving segments and in order to get that effect what you do is you drag out in one direction like so and then midway when you've got one of your control handle set up more or less correctly. It actually needs some work over there, then you would Press and Hold the Alt key as I've done, or the Option key and the Mac and that allows you to swivel this control handle in an entirely different direction but you still have two control handles coming out of that single anchor point and that's what's known as a cusp point.

Now press the Ctrl key or the Cmd key on the Mac and drag this control handle back in a little bit like so, actually quite a bit I guess and then I'll control or command drag at this point upwards. Now it's not necessary that you follow the contour of the image exactly, correctly. You just want to get something that looks like a natural organic smooth contour and by the way if you're going to cheat, which I am in this case because I'm not following things exactly. You want to cheat on the inside edge of this arm for example, so that you select too little of the arm as opposed to selecting from the background which would give you a little bit of a color fringe.

All right, then I'm going to go ahead and add another point at this location and this is a smooth point as well. I'll control or command drag this guy back up a little bit, I will probably at this point, I'll just go ahead and drag down like so just tiny bit and then press the Alt key or Option key and drag over to the side there, drag here press Alt or Option and drag down like so and once again the Alt or Option key is going to break the link between these two control handles. So you can move the levers in the independent directions. Now I'm going to drag here.

I'll go ahead and perhaps drag at this location. Maybe Ctrl+drag this down a little bit. Then I'll Alt+click at this point at this point in order to just to get rid of this opposite control handle entirely and then I'm just going to create a series of anchor points like so by clicking, which is going to give me a little bit of free-form polygon right there at that location around her waist strap or whatever that thing is, and then I'll go ahead and drag from that corner point in order to establish a control handle and drag from here to establish a control handle as well. And now we have created a path.

Now what do we do with it? Well let's go ahead and get the black arrow tool and click on that path to make it active. And then all you have to do to convert that path to a selection outline is go down to the bottom of the PATHS palette and click on this icon right there are Load Path as Selection. Now we have a selection outline, I'll switchover to the Channels palette, click on that MASKS channel that we're in the process of creating there and I'll press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete in order to fill that selected area with the foreground color which is white and I'll press Ctrl+D or Cmd+D on the Mac in order to deselect that area, the image and we have now successfully selected the arms and the dress, inside of this image.

Thanks to the power and flexibility of the Pen tool.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Photoshop Top 40.


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Q: Is there a way to batch convert an entire folder of photos from the RBG color mode to the CMYK color mode without having to open and convert each individual image?
A: In the Actions panel in Photoshop, create an action that converts an image from RGB to CMYK. Then link to that action from File > Automate > Batch inside Photoshop.
Next, in the Bridge, select a folder of images. Choose Tools > Photoshop > Batch. Select the action inside the ensuing dialog box.
Or, in Photoshop, select File > Automate > Batch, and select the action and the folder inside the dialog box.
See also: Photoshop CS2 Actions & Automation, Chapter 2 “Action Essentials.”
 
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