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The masking techniques that I demonstrated in the previous chapter are great for selecting filigree detail such as hair, but they don't always work out as successfully for smooth, well defined contours, such as those associated with faces, clothing, man-made objects and product shots. Enter the Pen tool. this elegant but demanding drawing tool allows you to trace any smooth, well-defined contour on a point-by-point basis. Like the Shape tools that I reviewed back in Chapter 20, the Pen tool draws a vector-based outline, but instead of resulting in a Shape layer, it results in a free-form path that you can use to select portions of an image.
The path outline is a kind of connect-the-dot puzzle. Click with the Pen tool to create a dot known as an Anchor Point, then click again to create another dot. Photoshop automatically connects the dots with a straight segment. In other words you're the one laying down the dots. Photoshop is the child drawing the lines between them. Where things become tricky is when you want to connect the dots with a curving segment, or you want a flow of path outline through the dot without the slightest hint of a corner, as if the dot wasn't even there.
That's when you need another variety of dot, one that floats beyond the path outline, called the Control Handle. Some people love the Pen tool, some people hate it. Me? I love it. My hope is that by the time you finish this chapter, you'll not only know what the Pen tool does and how to use it, but you'll have a real sense of whether it's the right tool for you.
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