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Photoshop mastery can be elusive, but in Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Mastery, best-selling author and video trainer Deke McClelland teaches the most powerful, unconventional, and flexible features of the program. In this third and final installment of the popular and comprehensive series, Deke delves into the strongest features that Photoshop has to offer, including scalable vector graphics, Smart Objects, and Photomerge. Exercise files accompany the course.
Recommended prerequisites: Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals and Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced, both part of the lynda.com Online Training Library®.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.
All right, so here we are looking at this custom path that I have drawn so far using the Pen tool. I'm going to go ahead and save it out for you so that you can open it up if you need to, so you have a progress file. But I'm going to do it in front of you, so you see how it works. The first thing I need to do is make sure that I have saved my path, so that I don't end up wiping it out the way I wiped out the last path that I drew. You do that just by double-clicking anywhere on Work Path right here, and then you go ahead and name it, and I'll call mine something like Heart shape or something along those lines, because that's ultimately what it's going to be, and then I'll click OK. And now if I click off of this path outline in order to make it inactive and I started drawing something else like so, like this incredibly realistically rendered hourglass here, it becomes my new Work Path, but my Heart shape still survives.
All right, so very important. Let's go ahead and get rid of that guy, however, and I did that just by pressing the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac. Now I'll go ahead and save out this file. I'll choose Save As from the File menu, and this is terribly interesting I think you will see. I'll call this Heart with path, and I get rid of that extra T there and I'm going to save it to the JPEG format. What gives? Since when is JPEG able to accommodate specialty information? Well, you can save paths to any file format. It's amazing, anything that Photoshop supports, you can go ahead and save the path outline to, because all of the various file formats support metadata. There is not a path checkbox, you don't have to worry about it; they just get automatically saved.
And just choose the Save command and then go with whatever compression options you like. Baseline Optimized gives you smaller file sizes generally speaking. Click OK. The path has totally disappeared. How do we bring it up and keep working on it? Well, you may end up having this problem, where all of a sudden your path goes inactive on you accidentally, and you are like, ah curses! What do I do? So irritating, this darn Pen tool. Go ahead and click on Heart shape in order to make it active, so you can see, sort of see anyways, it's not super easy to see, but you can see that path outline right there. It's inactive. Anytime you see the Pen tool with little x next to it, it means you are going to start a new path.
So even though you got this one path sitting there raring to go, it's not active. Okay, so what you do is you press and hold the Ctrl key, Command key on the Mac, to get that white arrow tool once again. Click on that point or click somewhere on the path outline to make it active. That is to say you will now see the points and handles that are associated with the path. However, if I now release the Ctrl key or the Command key, the Pen tool still sees this as being an inactive path because we still have that x. Now to get the Pen tool to recognize that path outline so it knows that you want to continue to draw this path, you need to go ahead and click on the end point from which you want to continue. So in our case, that's this end point right there, because we are going around this direction. You could change directions at this point. You could decide you are going to go counterclockwise now if you wanted to. But I'm going to go this way, and all you got to do is you just click on that end point and now the Pen tool is happy.
It no longer has any sort of markings next to it; it's just a pen nib. That tells you, you now have an active path and you will continue to draw from it. Now you need to create a cusp point at this location right down there, that includes control handle, so it's a corner between two curving segments. I'm going to go ahead and drag like this in order to create a smooth point at this location. So there is a couple of different ways to work. I just want to show them both to you, even though one is much easier than the other. But we'll start with the sort of harder way I guess. I'll go ahead and zoom in here by pressing Ctrl+Plus, Command+ Plus on the Mac, and also Ctrl+drag this handle up a little bit, that would be a Command+drag on the Mac, in order to get that white arrow tool for a moment, just so that we are pulling these two apart.
Because you don't want them to overlap each other like that because you are going to get weird, bizarre curves, unless that's what you want. If you want smooth organic curves, then you want each handle to basically go about a third of the length of the segment. Do you see that this guy takes up about a third, this guy takes up about a third? More importantly, they both together take up about two-thirds of the length of the segment and then there is about a third that's left open in the middle and that's going to give you smooth results, is what it comes down to. It's an old rule but a goody. All right, we have got two symmetrical control handles associated with this smooth point right here. We want these control handles to separate from each other, so that they can move independently of each other and you do that by pressing and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and drag from that anchor point and now you have got a new control handle that's going off on its own direction. These two are no longer locked into alignment with each other.
I'll go ahead and release the Alt or Option key, by the way. If you press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac, and now drag one of these control handles, you can see that it is totally independent. All right, so that's one way to create a cusp point right there. Now, let's go ahead and add some more smooth points. I'll drag from here up, I'm continuing around the path in the clockwise direction now that I have now reestablished that as the direction in which I'm drawing this path outline. Then I'll drag over the hump like so, and if ever I feel like things aren't working out the way I want them to, I can press that Ctrl key, that Command key on the Mac in order to get the white arrow tool. Now let's say it's this segment that I'm concerned about. I don't like the way it looks, but I can't see those control handles anymore. Ctrl- click, with that Ctrl key down, Command key down on the Mac, and you will see its control handles and then you could drag this guy inward.
So I might not be completely accurately tracing this edge now but it's aesthetically more pleasing to me. This is the edge that I want. So sometimes you are going to make aesthetic decisions. That's fine, of course. Then I want to adjust this segment, let's say. Click on it with the Ctrl key down, Command key is still down on the Mac, and I would drag this guy inward a little bit. That kind of a thing and you can move the points around and whatever you want to do. But he is still active. That endpoint is still active, as warranted by fact that I release the Ctrl key or the Command key and I still have just a pen nib, which is telling you that the path is active, you are going to continue from it.
You can only continue from an endpoint and it must be this last endpoint that you are going to continue from. Sure enough that's the way it is. Now this is another location where I want a cusp point. So I'm going to begin dragging until I get the previous hump the way I want it. Then there is another way to work. Instead of releasing and then Alt+dragging or Option+dragging on the Mac, while you still have the mouse button down, press and hold the Alt key or the Option key. Keep that Alt or Option key down though because if you release it, you are going to get this. It will go back to being a smooth point and you will mess everything up. So get that guy where you want it again, press and hold Alt or Option, move this out of alignment like so, beautiful, and then let's go ahead and close the path and you can do that by dragging from this smooth point like so.
But the problem with working this way is you end up kind of messing up the angle of the control handles and you had already gotten it exactly the way you wanted it, so you run the risk of messing things up. All right, so Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac in order to undo that modification. Watch this. Now you can just click on that smooth point in order to complete the shape and all my anchor points and handles have disappeared, but if I press and hold the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac and click on that path outline, I'll see that this is still a smooth point. I'll go ahead and Ctrl+drag this point in a little bit, so that I'm shaving off the interior of that heart ever so slightly. I'll drag this control handle in. I'll drag this control handle out, so we have more of a smooth organic curve going on at this point.
And this looks like a really nice path outline. In the next exercise, I'm going to show you how we save it off as a custom shape and then we'll see how to employ this path outline as a vector mask.
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