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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.
In this exercise I'm going to show you how to create custom shapes of your own using the Pen tool, and the Pen tool is its own discipline. I'm just going to show it to you very briefly right now so you have a sense of how it works. If you want to learn it in even more detail and you want to see how it's useful as a masking tool, it's a really great masking tool, then check out my Photoshop CS3 Channels and Masks series, and there is an entire chapter devoted just to the Pen tool and its many wonderful ways.
Anyway here it is inside of Photoshop, this guy right there. So get to it by clicking on this little Pen tool nib or pressing the P key, P for pen of course. And I'm working inside an image called Electrocardioheart.jpg found inside the 24_vector_shapes folder. This image comes to us from a photographer who goes by the handle Morratson at iStockphoto.com. And as always you can learn more about these people by going to the File menu and choosing File Info command. And what we are going to do is we are going to trace this heart. Now there are hearts that are available to us with the Custom Shape tool. If you go up to the Custom Shape tool for a moment here in the Options bar and click the down pointing arrowhead, you will find a heart or two. There is one, for example.
None of them match this particular heart. And so they are not at the right angle. We could always rotate them. But they are not really shaped the right way either. So we are going to go ahead and trace this heart for ourselves. And here is how. I'm going to switch over once again to the Pen tool. Now I want you to see something. Notice these little options right here at the far left side of the Options bar. This one called shape layer, which goes ahead and automatically creates an independent shapes layer inside the Layers palette. This is a single layer flat image right now. But you can also go ahead and draw paths that appear in the Paths palette and that way you can store the paths for later use, you can trace them, a lot of different things you can do with paths inside of Photoshop. You can use them in selection outlines, convert them to layer masks and so on.
Basically, when you are drawing a free form Pen tool outline, you don't typically want to create a new shape layer because after all you are trying to trace something inside of your image. And you can't really see what you are tracing if you trace it with a shape layer, because you start filling in the shape very quickly and you start blocking out your view of the core photographic image itself. So very wisely inside of Photoshop CS4, Adobe has changed the default behavior of the Pen tool. So if you click on the Pen, you will notice you automatically switch over to creating a path that appears in the Paths palette. And that's really smart as you will see.
All right, so here is how we use the Pen tool. I'm going to go ahead and zoom in a little bit here so that we are seeing the heart a little more closely. You can either just click with the tool like so in order to create points, and these are corner points and each one of the corner points is connected to the previous one by a straight segment. So it's pretty easy to use the Pen tool this way. By the way if we go to the Paths palette, you will see that I'm now working on this work path. So this is getting created automatically for me on the fly. Then if you want to go ahead and close the path, then you would click on the first point inside of the shape, and it's a little difficult to see because of the way Adobe has chosen to represent points and paths inside of Photoshop CS4.
We get a straight inversion of the colors in the background, which often make seeing what's going on quite difficult. So here is what I'm going to do. I'm going to press and hold the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac. That's going to get me the White Arrow tool on the fly and that's going to allow me to move this point to a location where we'll be able to see what's going on a little better. And now I'll release the Ctrl or Command key and I'll return to my Pen tool. Now if I hover over that first point, you can see what was I talking about there. You will see a little O. And as soon as I click, sure enough I close off that path outline and now I would create a different path outline like so.
All right, we don't want any of this junk. This isn't very heart shaped at all. So I'm going to go ahead and click off of the path so that it becomes inactive, because I want you to see that this is pretty precarious right now. We just have the path temporarily and if I start drawing a new path, this old one will disappear. I happen to want that in this case, but if you don't want it, you would need to rename the path and I'll show you how that works in just a moment. But I'll go ahead and draw like so. Now notice that this time instead of clicking I'm dragging. So if you want to think of this as click and drag, you can.
But I'm dragging from this point to this point like so. The point at which I began my drag is the anchor point and in this case it's a smooth point, because the path is going to smoothly arc through this point and then a point at which I end my drag, the release point, as soon as I do release, is the control handle. And this control handle is a lever. So the path has to go through the anchor point and the lever out here just attracts the path or repels it. And you will see that what that does is it creates curvature in our path outline. So instead of having straight segments like we had a moment ago, we'll have curvature. So I'll go ahead and drag to about this point here.
Now this is one of those tools that you get better at over time. There is no substitute for just getting in there and using it. It can be very frustrating at first and once again if you want to really get cozy with the tool and see how you use it for masking purposes, check out my Photoshop Channels and Masks series. All right, now I'm going to drag from this point here and notice that I'm dragging in the same direction. And when I say direction, I don't mean down/right, as in the direction I dragged the first time there. I mean I'm sticking with either clockwise or counterclockwise. In my case, I started in the clockwise direction. I'm going to keep in the clockwise direction.
So I'm clicking and dragging in the direction of the next point I'll be creating. This is another thing that throws people sometimes. Notice that I have symmetrical control handle that's going in the opposite direction. That's actually controlling the curvature of my segment in progress. And you can see how it's bending. It's either going to bend a lot or it's going to bend a little. So if you bring the control handle toward the segment, it's going to remove some of the curvature. If you drag it away from the segment, it's going to increase the curvature. If you drag it the other direction, it's going to create a wave going in that direction like so.
So I want it to go about here. That looks pretty good. And you can always change your mind. So remember that. Once you get done dragging, if things aren't quite lining up the way you want because probably you are not going to get these incredible results right off the bat. This first control handle, for example, might not be working for you. So you would press and hold the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac to temporarily get that White Arrow tool once again. Don't switch to it manually, because that's going to interrupt your flow. Just press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac and then drag that control handle to where you want it to be, to a better location, adjust this one too, if you want to and then release Ctrl or Command and you are back to the Pen tool.
And then I would scroll down to this location, for example, and I'm going to create another point and control handle right about there. So what we have now is the sequence of smooth points. We have one, two, three smooth points now, all with symmetrical control handles that ensures that the segment comes in and goes out smoothly. Hence smooth points and we are creating continuous arcs. But we want corners. This valentine here does have corners associated with it. Down at the bottom and up at the top we have some sort of soft corners, but we are going to represent them nice and sharp as you will see.
So we've already seen corner points, which were connected by straight segments. Those were easy. Now we have got these more complicated smooth points that are connected by curving segments. What do we do if we want curving segments that are joining at anchor points? Well, then we create cusp points, a different variety of corner point that has control handles associated with it. And I'll show you how to make those cusp points in the next exercise.
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