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Drawing with the Pen tool


Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Mastery

with Deke McClelland

Video: Drawing with the Pen tool

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.
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  1. 21m 20s
    1. Welcome
      1m 21s
    2. Installing the DekeKeys keyboard shortcuts
      5m 38s
    3. Resetting the Function keys on a Mac
      3m 51s
    4. Installing the CS4 color settings
      4m 37s
    5. Setting up the CS4 color settings
      5m 53s
  2. 2h 31m
    1. Introduction to masking
    2. Introducing color range
      4m 22s
    3. Adding base colors and adjusting fuzziness
      4m 46s
    4. Localized color clusters
      6m 12s
    5. The Quick Mask mode
      7m 33s
    6. Viewing a quick mask by itself
      6m 40s
    7. Testing the quality of edges
      3m 55s
    8. Introducing the Masks palette
      7m 45s
    9. Editing a layer mask
      6m 18s
    10. Choking a mask with Gaussian Blur and Levels
      6m 44s
    11. Choking a mask with Mask Edge
      7m 43s
    12. Adding a Gradient Overlay shadow
      4m 23s
    13. Using live Density and Feather
      6m 12s
    14. Journeyman masking
      5m 44s
    15. Creating an alpha channel
      7m 6s
    16. Increasing contrast
      7m 15s
    17. Overlay painting
      8m 28s
    18. Cleaning up whites and blacks
      5m 48s
    19. Soft light painting
      5m 47s
    20. Selecting in style
      6m 55s
    21. Employing masks as selections
      5m 2s
    22. Scaling and compositing layers
      6m 30s
    23. Compositing glass
      5m 10s
    24. Selecting glass highlights
      8m 41s
    25. Working with found masks
      5m 46s
  3. 1h 34m
    1. Introduction to vector-based shapes
      1m 10s
    2. Vector-based type outlines
      7m 23s
    3. The benefits of vectors
      6m 27s
    4. Upsampling vs. nondestructive scaling
      7m 35s
    5. Vectors and effects
      8m 7s
    6. Fill Opacity and clipped layers
      4m 24s
    7. Basic shape creation
      3m 15s
    8. Drawing interacting shapes
      6m 21s
    9. Power-duplicating paths
      3m 12s
    10. Combining pixels and vector masks
      5m 19s
    11. Line tool and layer attributes
      7m 5s
    12. Copying and pasting path outlines
      3m 28s
    13. Drawing custom shapes
      3m 59s
    14. Drawing with the Pen tool
      7m 48s
    15. Creating cusp points
      7m 28s
    16. Defining a custom shape
      3m 34s
    17. Assigning a vector mask to an image
      2m 38s
    18. Adding a vector object to a composition
      5m 40s
  4. 1h 24m
    1. Introduction to Vanishing Point
      1m 11s
    2. Creating and saving the first plane
      8m 9s
    3. Creating perpendicular planes
      5m 16s
    4. Healing in perspective
      8m 47s
    5. Cloning and scaling in perspective
      8m 34s
    6. Patching an irregularly shaped area
      6m 59s
    7. Healing between planes
      3m 35s
    8. Importing an image into a 3D scene
      5m 46s
    9. Adding perspective type
      5m 37s
    10. Removing and matching perspective
      5m 36s
    11. Applying a reflection in perspective
      5m 1s
    12. Creating a perspective gradient
      6m 11s
    13. Converting a gradient to a mask
      2m 58s
    14. Swinging planes to custom angles
      4m 32s
    15. Wrapping art around multiple surfaces
      5m 49s
  5. 1h 15m
    1. Introduction to Smart Objects
    2. Placing a Smart Object
      5m 7s
    3. Saving a PDF-compatible AI file
      4m 27s
    4. Performing nondestructive transformations
      6m 8s
    5. Editing a Smart Object in Illustrator
      6m 50s
    6. Converting an image to a Smart Object
      6m 50s
    7. Cloning Smart Objects
      5m 24s
    8. Creating a multilayer Smart Object
      5m 51s
    9. Updating multiple instances at once
      2m 55s
    10. Creating a Camera Raw Smart Object
      4m 17s
    11. Editing a Camera Raw Smart Object
      3m 25s
    12. Assembling a layered ACR composition
      5m 55s
    13. Using an ACR Smart Object to effect
      3m 41s
    14. Blending multiple ACR portraits
      6m 56s
    15. Live type that inverts everything behind it
      6m 33s
  6. 1h 48m
    1. Introducing nondestructive Smart Filters
    2. Applying a Smart Filter
      4m 22s
    3. Adjusting filter and blend settings
      4m 25s
    4. Heaping on the Smart Filters
      5m 19s
    5. Smart Filter stacking order
      7m 23s
    6. Resolution and Smart Filter radius
      6m 12s
    7. Masking Smart Filters
      4m 42s
    8. Employing nested Smart Objects
      5m 5s
    9. Dragging and dropping Smart Filters
      6m 31s
    10. Using the Shadows/Highlights filter
      5m 53s
    11. Regaining access to the pixels
      7m 8s
    12. Parametric wonderland
      5m 52s
    13. Working with the Filter Gallery
      6m 28s
    14. Freeform filter jam
      5m 52s
    15. Swapping filters from the Filter Gallery
      3m 45s
    16. Mixing all varieties of parametric effects
      7m 30s
    17. Addressing a few Smart Filter bugs
      3m 11s
    18. Applying a Smart Filter to live type
      5m 30s
    19. Choking letters with Maximum
      3m 7s
    20. Duplicating a Smart Filter
      2m 38s
    21. Enhancing a filter with a layer effect
      6m 30s
  7. 1h 6m
    1. Introduction to Auto-Align, Auto-Blend, and Photomerge
      1m 2s
    2. Merging two shots into one
      3m 49s
    3. Applying Auto-Align layers
      3m 44s
    4. Masking images into a common scene
      1m 39s
    5. Auto-Align plus Auto-Blend
      8m 11s
    6. Assigning weighted Opacity values
      4m 7s
    7. Employing a Difference mask
      7m 17s
    8. Masking smarter, not harder
      3m 53s
    9. Capturing multiple depths of field
      3m 37s
    10. Auto-blending real focus
      8m 31s
    11. Creating a panorama with Photomerge
      7m 27s
    12. Correcting a seamless panorama
      4m 52s
    13. An altogether nondestructive Lab correction
      7m 59s
  8. 1h 44m
    1. Introduction to new CS4 technologies
      1m 1s
    2. Applying Content-Aware Scale
      7m 18s
    3. What works and what doesn't with Content-Aware Scale
      4m 19s
    4. Protecting areas with masks
      7m 31s
    5. Applying incremental edits
      7m 6s
    6. Protecting skin tones
      7m 12s
    7. Scaling around a model with TLC
      9m 0s
    8. Adjusting the scale threshold
      5m 22s
    9. When Content-Aware Scale fails
      4m 2s
    10. Creating a lens distortion effect
      8m 39s
    11. Layer masking the family
      11m 44s
    12. Installing the Pixel Bender
      3m 43s
    13. Introducing Pixel Bender kernels
      6m 50s
    14. Pixel Bender kernel roundup
      7m 24s
    15. Tube View and Ripple Blocks
      3m 58s
    16. Making a seamless pattern with Kaleidoscope
      6m 13s
    17. Introducing the Pixel Bender Toolkit
      3m 24s
  9. 1h 20m
    1. Introduction to actions
    2. Creating an action
      5m 45s
    3. Recording operations
      5m 12s
    4. Reviewing and editing an action
      4m 45s
    5. Playing an action (the Button Mode)
      4m 51s
    6. Saving and loading actions
      5m 0s
    7. Copying and modifying an action
      4m 8s
    8. Permitting the user to change settings
      5m 50s
    9. The Best Chrome Effect Ever II
      3m 41s
    10. Recording a fail-safe action
      7m 33s
    11. Rounding corners with a mask
      4m 33s
    12. Cleaning up layers
      3m 52s
    13. Automating layer effects
      7m 1s
    14. Applying chrome with Gradient Map
      6m 24s
    15. Action anomalies
      4m 11s
    16. Rendering effects to layers
      5m 1s
    17. Testing that it works
      2m 0s
  10. 1m 14s
    1. See ya
      1m 14s

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Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Mastery
13h 7m Advanced May 29, 2009

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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 Online Training Library®.

Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.

Topics include:
  • Defining the essentials of masking
  • Resizing images with content-aware scaling
  • Adjusting perspective with Vanishing Point
  • Applying Smart Filters to create complex effects
  • Using the Auto-Align tool to build composite images
Design Photography
Deke McClelland

Drawing with the Pen tool

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 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.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Mastery .

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Q: My Polygon tool is locked into a very small size. I can use the Transform tool to increase it's size once drawn, but I must have something set that will not allow me to freely draw it like I can the other shapes. What could be causing this problem?
A: This could be caused by a value associated with the Radius option of the tool. Click the down-pointing arrowhead to the right (a few tool icons over) from the Polygon tool in the options bar at the top of the screen. This brings up pop-up panel. If the Radius option has a number value, select that value and press Delete or Backspace to clear it out. That should fix the problem.
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