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The masking techniques that I demonstrated in the previous chapters are great for selecting filigree details, such as hair, but they don't always work out as successfully for smooth, well-defined contours, such as those associated with faces, man-made objects, and products 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 review back in the Intermediate Course, the Pen tool draws a vector-based outline, but instead of creating a shape layer, it results in a free-form path that you can use to select portions of an image.
For example, let's say I want to select this glass. I'll click here with the Pen to create what's known as a corner point. Then I'll click here to create another one. Photoshop automatically connects the points with a straight segment, just as you would with a connect the dots puzzle. That segment ends up shaving off the side of the glass, however. So I'll click with the Pen to add another point right here in the middle. This is a smooth point. Now I'll scoot the point over, and you can see how the smooth point adds curvature to the neighboring segments.
See these levers coming off the point? They're called control handles. Notice, if I drag a handle, the other handle moves in the opposite direction, and both segments curve in the directions of the handles. It's like the handles are magnets, and the curves are attracted to them. The Pen tool requires skill, determination, and a fair amount of manual labor, but in the right hands, it's the most capable tool for selecting complex surfaces in all of Photoshop.
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