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Pixel-based masking versus the Pen tool

From: Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Advanced

Video: Pixel-based masking versus the Pen tool

In this first project, we're going to take this open magazine, which featured the first words that I ever wrote on the topic of Photoshop, and we're going to mask it against this synthetic woodgrain background, and we're going to do so with absolute precision and control, using the Pen tool. Now, you might look at the magazine, and figure, well gosh, you know, it's bright, and it's set against a dark background, not altogether uniform, but certainly we could end up masking it using a combination of Color Range, and Refine Edge, for example. Or we could manually trace it point by point using the Pen tool.

Pixel-based masking versus the Pen tool

In this first project, we're going to take this open magazine, which featured the first words that I ever wrote on the topic of Photoshop, and we're going to mask it against this synthetic woodgrain background, and we're going to do so with absolute precision and control, using the Pen tool. Now, you might look at the magazine, and figure, well gosh, you know, it's bright, and it's set against a dark background, not altogether uniform, but certainly we could end up masking it using a combination of Color Range, and Refine Edge, for example. Or we could manually trace it point by point using the Pen tool.

Seems like masking is the better way to go. Well, for the sake of comparison, let's try it out. I'll go up to the Select menu, and I'll choose the Color Range command, and I've reestablished the default settings, so the Fuzziness is set to 40. I am going to go ahead and click in the background, let's say, and then Shift+drag across the background in order to select the entire thing, and that's really all there is to it. I could then turn on the Invert checkbox, so that we are selecting the magazine instead of the background, and then click OK. And then I would press the Q key in order to switch to the Quick Mask mode.

Press the Tilde key to hide the image, press the L key to switch to the Lasso tool, and press and hold the Alt key, or the Option key on the Mac, as I click around the interior of the magazine. I am not going to worry about the edges for now. I could take care of them later, but I just want to make a point here. After I complete the selection, I'll press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete in order to fill that area with white. Press Control+D, or Command+D on the Mac, to deselect the image. Let's go ahead and grab this garbage over here, and I'll press Control+Backspace, or Command+Delete on the Mac, in order to fill that with black.

Then let's go ahead and center the zoom. Press the Q key in order to exit the Quick Mask mode, and convert the mask into a selection outline, and then drop down to the Add layer mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, and click on it. Now, that's a pretty good job so far, but we do have some ratty edges. So I'd go up to the Select menu, and choose Refine Mask, and then I'll take the Feather value up to, say, 3 pixels, maybe take the Contrast value pretty high to something like 70%; that gives us a nice edge.

And then I want to back it off a little, so I'll take the Shift Edge value down to about -20 I think it will do it for us. And that ends up creating a pretty smooth outline. I'll go ahead and click OK in order to accept the results there. And if I wander around the edges here, I can see that I am rounding off the corners a little bit in the upper right corner, but down here in the lower right corner, things look awfully darn good actually, and we've got a nice crease there in the middle of the magazine, down here at the bottom. This corner is a little messed up. This corner up here has problems, because we've dropped out some of that edge on the left-hand side.

I'd have to repair that, and we've dropped out the upper left corner as well. These are all problems I could take care of, including this rounded corner right there in the middle. I have some kind of rumply edges up here at the top, but again, I could address those. The thing is, while this is looking pretty good, especially for the very minimal amount of work that I put into it, you don't say that about outlines that you create with the Pen tool. If you do it right, they look absolutely dead on accurate. So I'll go up to the Window menu, choose Arrange, and then choose Match All, so the other image is zoomed and scrolled to the same location, and then I'll switch over it, and you can see, this is perfection right there.

We have an absolutely smooth edge. We've got a great corner right there in the middle of the magazine. We've got a wonderful looking corner up left. We've got a great edge all the way down. Notice I managed to keep that dark edge on the left-hand inside. We've got great corner work down here in the bottom left corner, and so forth. And that is the precision that afforded to us by the Pen. Also, if I go ahead and click on this vector mask thumbnail here inside the Layers panel in order to make it active, so that I can see the path outline; it's that gray thing right there. I'll go ahead and switch to my black arrow tool -- the so-called Path Selection tool -- and then I'll click on that path outline, and you can see, now I can modify it to any extent I like. And if I wanted to drag a point to a different location, then I would click and hold on the black arrow tool, and switch to the white arrow tool, which Photoshop calls the Direct Selection tool, click off the path outline to deselect it, then go ahead and click on that anchor point to select it, and I could drag it to a different location, and modify it in any way that I see fit in order to make it exactly right.

And that is a great thing about working with a Pen. Regardless of what kind of shape the image is in, or what kind of contrast you have between the foreground element and its background, the Pen tool delivers, because you're creating one point at a time, and you're in charge of where those points lie. All right. I am going to switch back to my original image here, and press the F12 key in order to revert it. Having told you now how great the Pen tool is, I want you to know that there are two varieties. Pen tool is located right here at the top of the stack of vector tools, right above the Type tool, and if you click and hold on it, you'll see that there are two Pen tools, in fact.

There's the standard Pen, which requires you to lay down a path outline one point at a time. It offers very little in the way of automation. It requires dexterity, and skill, and manual labor. And then we have a Freeform Pen tool, which allows you to just drag around inside the image window, and Photoshop creates the points automatically. So you would think, oh my gosh, the Freeform Pen tool is the way to go. Well, you may find it to be a really great tool, but for masking a precision element like this, it's not going to work out too well, and let me show you why. I'll go ahead and drag around the outline of the magazine here, and I happened to be working with a Wacom tablet, which is why I am getting moderately decent results.

If you try this with a mouse, very likely you'll get very raunchy results. And then I'll go ahead and drag all the way around to the beginning, and you can see that circle next to the pen nib cursor. That's telling me that I am closing the path. Now I've got this path outline here. Well, it's certainly not something I can use in this current state, so I would have to modify it. I'll go ahead and switch back from the white arrow tool to the black arrow tool here, and I'll click on the path outline, and you can see that I've got just a ton of anchor points, so many, in fact, that it would take me longer to modify this path outline than to simply draw a new one.

I'll go ahead and switch over to the final version of my composition. Compare that to this path outline right here. I'll click on it with the black arrow tool, and you can see that we have very few anchor points, and every single point is making a real contribution to the path outline. In other words, every point is essential, and that's the kind of result you only get by laying down one point at a time using the Pen tool. And I am going to show you exactly how this tool works, starting in the next movie.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Advanced
Photoshop CS6 One-on-One: Advanced

124 video lessons · 19350 viewers

Deke McClelland
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 30m 4s
    1. Welcome to One-on-One
      2m 19s
    2. Loading the dekeKeys keyboard shortcuts
      6m 5s
    3. Remapping your Macintosh OS shortcuts
      3m 4s
    4. Adjusting a few general preferences
      4m 3s
    5. Using the visual HUD color picker
      2m 2s
    6. The interface and performance settings
      5m 31s
    7. Adjusting the color settings in Photoshop
      7m 0s
  2. 47m 0s
    1. Smart Objects
      1m 36s
    2. Three ways to place a Smart Object
      3m 6s
    3. Copying and pasting from Adobe Illustrator
      4m 11s
    4. Transforming and warping a vector object
      4m 48s
    5. Blending a Smart Object into a photograph
      3m 10s
    6. Blurring with a nested Smart Filter
      4m 57s
    7. Editing a Smart Object in Illustrator
      3m 20s
    8. Creating "true clones"
      3m 50s
    9. Duplicating a group of clones
      2m 53s
    10. Breaking the Smart Object link
      2m 53s
    11. Styling and blending Smart Objects
      2m 44s
    12. Editing originals; updating clones
      3m 41s
    13. Removing people from a scene with Median
      5m 51s
  3. 29m 59s
    1. Luminance meets sharpening
      1m 2s
    2. Correcting for lens distortion
      4m 39s
    3. Introducing Shadows/Highlights
      3m 54s
    4. Mitigating halos with Radius values
      4m 19s
    5. Enhancing the effects of Midtone Contrast
      3m 18s
    6. Creating a "bounce" with Gaussian Blur
      3m 29s
    7. Sharpening on top of blur
      2m 47s
    8. Masking a group of Smart Filters
      2m 53s
    9. Reducing the density of a layer mask
      3m 38s
  4. 49m 10s
    1. Using Curves
      2m 40s
    2. Introducing the Curves adjustment
      7m 36s
    3. Adding and editing points on a curve
      6m 27s
    4. Winning Curves tips and tricks
      8m 12s
    5. Correcting a challenging image
      6m 33s
    6. Selecting and darkening highlights
      4m 39s
    7. Neutralizing colors and smoothing transitions
      6m 6s
    8. The new automatic Curves function
      6m 57s
  5. 1h 31m
    1. Camera Raw
      2m 11s
    2. Opening and editing multiple images
      8m 1s
    3. Correcting white balance
      4m 8s
    4. The revamped Exposure controls
      8m 8s
    5. Working with archival images
      7m 54s
    6. The Spot Removal and Graduated Filter tools
      6m 4s
    7. Painting edits with the Adjustment Brush
      7m 23s
    8. Tone Curves (and why you don't need them)
      5m 57s
    9. Straighten, crop, and geometric distortions
      5m 17s
    10. Applying manual lens corrections
      5m 14s
    11. Vignette, chromatic aberration, and fringe
      6m 49s
    12. Selective hue, saturation, and luminance
      6m 36s
    13. Working with JPEG and TIFF images
      6m 36s
    14. Camera Raw Smart Objects
      6m 48s
    15. Editing Camera Raw images from Bridge
      4m 24s
  6. 32m 30s
    1. Duotones
      1m 23s
    2. Creating a professional-quality sepia tone
      4m 18s
    3. Introducing the Gradient Map adjustment
      5m 42s
    4. Loading a library of custom gradients
      3m 48s
    5. Creating a custom quadtone
      5m 48s
    6. Colorizing with blend modes and Opacity
      4m 6s
    7. Creating a faux-color, high-key effect
      7m 25s
  7. 1h 6m
    1. Noise vs. Details
      1m 28s
    2. Introducing the Reduce Noise filter
      7m 29s
    3. Correcting a noisy photo
      5m 33s
    4. Smoothing over high-contrast noise
      5m 50s
    5. Protecting details with an edge mask
      4m 52s
    6. Adjusting overly saturated shadows
      3m 35s
    7. Correcting with High Pass and Lens Blur
      3m 45s
    8. Brushing away blur and sharpening
      6m 42s
    9. Creating texture by adding noise
      5m 28s
    10. The Camera Raw Detail panel
      7m 8s
    11. Correcting noise and detail in Camera Raw
      8m 10s
    12. Adding noise grain and vignetting effects
      6m 47s
  8. 44m 30s
    1. Blur Gallery
      1m 36s
    2. Creating depth-of-field effects in post
      5m 29s
    3. Modifying your Field Blur settings
      4m 57s
    4. Editing and exporting a Field Blur mask
      6m 15s
    5. Adding a synthetic light bokeh
      3m 52s
    6. Using the Selection Bleed option
      7m 29s
    7. Creating a radial blur with Iris Blur
      6m 59s
    8. Creating "fake miniatures" with Tilt-Shift
      4m 35s
    9. Combining multiple Blur Gallery effects
      3m 18s
  9. 1h 34m
    1. Blend Modes
      1m 16s
    2. Using the Dissolve mode
      9m 47s
    3. Multiply and the darken modes
      8m 30s
    4. Screen and the lighten modes
      8m 10s
    5. Cleaning up and integrating a bad photo
      6m 38s
    6. Blending inside blend modes
      6m 55s
    7. Overlay and the contrast modes
      6m 53s
    8. A few great uses for the contrast modes
      9m 7s
    9. Difference, Exclusion, Subtract, and Divide
      5m 5s
    10. Capturing the differences between images
      4m 18s
    11. Hue, Saturation, Color, and Luminosity
      4m 45s
    12. Blend mode shortcuts
      6m 21s
    13. The Fill Opacity Eight
      8m 57s
    14. Using the luminance-exclusion slider bars
      8m 8s
  10. 44m 20s
    1. Color Range
      1m 14s
    2. Introducing the Color Range command
      7m 24s
    3. Selecting a complex image with Color Range
      5m 49s
    4. Refining a selection in the Quick Mask mode
      7m 4s
    5. Viewing a mask with or without its image
      4m 24s
    6. Painting directly inside an alpha channel
      5m 39s
    7. Correcting fringes around a masked layer
      8m 5s
    8. Turning a layer into a knockout
      4m 41s
  11. 59m 43s
    1. Refine Edges
      1m 28s
    2. Laying down a base layer mask
      6m 49s
    3. Introducing the Refine Edge/Mask command
      7m 57s
    4. Edge detection and Smart Radius
      4m 42s
    5. Using the Refine Radius tool
      7m 31s
    6. The transformative power of Refine Edge
      3m 37s
    7. Perfecting a mask with overlay painting
      10m 58s
    8. Combining Quick Selection with Refine Mask
      10m 37s
    9. Bolstering and integrating hair
      6m 4s
  12. 1h 18m
    1. The Pen tool
      1m 50s
    2. Pixel-based masking versus the Pen tool
      6m 45s
    3. Drawing a straight-sided path outline
      6m 57s
    4. Moving, deleting, and adding anchor points
      6m 10s
    5. Dragging control handles to modify curves
      5m 27s
    6. Converting a path outline to a vector mask
      5m 36s
    7. Customizing a geometric shape
      5m 53s
    8. How to position points and control handles
      7m 7s
    9. Drawing smooth points with the Pen tool
      8m 7s
    10. Duplicating and scaling a vector mask
      5m 21s
    11. Cusp points and the Rubber Band option
      6m 21s
    12. Setting anchor points in the pasteboard
      6m 8s
    13. Using the Convert Point tool
      6m 43s

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