How To Use Photoshop Pen Tool
Good evening, Ladies and Gents,
Allow me to re-introduce myself, my name is Mike, also (hopefully) known in the online community as Commodore 64 or C64 for short. I have spent the last 12 years, since Photoshop 5.5, exploring the many realms of this staple of the graphic designer’s diet. Aside from the usual plethora of features, Photoshop offers tools for anyone ranging from budding photographer to astrononomer.
Throughout the years, I’ve known Photoshop to be ultra powerful in the pathing arena. The pathing tool, or pen tool, might very well be the most powerful tool in the Adobe arsenal mainly because of its origins.
I’ll keep this history lesson brief: The idea behind the pen tool, or less commonly known as thetool (pictured above) is that geometric constants can be used to create flowing, curvacious lines and designs. It was because of this tool, developed by Pierre BÃ©zier in 1962 and then put to work in the auto manufacturing industry, came about the advent of curvy, smooth cars rather than the Caprice Classics of the day. Fast forward to 2009 – Adobe has put Beziers mathematic principles to good use in many of it’s previous versions of Photoshop and Illustrator up until today.
I use the pen tool primarily to make quick, smooth, profesh cutouts of anything ranging from a bikini model with hair blowing in the wind to a tree with a multitude of branches (in combination with some color specific selections).
Today, we’ll concentrate on pathing out a simple object from its background, let’s say a freshly cut orange with shadows on a white surface:
Firstly, we need to identify a few key features we’ll need to pay attention to as we path. First, the base shadow and the shadow reflection on the actual oranges. We will be removing the base shadow and leaving the shadow reflection on the orange for now.
Secondly, let’s choose our pen tool ().
We need to verify that the pen tool is set correctly for what we’re doing – the graphic below depicts how your pen tool options should be set:
Now, we begin to path. Usually, I like to start at a spot where two circular shapes meet at a rough, sharp angle. In this case, it’s on top. Click once there as shown to create your first anchor point.
Next, follow (with your eyes) along to the right around the circumference of the orange. Since the orange is not a perfect circle, follow until you see a jitter of some sort in the smoothness of the circle, in this case its near the stem.
Click and HOLD the left mouse button where you see a jitter to create another anchor point and pull the handle it creates to manipulate the resulting path to snugly fit around the shape of the orange as shown on the left. Don’t be afraid to take the tool outside of the white work area. You can now release the mouse button.
The next step, while holding down the Alt key, grab (click and hold) the handle that extends in the direction you’re traveling with the pathing tool (clockwise), in this case the handle on the bottom right. Drag this handle point into the origin of the anchor point as shown and release. You’ve just created your first path line!
Note: The Bezier tool is only capable of creating partial circles with each pair of path points. Anything more than a quarter-circle will require another pair of anchor points as it will become oval, thus losing its roundness.
Continue these 3 steps while following snugly around the oranges. Make sure not to spread your anchor points too thinly.
Once you follow around the oranges, taking care to exclude the base shadow from your path as shown. Close the path by simply clicking and holding on the path point where you first started as shown, while pulling the handle out until the desired final shape is achieved.
You now have a completed path. You can use this path to create a cutout selection using the paths panel alongside the layers panel, while also knocking out the shadow that was previously given to this picture.
In order to knock out the shadows remaining on the oranges themselves, you have to simply grab the dodge tool at maybe 10% and start to lightly brush away the shadowy areas on the bottom until the area is a nice orange. On top of that, you can also create your own shadow and lighting direction since you will have knocked out the original shadow and now have a layer with an actual shape to it.
I hope this helps all of the aspiring Photoshoppers out there to begin delving a little deeper into the powers of the Photoshop. Thanks for reading folks.
Have questions? Drop them in the comments. Have comments? Drop them in the comments. See any discrepencies between Gimp and Photoshop? Drop them in the comments.
If you’re new to Photoshop make sure to download An Idiot’s Guide To Photoshop .