Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Photoshop Tutorial | The Incredible Pen Tool

A lot of tutorials tell you to use the pen tool; this one will show you HOW to use the pen tool. Creating true vector shapes, partial pixel selections, curvature modification, and saved paths are just some of its features.

Step 1
The pen tool has 2 main functions: Shape Layers and Paths. For this tutorial, we'll be using Paths. Select the pen tool and then make sure you have Paths selected as well.

Step 2
Now start by drawing a simple curve. Do this by clicking on some point in the image, then clicking and holding in a different spot. While holding the click, move the mouse some and you will see a curve start to form. Let go of the mouse button when you've got the curve you want.

 Step 3
Now you can click again and repeat the process to create another curve. You'll notice that this time the curve was automatic and followed the general direction of the previous curve. I bet you're wondering how you can change that.

 Step 4
Let's start over with the first curve. Click somewhere, then click again and drag. Once you get the curve you want, instead of letting go of the mouse button, this time hold down the alt button on your keyboard and move your mouse some. You can dictate which way the next curve will go by doing this.

 Step 5
With the line adjusted, this time when we click for the next point the curve will not be the same. The curve always follows this line we just adjusted -- the longer the line the more sharp the curve will be. The direction of the line indicates which way the curve will go.

 Step 6
You can also add points after your curve is created. If you hover over the existing path you will see the pen tool with + beside it. If you click the mouse you can add a point, and if you hold down alt you can see how adjusting the line affects curves.

 Step 7
If you hover over an existing point, you will see the pen tool with a - beside it. This means if you click it will delete the point you're on. I'll go ahead and delete the anchor point we added in the last step.

Step 8
Now you may be wondering what to do with the path you've created. There are lots of options. To see them, right click anywhere in your image with the pen tool selected.

Step 9
Let's go through each of the options. Delete Path is obvious. It will delete the path you've just created. Define Custom Shape will take the shape you just created, turn it into a true vector, and add it to the pen tool's shape menu so you can use it whenever you like. Make Selection will turn your current path into a selection. This has a major advantage over the marquee tool: the pen tool can select partial pixels while the marquee tool selects only whole pixels. It does this by adding a transparency to existing pixels that are on the edge of your selection. This means your selections will be much smoother.

Step 10
Fill path will fill your path with the options you specify. This includes opacity, blending mode, and a few others. Stroke Path will allow you to choose what tool you want to stroke the path with, and then do so. Finally Free Transform Path will allow you to adjust the scale of your path. Right clicking again will give you even more options such as skew, distort and perspective

 Step 11

Let's look closer at the Define Custom Shape option. First make some shape with the pen tool.

 Step 12
Right click and select Define Custom Shape. It will ask you for a name, just call it whatever you like.

 Step 13
Your shape is now saved. You can delete the path. To use your shape, select the Custom Shape Tool, then select your shape from the Shape drop down box.

 Step 14Now all you have to do is click and drag to re-create the shape any time. Holding down shift will create the shape at the original proportions. Making a shape is great for anything that might become repetitive, or for things that need to be scalable like logos.

Step 15
Let's look at one more very useful function of the pen tool: cutting out images. This is better than using the lasso tool for many reasons. First of all it will select partial pixels as mentioned above. You also have the ability to adjust your path at any time. And moreover, once your image is traced you have the extra option of doing things like creating a shape from the object, or putting a stroke around it.

 Step 16
Open up a picture you'd like to cut out and use the pen tool to trace around it. It doesn't have to be perfect because you can adjust it later. Some people even prefer to click on each point or junction and then go back and modify the curves later. Personally I tend to modify the curves as I go -- just do whatever you're more comfortable with. I'm an old-timer StarCraft fan so I'll use something from the game.

 Step 17
Now right click and choose Make Selection.

 Step 18
Now you can press ctrl-c (or edit>copy) to copy the selection to the clipboard. Create a new image and paste the selection with ctrl-v (or edit>paste). Now you can do whatever you want with the background layer and your image should look good because of the partial pixel selections. I used the horribly ugly rainbow gradient just to show you how the partial pixel selecting automatically blends the edges into the background no matter what color it is.

Step 19

The pen tool admittedly takes more time than some other tools -- both to learn and to cut out images. However when it's quality that counts, it's the pen tool hands down. Learn it, live it, love it.

 Step 20
Just for grins let's go back into the original image where you created the path. Click on the Paths palette (by default it is in between Layers and Channels). You will see the path you created. Click on it and it should appear again.

 Step 21
Now you can right click (with the pen tool selected, of course) and choose Define Custom Shape. Now I have my own Protoss shape to use whenever, and however I like -- even to create my own terrible protoss army, a silhouette of fear stalking in the night MWAHAHA!


 Here are related Tutorial that may be of interest:

Guide to Adobe Photoshop for Beginners

Video & Animation Masterclass

Simple Text Animation Tutorial Using Gimp 2.6

Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks for Designers

This Tutorial was Credited to pandasauure
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