Today is the day! It’s time for the rebirth of Photoshop 101. What I love about this series is that I am learning right along with you. If you haven’t gotten caught up with my other Photoshop 101 posts, please do so as soon as you can. This way, you can keep up and learn along with me.
One of the biggest gripes I hear about Photoshop (and I am guilty of this as well), is that it’s hard to learn. That might be true, but isn’t everything hard to learn that you have never used before? This reminds me of the program that I use for work, which was built in the 80’s. Yea, it’s old and we are making it do things it probably was never meant to do, but we are making it work. Learning it wasn’t easy, but once I figured it out, I feel so confident that I can do anything with it to achieve my goal. That is what I am hoping Photoshop will be like. Once you figure it out, you are set and golden. Profound stuff going on over here people. Profound stuff!
So, let’s start today’s session by learning about Paths.
We will be using the Pen tool to make our paths. Why? Because sometimes the Marquee, Lasso, and Magic wand tools don’t give us the precise selections that we might need. The Pen tool offers control and precision, which allows it to get an accurate selection.
*If you aren’t sure what these above tools are, please see my last Photoshop 101 post about Making Selections.
When you select the Pen tool and start clicking or dragging your image, you create a path. Paths have 3 types of components: anchor points, straight segments, and curved segments.
- A true corner point has no direction lines. Use corner points when selecting objects with straight sides, such as stairs or a barn.
- A smooth point has 2 direction lines pointing in opposite directions but dependent on each other. Use these when selecting objects that have alternating curves, such as the sea or rolling waves.
- A cusp point has 2 direction lines that are independent of one another. Use these when selecting an object with curves going the same direction, like petals on a flower.
- A point between a straight segment and a curve is a corner point with only one direction line.
After you create a path, you can edit it by moving, adding, deleting or converting anchor points and by manipulating the direction lines. You can also transform paths by going to Edit – Transform Paths. This will allow you to scale, rotate, skew, change or distort the path.
Creating a Path with the Pen Tool
Now that we know what the points of a path are, let’s dive right in and learn how to use the Pen tool. The Pen tool has a few options that we probably should know about. Those are:
- Shape Layers: This will create a shape on a new layer called a shape layer. After you create the path, Photoshop fills in the shape with the foreground color and stores the path as a vector makes in the Paths palette. A shape layer is a unique entity.
- Fill Pixels: This is only available when you use shape tools. You can create a shape and fill it in with the foreground color, but it doesn’t create a shape layer or retain the path.
- Paths: This allows you to create a traditional path that hovers over the image. The path you create is a temporary path called a work path. It will appear in the Paths palette, and it is unsaved.
Yep, now I am all sorts of confused. Let’s hope that we can figure out how to use all these options in the coming steps.
Since you will rarely, if ever, be creating straight segments, we are skipping that section. Don’t worry, it’s not that exciting so you haven’t missed much. We are jumping in to drawing curves, since most everything has some sort of curve to it.
Open the image you want to use. Select the Pen tool from the Tools palette. On the options bar, click the Paths button.
When you use the Pen Tool, make sure that you choose the path type (shape layers, paths, or fill pixels) from the Options bar at the top.
Let’s create a straight line, to practice. Click and release your mouse button at the points where you want the line to begin and end. These are called anchor points.
Photoshop is smart and automatically adds the line between the 2 anchor points. Easy peasy, right? To end the path, click the Pen tool in the Tools palette to deselect it. Let’s not do this yet, though. I want to create a curved line after all, and this one is not close to being curved.
To add a curve, simply click on one of the anchor points that you created earlier. Pull back (in this case, I pulled up), to start creating your curve. Make sure that you get it just how you want it to go and then release the mouse. Voila! You now have a curved line.
The curved line is hard to see, but it’s there, I promise! You can also make curved lines the other way, by taking the cursor downwards. I just didn’t feel the need to go that direction for this example.
Part 2 will be going live on June 8th. Don’t forget to come back and learn more about paths.