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  • Pen Tool Made Easy

    Well my previous statement that the pen tool was just as fast as the magic wand might not be entirely...uh...true. hehe. It DOES give you pinpoint control over your path however. It IS a lot more work than the magic wand, but if you didn't use a backrop for your image, its really the only way to clip out your figure. Also if you've spent a week painting a figure, whats a few hours getting a perfect clip? Here is a few tips I've put together. It was done with Photoshop CS2 but it should apply back at least a few versions, the pen tool has always been a basic tool of photoshop. I hope you guys love me, this took me awhile.
    First of all here is my starting photo.

    First thing I usually do is make 1 or 2 High Pass layers that I can turn on and off as needed, to help me seperate difficult edges from the backround. It makes a negative efffect that can pull your subjects edge out of a shadow if you're lucky. Filters>Other>High Pass

    Ok, the pen tools native mode makes a filled polygon when you start clicking away. You dont want this fill as it makes it harder to use. In the options for the tool there are 3 states, Shape Layer, Paths & Fill Pixels. You want to make sure you select the Paths.

    Ok, now, most people are intimidated by the little handles that the pen tool is notorious for. This may surprise some people but you never have to touch them to make a complex path with this tool. The key is the "auto add/remove" ability. As illustrated in the picture, just creat a straight line from the bigginning of your curve to either midway through a curve (for long seeping curves) or the end of your curve (for shorter ones).

    Then just click midway through your line to create a new point. This point will already have curve handles sticking out but just ignore them. Press and hold the CTRL key and the cursor should turn into a white arrow. This is called the Direct Select arrow...while holding CTRL click and hold the center of your new point and drag it out to the edge of your curve.

    For more dynamic curves, you'll want to cut it into smaller sections so as to have more control. On a curve like this you dont want to create a point in the center of the path section, if you put yoru point more toward one point and drag it toward the opposite one, you can create a curve that leans. Very helpful for curves like this.

    You can put more than one curve between to pionts as well, such as for a wavy line. Pulling one point one way and the other point the other.

    Certain things like flocking can ruin your plans to completely path out a figurine with the pen tool. If this is the case you can erase the backround in sections. Close our your path. Go into your paths pallete and holding down CTRL click on your path. It will make a selection of your path, go back to the layers pallete and click the layer you want to remove material from. If it is your Backround layer, besure to rename it first so it has transparancy. This is important because erasing from a "Backround" layer will actually fill any areas you erase from with your backround color.

    You can see, this method makes a razor clean cut. Once you remove all the sections you can easily clip, you can use the magic wand tool on the backround thats left, bordering such things as flocking. Its much more random on such edges and gives a more realistic clip, due to its inherent imperfection.

    I hope this helps a few people.
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