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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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.

Didn't see any way of submitting an article in the articles section so here it is.

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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Well, the problem that I see with with using the pentool is that it takes quite a while to do it. But if you use the pentool, the less anchorpoints you place the better it is.
But I still think that a rough outline with the polygonlasso and quickmask is a better way (more accurate than the magicwand and faster than the pentool.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Sure it takes awhile but if you spend 5-20 hours painting a fig then kinda a shame not to spend an hour getting a nice clean cut. I used to be a polygonlasso guy myself but it really does't do justice to long sweeping curves. The more you use the pen tool the faster you get at it.

I've had a rather lot of practice, having been assigned with clipping out a couple thousand Toyota pictures in the past. hehe
 

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OK - I don't have PhotoShop - who can afford it just for playing with photos of your toys? Grossly overpriced. I just use a cheap, $50 program to crop, rotate, and resize...

But my question is - with this, and the other Photoshop thread from a few days ago - isn't it infinitely easier to just take a good picture in the first place? I use a white-to-blue faded background, and snap pics on that, avoiding all this photo fakery hassle at the end.
 

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I prefer to use mask layers to separate complex pictures. I just select the background layer (the only layer in a standard image) and add a show-all mask. I then start painting around the edges of the picture with black on the mask layer, the background should start getting transparent. When I'm done I merge the layers to one and It's done. You can work with all the normal tools but I usually use the paint brush with a hardness of about 75% to get slightly softened edges. I think it's the fastest way since you can have black as the foreground colour (left-click) and white as the backgrounf (right-click) so I can "erase" any mistakes as I go along.
I use Paintshop Pro but it whould be possible in photoshop as well.

Commander Y has a point though :D
However, if you want to change the background, have it transparent, make a collage or whatever you're going to have to mess with the picture somehow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Well sure, the beauty of photoshop is that there are 5 ways to do the same thing, no matter what you're trying to do. This is just a tutorial on how to use the pen tool easily. I know a lot of people are either afraid of it or badmouth it simply because they dont understand how it works or what it is capable of. I was just trying to help make it easier to use. Its an extremely powerful tool. I wouldn't use this method on every pic....I'm way too lazy, but if I wanted to make one pic look special I would. Especially if I keeping the picture large, such as for print.

Comparing pathing using the polygonal lasso to the bezier pen tool is like comparing drybrushing with NMM. shrug

Anyway...guess I wasted my time. Lets see some tutorials on your methods guys. :)
 
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