The Pen Tool
Typically as photographers you're gonna find yourself using more of the magic wand tools to make selections. But the pen tool can be a very valid way to make a selection because it constrains you to exactly the edges that you want it to select by using anchor points and manipulating these anchor points. And this tool, of all the tools, I guarantee you're gonna cuss the most when you use this tool. We gotta talk about it because it is a very good tool for making selections. And it's very easy once you understand hot keys that go along with it. If you don't know the hot keys with the pen tool, you will never be able to grasp the pen tool. I'm sorry, you can play with it all day long, it's not gonna work for you, okay? So the pen tool is found right here. And If you look at this image, we have a very hard edged object around the background. The problem with this image, is if we look at the white of the background, and we look at the Polaroid camera here, this area is very similar to this ...
area. So if I tried to use the magic want tool to select the area around it, it's gonna want to select this area, even if I change the tolerance, bring the tolerance down. The same thing is true with something like the quick selection tool. If I use the quick selection tool, it's gonna say yeah I can grab all this stuff, but this stuff looks so much like it, I'm gonna grab that too. And we don't want that to happen. So using something like the pen tool is a better option. You might think well, let's use the polygonal lasso tool. Well the polygonal lasso tool would be a bunch of straight lines so, you try to do a bunch of straight lines around an edge, it doesn't look right. So that's where the pen tool comes in. When we get these rounded edges, you can even use it on people. You can use it on people to go around them, and you can use something select and mask to push and pull that area which will go over here. So if I zoom in on this object, it's giving me, CC does a good job of giving me an idea of how to use the pen tool so, I'll just let it teach you and I'll just stop now. I'm just gonna go ahead and press close on this. The pen tool you always wanna pick a pretty good starting point that is not necessarily on a rounded area, so I typically start this on something that is a flat area, so I'll click right here, and the next point I make, it's going to allow me to manipulate these anchor points. So I don't want to go and cover over something that has a rounded edge so if we look at the top of this, it kinda has a rounded edge. So I'm gonna go right to the top of that rounded edge. So as I click and move that point, notice how I have some anchors, I got an anchor point with these two paddles that kind of pull outside of there, and I get this really weird kind of angle that is moving around, that curve, okay? That is what's gonna help me make this selection a little bit better. When I click a point, like this one right here, I'll click right here, and I move that paddle around, it can help me make a selection on a curve. Now, when I do that though, look what happens. I'll zoom in a little bit closer, I missed my edge a little bit and that's okay. At any point I can control click on any point that I've made, I can control click, I can push it up. And then, looking at these paddles, I can alt or option click on those paddles, and move those paddles individually. Handles, paddles, whatever you wanna call them. So as I move these paddles individually, look at how I can get a very precise selection for that area. So I'm gonna click on this area here, and again do this, and then I just go around. Work my way around, pull that paddle out that way, to make that selection, again this handle right here if we look really close at that handle, it's not quite making that selection, I can alter option click, to start making that selection a little bit better. Alt or option click on this paddle, and move that in. Then go over here, click on this area right here again it's gonna do something really funky, it' okay. Get to right there, press alt or option on this paddle, pull this up and over, and alt or option here. Alt or option right here, click to pull that in. If at any point you do something you're not happy with, just press command or control Z. Command or control Z will back you up from wherever you are. So go ahead and click here, that's a good one right here, I might make this point right here like that. Zoom in, alt or option, make that selection there, okay. I'll zoom out, again control and space bar are your best friend here. Control or space bar to zoom in or out, or command and space bar on a Mac. If you press and hold shift while you're using the pen tool, it's gonna make a straight line. Shift with almost any tool that you're using is gonna constrain something to a straight line. So I'm press and hold shift, click right there. If we went a little far out, again control click, and I can get right back on to that line. Make things a little bit easier, just press and hold shift around these lines. And maybe this one I might actually do a little bit of a curve. Again control click this point to move it over. You see, the pen tool is not as hard as it seems. It really is at first when you're trying to click and move these paddles around, but if you make small kind of baby steps, press and hold shift, make that a straight line, control click, small little baby steps and understand that these paddles here can be moved however you want them to be moved by pressing alt or option, if you don't this thing is gonna be a nightmare. And I will tell ya how many times I've cussed using this tool, it's a lot. Alt or option to click, and move around there. Cool, made that selection, go around here. And this is a good image to practice on, and it is available with this download, so please by all means as you see me doing this, go through the paces with it, this is a great photograph to work on the pen tool with. Go around to here, this is also one of those times as we're doing this that I wished I had a fast forward button, so I go right around here. Click on this, control click, and we can move this up a little bit, okay. Control space bar to move out a little bit. Go around this edge, I'm just gonna do this a little bit faster now. Again, I made a little error so control Z, step backwards. Click back here, and I'll use my history to go back if I make an error, press and hold shift and move here, control click, bring that down to here, and bring this paddle up again, because I need to make that selection perfectly right there. Come around here, demystifying the pen tool. Tell me you'll appreciate this. Control click on any of those points, you can even control click on one of these paddles. So if I control click on that paddle, look what's happening, it's controlling both of those paddles moving individually, just as if it would if I was making that point to begin with. But the alt or option click just moves one at a time. Then go right around here, and what we're doing here, we've talked about things like raster and vector based, we're actually making a raster based selection right now, because this is a path, and a path is a little bit different than a selection, but we can always turn any path into a selection, press and hold shift, control click, move this up here, then work my way around. Control click, lot easier on this side, huh? I'll just go around rather quickly. A regular click will just give you that line right to that point from point to point. Zoom in here a little bit, because it looks like I got a little, not so rounded area. And I'm control clicking to do that, control click. I'm just gonna go right up here, let's just go all the way to the top here. Control and space bar, zoom out a little bit. Hot keys are your best friend. I need to make a T-shirt, hot keys my new besties. Alright, cool go around there. People might take that out of context if they don't know what Photoshop is, though. Click up here, alt or option move that paddle in. We're almost there, almost there. Boom, go right around here, big loop right here. Alt or option click on this paddle, move it up, then connect back to the very beginning, and if we have that at the beginning and it's not looking right, just press alt or option to get that paddle in, alt or option on this one, and make that selection a little bit better. Control click, alt click, there we go, okay. So now, what we have is we have a path that has been drawn around this entire image. So if we wanted to separate this from the photograph, we can't use this path to do that. We have to turn this path into something called a selection as we've been doing before. So by default it's not a selection like we would look at with the lasso tool or polygonal lasso tool, it's a path. So if we right click on this path, we can say, make selection. So when I make a selection from this, it's gonna pop up and it's gonna ask me, do I even want to feather this, which might be a good idea for this image. If I feather this by maybe one pixel, it will help it from being hard edge because remember this is a vector based selection that we're basically creating here. It's a vector based path that we're turning into a selection, so by adding one pixel of a feather to that, and pressing okay, we now have a selection specifically for that area. If I were to press command or control J on this background layer, it's automatically going to open me up, and if we look at what it gave me, it gave me the outer selection. Of course that happens, we'll just go back, again that hot key we went back in our layers palette. The hot key to make sure that our layer gets inverted, is control shift and I, and now we've made a selection specifically for that Polaroid. Now if I press command or control J, I'm duplicating that selection from that background, and I've segregated it from its background. And now I have this Polaroid camera, if I press the V key, I can move it anywhere I want, or put any background that I want behind it. And if we were to try and do this with something like the quick selection tool, if we were to go around here like this, notice how it's trying to grab too much. If we look at the background here, and we select on the background, everything looks too much like the quick selection tool, but what we'd be doing is we'd be chasing our tail a lot. We would be making a selection around this Polaroid, we would be pressing alt or option to get rid of that area, and we'd be selecting too much of the area around it, clicking outside of here, clicking inside of, it's just a nightmare. You could do it, with just the quick selection tool alone, but it's not gonna be quite as powerful as doing it with the pen tool. Now the pen tool is something that you're going to need to practice with so, download this practice image and work with it because, it's not as easy as I made it look. Put a point down, drag the handle as you put that point down, alt or option click on those paddles to move them individually, control click on those paddles as a group rotating around, and control clicking on the point allows you to move it up and down when you press and hold control and you move that point. The pen tool, it's not something that is very easy to grasp, so definitely definitely practice with that.