Mastering the Pen Tool and Shape Layers

Lesson 3 of 5

Refining Selection Edges in Photoshop

 

Mastering the Pen Tool and Shape Layers

Lesson 3 of 5

Refining Selection Edges in Photoshop

 

Lesson Info

Refining Selection Edges in Photoshop

So now we know how to drive it but how do you actually navigate the curves? Well, funny you should ask. There are some nice curves. Where do I put the points? How do I pull? Where do I pull? How do I accelerate? Where do I brake, you know? Well, those are all really good questions and I'm gonna show you how we do that. So what I have here is I have a letter S. Revealing, is it not? Yes. I like to do the S-curve simply because I want to show you where we're gonna put points on and where we're actually gonna click our pen tool. So if I took my pen tool and I started drawing here, around there, people start at a point and then they're like okay I'm gonna do this here and I'm gonna pull this handle and I'm gonna put one here and then here and over here and over here and then I'm gonna move this all around and do this whole thing. I'm gonna try and then of course, I'm gonna end up with something like this and I get all around there and it's like okay, great wow. Well you know, eh. Thank goo...

dness we're gonna get rid of it. So what I want to show you here is the basic points where you're going to actually land your points for your pen tool in order to be able to do your curves. And I'm gonna start off here and I'm gonna do a nice little small brush right here and of course, my cursor's really big so it looks my brush is really big but it isn't. So every place that I want to land a point is gonna be the change of direction. So obviously, here is a change of direction right there, absolutely. And I'm also going to come to the top because the way I look at this is the curve comes up and it stops no longe curving up and it's now starting to curve down, change of direction. So at the top, I just think of a circle, top, bottom, left, right of a circle is a change of direction. It arcs up, it no longer arcs up, it begins to arc down. So I'm gonna put a point there. I'm gonna put a point here. I'm gonna put a point here. And then here is kind of a fuzzy area, okay, because at some point it curves down and then it has to start changing the curve here. So I'm gonna kind of guess that I'm gonna put a point some place in here. And we kind of have to do it in the right place or else our curves are all off. Obviously, that's a change of direction, that's a change, change of direction there, there, at the bottom, on the outside, and of course we get this weirdness here. It curves in and then it starts to curve back around so I'm gonna say right about here, there, and there. So those are my basic points which I'm going to go ahead and do so I've got my change of direction here. This was the most frustrating thing ever to go ahead and teach because I had tried to watch videos on people using the pen tool and people would be like well, you know, you just gotta try this. No, no, no, I wanted a way that the pen tool works so that I could tell you where you put points other than you put your points at the right place. Well where is that right place? Okay, when you know how to do it you can do it but explain it to me. So I'm just gonna knock those points back there on the opacity so we can kind of see. So now I'm going to go through and I'm going to land my points here and I'm gonna talk my way through it fairly quickly because I know time gets really short on driving with the pen tool. So I'm gonna start here and I'm a lefty so I always go to the left, doesn't matter, but here's an interesting thing that I want to show you real quick. If I go in and I'm doing something and I'm actually drawing my shape to the left right here and I go in and I want to then pull out of here by holding down my option key, I click and I pull and why does my little handle overlap itself here? Well, what happens is because I'm a lefty and I always go counterclockwise here, the way I draw is always counterclockwise so when I do this, I do counterclockwise and I don't know that I've just drawn this counterclockwise but when I pull my handles out I also need to make them counterclockwise or else when I pull the opposite direction, whatever direction I pull my handle, that's the direction the curve goes and I get these little overlapping loops right there. So it's now one of those things where it's interesting because I ask my students this. How many people actually draw right-handed? And they say oh, I draw clockwise as well. But several of them actually use the pen tool counterclockwise and every time they use their option key to pull handles out of a corner, they're like it keeps doing this, what's wrong with this? It's you the drive that's doing it wrong. You're driving the opposite direction. It's just one of those weird things that people have. And of course, I just hit delete and got rid of my layer right there, there we go, back up. So I always do counterclockwise there that way whenever I pull a handle out, I always pull it the way I drew the shape. Little bit of information. So I'm going to land a point here and then the next point is going to be at my change of direction. I'm going to click and I'm going to pull. And if I pull down I'm going to get the opposite lump up, if I pull up, I'm going to get the opposite lump down. But I want to go and I want to pull and I want to get that right there. Well how far do I pull? Well, I'm going to pull out to the point where it's going to marry with my curve pretty well. Now I'm going to come over here. I'm going to click on this and I'm going to click on that point and it matches my curve. And I realized that I started a little bit out here so I'm just going to hold down my command key to get my direct selection tool and I'm going to pull that in. Now I'm going to come down here and I think I misplaced that dot, it's supposed to be right about there so I'm gonna click and pull and I'm gonna do this. Now I've got a problem here because I've pulled this handle really far and here's my next point. So it's going to come out over here. It's gonna shoot way over and it's gonna come right back to that point right there because the more I pull my handles the more of a curve I get. I had to to get this. So here's where I'm gonna go back it off, right here. But how far do I back it off. Not gonna do that quite yet. I'm gonna show you what happens. So I click here, it comes way out, and then it comes back because I pulled this handle really far so let me back up here. So I have my handle. How far do I pull that handle back? Do I go in? Do I pull the handle back this far, this far, this far, whatever distance, right there. I'm gonna do this with my command key and I'll show you why. I'm gonna pull that back and you can see I'm kind of teetering on right there. I'm gonna show you and tell you it's the 50% rule and what the 50% rule is that I want to be halfway between the point that I drew and the point that I'm going to land, roughly halfway. Anything more than that, I'm gonna get too much of a curve. Anything less than that, I'm gonna get too little. And so if I were to go in here and I were to draw an imaginary line right here and an imaginary line right here where my points touch, I'm gonna land that point 50% of the way in between. And now when I get here and I click on this point right here and I click and pull, look at that. Just like that. Delicious. Now, I've pulled this point here. I'm gonna go and I'm gonna zoom back out here and I think this is the bottom one right here. I'm gonna pull that point as well, do that, come back up here, click and pull. Ah, I got my curve. Now what's going to happen? My curve is gonna head off the direction that I did it. So I have one of two things. I can hold down my option key and direct my path right there and put it along there. I'm just gonna option click and suck it in because if I don't get that direction exactly where I want it to go, I'm gonna end up with a slightly altered line. I'm just gonna suck the handle in because now I can go anywhere. So I'm gonna click there, perfect, and I didn't click and pull here to get my curve but I could have but if I had gone in and I clicked and pulled here, then of course I've got to go do the same thing. This is a straight line so I'm just going to go ahead and I'm gonna click right there and there we go. Now I'm going to come down here, I'm going to click and pull, I'm going to pull that handle, beautiful curve right there. I'm going to come back around here and I'm gonna click and pull this right there, get that curve. I'm gonna come up here. I'm gonna click and pull and I've got to pull really far because it's an exaggerated curve and this goes way past my point. If it goes past my point, you've got to swing really wide so I'm going to go ahead and I'm going to suck that right back in. Now I'm using my option key here and do you see how I'm getting this not in line with the other one? This is really bad. I want to use my selection tool, my direct selection tool, when I'm doing something with a curve because if I go in and use my option key and I do this and I change this plane right here, that's going to cause a little hitch right here. I'm gonna do a little peak or a little valley because I'm changing the direction. It's gonna stop and I get that peak. Because I'm in the middle of a curve and I still want to continue that curve, I want to use my direct selection tool because I know I'm always going to get a smooth curve. This helps me guide this along so that when I have this, if I'm not very steady with this, I want to make sure I pull it in but then I keep that curve. By doing that, it's always going to operate on the same plane and I'm going to get a beautiful curve. If I go in and I do hold down my option key, now I'm going to get a bump. Use your direct selection tool when you're trying to pull the handle in and you want it to do a continuous curve. So then I'm going to pull this back right here. I'm going to land another point, pull that curve. I'm going to come back here and pull that right there as best I can, it's not quite in the right place. Here's where I can go in and use my option to go ahead and suck it back in because I'm not worried about, 'cause here if I do this, I change the curve. Don't want to. So now I'm either going to option click and drag that in or option click there and I'm gonna complete my path. There is my path. Change of direction, smooth and corner points when I go and change. Now I realize that some of these are not quite right and some of these are not quite right because I didn't quite touch the path. So I'm gonna select this with my direct selection tool and I'm gonna move this down, there it is. And I see that okay, I pulled this a little bit far, right there, so I'm gonna tuck this back in just a little bit so that it touches the line, beautiful. I am not using my option key here because then, that causes a little lump right there and when I have that lump, that's what I get and I get these little bumps in there. Don't want to have that at all. I want to be able to go in and I want to be able to pull the curves. Now, which handle do I pull because both of these handles make up the curve. Now, this is kind of a slow curve here and then it curves a little bit faster. I've already pulled this handle out and I'm already a little bit past the 50% mark. So if I were to draw a line here and here, this is a little bit over the 50% mark so I don't want to keep dragging this or else I'm going to get a pregnant curve. So I'm going to pull this one up to help compensate for that curve and it falls in beautifully. This takes time, it really does, and if I couldn't show you how to do it really well, what's the point of me showing you the pen tool? Now here's the tricky part, too. This has landed here and this is looking pretty good so I've got that handle pulled out right there and this is way over the 50% mark right there. I'm gonna pull this down a bit to see if I can get that there and land that and it's awesome. The reason why this is past the 50% mark is because this is really short, this is really long, and I had to do a really fast and then very slow, sweeping curve right on around. Go and look at that, that looks good, and this one's slightly off so I want to get in here and I want to get that and I want to pull that up. And I realize that my curve is slightly off and I think it's because I just need to move this over ever so slightly right there and I do that. Now, got that and I realize that if I bump this up, it pulls the other side down. So clearly, I'm gonna pull this out a little bit more and I need to adjust that and in it goes. That one needs to come down ever so slightly, right there, pull that a little bit more, tuck that in, really good. Looking good all the way on around. Flat edges here, that's easy. Just bump it right out to the edge. And around we go, there we have it. Pull that in and you get the sense of how we're gonna go in and we're gonna adjust our curves so that we can get those curves to be just right. There it is. There's my shape. I can clean that up but now I want to do this on an actual image, okay. And I want to turn it into a selection. I could have got this. I'm going to turn this into a perfect selection and then we're ready to rock and roll. So that's how you drive the pen tool. When I have a selection here, I'm going to use this mailbox. Stock photo so I've got really clean edges here and I'm going to run through this really quickly on how I would go ahead and do this and then I'm going to show you the advantages of using the pen tool rather than using the lasso tool or the polygon lasso tool. So I'm gonna zoom in really close and I'm gonna start really close here. Now, as I'm going along here, I'm using a straight line between everything but I've got all these pixels that are all a little jagged. Do I go in and do I create a path that's like this along here? Absolutely not, okay. I could, way too much time. And here's the advantage of using the pen tool. So I'm gonna start off here, gonna make it big and I'm going to go ahead and click right there, start it off, click right here. Straight line, don't need to go and ahead and do any click and pull. This is a curve and I could do one of two things with this. I could take this and I could go all the way over the curve like this and do that but then I have to deal with this little handle. Option click, suck the handle right back in. Straight line yet again, up, and I have a curve so I'm going to curve that right over, zoom in really close to see. I have a handle sticking out. Option, suck in the handle. I'm gonna put a point right there at the top to get the dome. I'm gonna come back down here and that's gonna be too long so I'm gonna pull that handle back in to land that down. And then I'm going to come over here and do that. Handle's point the wrong direction. Option click to suck that handle back in, go all the way on up until I get that curve, curve over the top, click and pull, this is going in a straight line so I don't have to do anything with that handle. It's pointing exactly the direction that I want to go. Click on that. I get my curve, get right to there, click and pull. Handle's going the wrong direction, option click to suck it in. Curve that right around the top. Curve that right there at the farthest point and I'm going to come down here and I want to put it right about there with that change of direction. Right there and I need to suck that in just a little bit and then right back there as well, straight across, click and drag at that point, suck that handle in, it's going the wrong direction, do a straight one down there all the way down, and now I've got my little reflection there. Okay, kind of reflecting off the mailbox. And well actually, let's actually go in all the way right on down. So this isn't in the right point. I'm actually going to hit delete and go right back. Now, I've actually deleted that point from the path and now I have to reconnect that path. This is why you've got to pay attention to the pen tool. See that little asterisk? I get that asterisk. It says I'm starting a new path. I don't want to. I want to continue on. So when I see this, I see that my path was left right there. I need to reconnect to that path because I put that one poin in there and I didn't want that point there. I can't delete the last point by using my delete anchor point with the pen tool because where do I go? So I hit delete and it deletes that last path. I need to go back to my last point and I get my little pen tool with a little connector there. I need to reconnect. Whenever you see the asterisk, you are going to be starting a new path. I don't want to. I want this to be a single path. Find my last open path and then I can reconnect with this, bring it in, click on that, go around, and I'm going to zoom through this really quickly here. I'm gonna get to the top of my mailbox, right there, come down along the side, put that right there, and ooh yeah, there we go, option click, zoom in a little bit there, a little bit off, take that, kind of park it right there, connect the pen tool, and so on and so forth. So I'm not going to go through and to the whole thing. I'm just going to go around these particular letters right here. I'm using the space bar to get my hand tool to move very quickly so I don't have to keep stopping and mess up what I'm doing. Right there and away we go tot the whole thing. So I'm gonna complete the path really quickly here and I'm just going to go back over here and go in and complete that path right there. So there's my selection around that object and in order to turn this into a selection, I can always right-click or actually click on my cheese grater here and I can turn this into a selection. Other, easier ways to turn this path into a selection, hold down the command key on the path right there, command click turns into a selection or even better yet, command return and it turns into a selection. How good of a selection did I do because a path is going to just connect points together and I know that all my pixels are jagged. What's nice about this is if I was using the lasso tool or something like that, I realize that if I use my lasso tool, this is really hard with a lasso tool or something to go along the edge. I've turned this into a selection and my selection isn't correct. Easy. I'm going to deselect that. I'm going to go back to activate my path, go back to my pen tool, and I'm going to take that path right there and I'm just going to edit my path. Command click, command return reactivates the path. So this is a whole lot easier than trying to adjust a selection by adding to or taking away from a selection here. It's just absolutely, brilliantly easy when it comes to changing it. Now, how do I know if my path is really where it's supposed to be? Well, this is how. When I see this, my path is not in the right place. So what I'm going to do here is I'm going to adjust the path and how does it know what pixel to select and what pixel not to select because I see this path is one smooth line and I know these are squares. How does that work? Well, whenever I see the path right here, anything inside the path, if I have more than half a pixel inside the path, it's going to select that pixel. It's gonna select this pixel right here because more than half of it is inside the path. It will definitely select this one. It will select this one. It'll select that one. It's not going to select that pixel there because more of it is outside the path. Watch this. So it won't select this pixel. I do command return and it didn't select that pixel. So now when I look at my path, I can see this and I can see my path and I'm just going put a point here and I can move this in so I can actually snap to my pixels here and I can actually adjust that path so that I can do an average of what I'm going to select. Now, because we're dealing with an image here, I think that I'm doing a really good selection and I want to include those pixels. No you don't because those are the fringe pixels and those extra little pixels on the edge there, if we put it on a dark background, are going to show up. So I'm actually going to take my path and I'm going to put it well inside all of my structured pixels here. Yes, I'm going to lose those exterior pixels but those exterior pixels aren't really part of the image. They're there in Photoshop and they're anti alias to kind of get that softer effect right there. And so now when I do my selection, I have it completely inside here and now when I select my object, I am leaving those pixels out of there but I know I'm leaving them out of there for a reason. So now as I go around my entire document and I look and I see, I can see how my selection's done. Oh, that selection's way outside the range of what I want it to, command D for deselect, select back on my path, get my pen tool, snap my path a little bit further in, command return, I've just adjusted my selection. You can't adjust a selection that fast by using the magic wand tool or the lasso tool, the marque tool and add to and subtract from. That's why the path is so absolutely awesome to have. Works great. So a lot of times, people will say okay, you know, I can go in and I need to outline my object. And so they take something like this and they say I want a path around my object so they take their magic wand tool and they select the white area, they invert the selection, and they go over to their paths panel here and they say okay, make this a path and it's like okay, I've got my path, and it's like that's so ridiculously easy. The problem is, when you turn this into a selection and convert it into a path, it's actually going in and your path is actually following these weird little tolerances and you get kind of this wavy line thing which is absolutely awful around your object and you see, it just does an absolutely horrible job. The only way you're going to get a good path is if you learn the pen tool and you learn to actually go around your object. It's the only way to do it. So turning a selection into a path gives you a horrible path, plain and simple. That's all there is to it. So you just have to learn how to get all around. Now, when you're dealing with objects like this, bikes and you've got all these spokes. This is where the pen tool just absolutely shines because you can go through here really quickly and get everything exactly where you want it to a whole lot better than adding to when selecting or subtracting from your selections. Even with the spokes that are out of focus, I would do two selections here. I would do one around everything that's in focus. I would do one around everything out of focus so I would have two different selections because I can't blur the pen tool. The pen tool is a line. There is not selection with the pen tool. It's what I do with the selection after I've gone in and done my path. So with the blurred spokes, I would do the best I could around the spokes right here. I would then take that selection and once I'd activate that, then it would take that selection and make a mask or soften that selection from there. But the pen tool is going to give you that really cool ability to select. So the pen tool as a means to select, super, super awesome. Once you get good at it, it's one of the fastest ways to go through and select objects that are very difficult to select. So this mailbox here, if it wasn't on a white background because so many people are like well I'll just select the white background and delete it. What happens if it's in a setting? You know, it's in a cul-de-sac with everything and you've got trees and bushes and things that are in focus, trying to select and deselect and erase, no way. The pen tool, put the path around it, make that path look beautiful, adjust it however you want to, command return to check your selection, doesn't work, deselect, go back, add it to your path. Really quick, really easy.

Class Description

The Pen tool doesn’t have to be your enemy. Find out how useful, versatile, and easy-to-use it can be in Mastering the Pen Tool and Shape Layers with Jason Hoppe.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Drive the Pen tool like a pro
  • Make perfect curves
  • Steer the handles with ease
  • Make quick and easy selections 
You’ll also learn how Shape Layers can make building vector based shapes a breeze.


Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2014.2.2

Reviews

Janie Parks
 

Great instructor, good voice. The pace is good and I like the way Jason quickly repeats an instruction.

deBrady
 

Jason is one of my favorite instructors...great sense of humor and breaks down the most complex processes into yummy, edible pieces for easy consumption! Highly recommend.

LeCompte
 

Crisp, clean, dry humor, ton of info. Recommend for sure