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Using the Photoshop 7.0 Pen Tool is a snap

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  • Using the Photoshop 7.0 Pen Tool is a snap

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    Ron Lemire saw some questions asked here, so he took the opportunity to write this tutorial on using the pen tool in PS7. It's not only a very good tutorial, but well laid-out as well.
    Last edited by Doug Nelson; 01-28-2004, 12:34 PM.
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  • #2
    Extra step??

    I'm curious as to the usage of the "C" anchor point. I use the Pen tool frequently because of its unmatched control and accuracy. When I lay down my second anchor I keep the mouse button pressed allowing me to affect the curve as necessary. Perhaps I'm missing something...?



    • #3

      Well done tutorial, and thanks for the help with the Pen tool -- I do use it, but not as often as I'd like since I've had trouble making the curves and this will help a lot -- I tried it on the sample photo and created a usable selection first time!


      • #4
        I agree - that is I do not agree with steps B and C, unless there is a point I am missing...

        Step A, click the origin point and release mouse.

        Step B, move mouse to new point click/hold that click, dont release the mouse drag the anchor point into a curve point from the initial sharp point and bend that curve till it fits, then you can release the mouse button.

        Step C, when happy with curve lever handle directions and length (cmd/ctrl key to manipulate the curve lever handle or point) - move onto point C using the same approach as in B...clicking and dragging before releasing the mouse.

        I have used bezier curves since Illustrator and FreeHand 3 - and the first job I had to do in Photoshop 2.0 was trace out objects with the pen tool (funny how my first raster task was vector). That was around a decade ago, and today I really appreciate how comfortable I am with bezier curves - they rule.

        The simples rule is that the less points are best when describing curves. Bezier drawing tools will only use four points to define a circle or elipse.

        I usually recommend zoom views of 200-400% when tracing with the pen tool.

        Also of note are key modifiers as you are drawing or manipulating the points or curve levers - such as option or shift.


        Stephen Marsh.


        • #5
          In a related subject to selecting a perfect curve, then this QuickTime movie or Acrobat PDF may be of help:

          Although real life situations do not often present a perfectly symetrical object for selection - the point behind this technique is that the simple selection tools can be transformed...


          Stephen Marsh.


          • #6
            Oh, thank you!

            I never knew how to control that thing until now. I always felt like I was trying to organize a handful of garden snakes...


            • #7

              Hey everyone, has anyone tried placing a piece of paper on their tablet for more control. I know it sounds silly, but I find that it works quite well Different thicknesses, different control. Anyhow that's what I do to make pretty decent selections For what it's worth........



              • #8
                Missing the point;

                As etienne and Stephen M pointed out this tutorial shows an unusual approach to applying the Pen tool.

                After Step 7b: I make reference to the following...
                "Adjustment handles are also created if you make a new anchor point (i.e. "A", "B", & "F") and move the anchor point without holding down the Ctrl key. This is the procedure used for creating "running" corners (on the fly). This is a very difficult procedure to master".

                I frequently use the "running corner" technique myself but there are times when control points just don't set the way you want them to. Members who have mastered this technique are very fortunate.

                The intent of this tutorial, however, was to answer a call for a basic tutorial from those members having difficulty applying the "running corner" technique. By first inserting control points as required and then making adjustments via the Ctrl key, this tutorial shows how to maintain total control over the process. This may be perceived as a simplistic use of the Pen tool but, as users gain more confidence they can begin to apply more advanced techniques.

                Which ever method is being used don't let your finger stray to far from the Ctrl key.



                • #9
                  A pen tool exercise

                  First a little preparation.


                  View>click Snap(if it isn't already checked)

                  View>click Snap to...>Grid(ifit isn't already checked)

                  Edit>Preferences>Guides, Grid and Slices... and edit
                  "Gridline every" to | 50 | | Pixels|

                  Now create a file 500 px sqr. @ 72 dpi

                  You should now have a gridded 10*10 file

                  Select the pen tool and click and release on the grid intersection 1 block in from the left and 5 blocks down from the top.

                  Next click and hold on the grid inter. 5 blocks in from the left and 1 block down from the top. Still holding your mouse button slowly drag to the right till you're 1 block from the file edge and release.

                  You should now have a nice smooth curve.

                  Now click one block in from the right and 5 blocks almost exact copy of your first curve.

                  now repeat the click and draag sequence @ 1 block up from the bottom and 5 in from the right.

                  Finally click on your first anchor point to close the shape. And there you have it, an almost perfect circle.

                  You may be a bit confused as to the behaviour of the pen but its quite simple. Once the paths(lines) that the pen draw start going in one direction they want to keep going in that direction. You just plopped down the first anchor so it 's path went straight for the next anchor but as soon as you started pulling out on the second anchor you were affecting the path to teh third one. As a note, you can disengage this "pathfinding", hold down the Alt key and mouse over the anchor (you should see what looks like a tiny protractor hovering next to the tool)then click teh anchor. Now it will act like your initial anchor.
                  Well there you have it a little intro to the pen tool, what I con sider "THE" extraction tool in photohop.



                  • #10
                    Just to add my two pennies to this broil - proper control over the pen tool is really about Ctrl, Shift and Alt keys. Combinations of these in conjunction with the basics will always produce the right results. To my mind Alt is the most used key for me as by pressing it on the middle anchor of last point it will delete it - on you go.


                    • #11
                      Shifty alternative control freaks


                      I have to disagree. The control of the pen tool is solely in the hands of the person using it. The modifier keys are solely for fine tuning(save the the alt-key). I just threw this jpg together as an example w/ the red circles signifiying where I used the alt-key and then it was simply a click to change the button behaviour. Now careful how you reply Mike cuz Vinny Starguy may look cute but he's got a baaaad temper .


                      Attached Files


                      • #12
                        Designing a NEW Starman with Pen tool

                        Start with new document 500 pixels x 500 pixels @ 72 ppi and set the grid pattern to 50 pixels and 5 subdivisions. (see attachment to follow along)

                        (Obj1) From the central location construct a five sided Pentagram using Shift and Alt constraints. Next construct a Circle from the center using Shift and Alt constraints. These objects will be used to guide the construction of the Starman.

                        Step1 Now using the Pen tool enter points at each juncture of the pentagram at A, B, C, D, and E. This will complete the path around the Pentagram.

                        Step2 Add an Anchor point between "A" and "B" at "F", then, depressing the Ctrl key, move point "F" out to the circular rim (see Obj2). Now add anchor points between "B" and "C" and use Ctrl to move that point out to the rim. Keep doing this until all arms of the star are completed. Now you can delete the pentagram and Circle objects.

                        Step3 Right click on the path and choose "Stroke Subpath with a 4 pixel pencil tool. Now add points at "G" and "H". After adding a point between "G" and "H" at "I" use the Ctrl key to move "I" upwards. Next complete the path "H" "G" by clicking on "G". Then add a point between "H" and "G" at "J" and use the Ctrl key to move "J" downwards. Finally use the Ctrl Key to move "I" and "J" until a great smile is showing and select "Stroke Subpath" with the pencil tool. (see Obj3)

                        Step4 Making the eyes uses the same technique as the smile. Now select the "Star" and use "Fill Subpath" to color the star yellow. Next select the smile and eyes and use "Fill Subpath" to color them white.

                        By using the control handles at the tips of the star arms you can adjust the sharpness of the arms. The key to total control is the use of the Ctrl key. Once this key is depressed you can keep making any adjustments you need to perfect your image or selection.

                        Attached Files


                        • #13
                          Very Nice!

                          I've been experimenting recently with ways of using the grids and other shapes to assure accuracy. Looking at your setup I'm sure than just a star can be made... no added segments. I'll see what I can come up with and post em.


                          P.S. Seems there is more than on way to skin a cat


                          • #14
                            There's one thing that I would like to reply to. Since I never used the pen tool, I thought I'd follow Ron's tut. I'm using Photoshop 7. Step #5 states that by holding down the Ctrl key you can adjust the control handles to make the curve fit. I find that when holding down the Ctrl key, moving one handle moves the other in the opposite direction. But if I hold down the Alt key, I'm able to adjust each handle independently. Since I figured that out, I find that using the pen tool greatly increases my accuracy, and is faster than using the lasso tool. This has been a great tutorial, and excellent feedback, which I haven't had the chance to play with yet. Many thanks to all.



                            • #15
                              I gotta say it again - THANK YOU!

                              Since reading this tut, the pen tool has become my very favorite selection tool instead of one of my most hated enemies.

                              I LOVE IT!


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