Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Pen Tool is My Friend

The pen tool is one of my new best friends. I'm still in the process of learning it. There are directions for controlling curves, and I can't do that yet. I can make so many teeny, tiny straight lines at several hundred times magnified, that I don't need curves yet.

I choose a photo where I want to extract the people. I used to start with the magic wand, but I'm finding that just wastes my time. I select the pen tool and I draw a path. I need to select not only the pen tool, but make sure that the picture of the pen tool with the circles at the corners is selected in the options bar, so I'm making a path, not filling in pixels or creating shape layers.

I zoom in to 300% or more and start clicking. I click and put in points connecting teeny straight lines all around the edge of my person. I might get tired and make it so there's a path along the edge of my person's arm, and then I go off into the background and come back to where I started, so I will have drawn around the person's arm, but not the entire person. The important thing is when I click back on my starting point, there is a completed path and the points vanish, leaving me with a line drawing of some odd shape.

Next, I go to the layers palette and click on the paths tab. There will be one (or more) paths that are called work paths. I select the one I just finished and right click on it. I click to Make Selection and the path turns into marching ants. If I am working in sections, I just make sure the correct layer is selected and hit delete. If I've drawn around the entire person I need to go to Select>Inverse and then I then make sure the correct layer is selected and hit the delete key. The background vanishes, leaving just the person. You only forget to flip to the inverse once. Thank goodness for the History palette!

This amazes my husband. He thinks it's the coolest thing since sliced bread. He is actually popping his head into my studio to check out the progress of things I'm working on! For the first time in all of my scrapping, he can see the finished product based on some in progress step.

For tasks like this, I rename the photo I'm working on and I save it as a new file. The last thing I want to do is lose this amount of work unexpectedly. I can also go back to the extraction and use it later, or fine tune my extraction if I discover I've skipped something that I need to go back and fix later.

And there are things that need fixing. Because Photoshop anti-aliases things, it will 'average' pixels at the edge of a selection. This means that if I selected something to be deleted that averages out to be left in, I've got to go back and refine it with a little erasing.

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