tutorials > Paths and the Pen Tool
In this tutorial I will attempt to introduce you to the wonderful world of the pen tool. When you use the pen tool, you are creating something called a Path. More about that later. The pen tool is tricky enough in and of itself.
I am going to begin with an image of Dixon from Alias. I am going to use the pen tool to get rid of the background around him.
I only have to click the pen tool once to begin, so I do that. I begin on the side of his arm. From there, I make another point, careful to stay on track. And I continue around his body.
The trick is to just try and match the arches and curves and points. You will notice that after you click and you hold on it, you have the ability to change the shape slightly. This is useful in making those nice sleek curves, like the ones around his shoulders. Unfortunately, there is no good way to instruct you on how to use the pen tool well; it just takes some practice. When cutting away the background from behind someone, there is no need to pull those anchor points to far. A little slight pull is all you need to get the right roundness. Practice. Eventually I get this below product, which is the completed “path” (the only thing I have left to do is close it. However, I have not done this yet so can show you how the pen tool looks around his body, with all the anchor points still visible.) [This example has been cropped; is not the full image but it should give you a clear view of what I have done]
To close the path, just connect the two open anchor points together:
In your paths palette, (if it is not showing, make it visible by going to Window >> Show Paths) you will see the completed path. There are a few options at the bottom of the pallette. Select the one that says “create new path”. That is good to do so that you may start a new path if you would like, without erasing the old one from the palette.
Now, on your paths palette, if you select the path you just created, you will see the line around Dixon’s body again. To remove the background we want to convert the path into a selection. There are a couple ways to do this. There is an option for it on the paths palette. Alternatively, with the pen tool selected from the toolbar, you can right click on the image and you will see a menu. Select “Make Selection”. As you can see, there is now a marquee selection around Dixon’s body:
Almost done. Now we need to inverse the selection so that we are slection the background instead of Dixon himself. This can be done one of two ways. You can go to Select >> Inverse, or, with the rectangular/elliptical marquee selected from the tool bar, you can right click on the image and select “inverse” from the menu. Then hit “ctrl + x” (cut) and there you have it!
Sometimes I clean up jagged edges with a small, soft rounded brush. But it isn’t always necessary. This was a pretty simple image to take the background away from.
And this is just one of the exciting things you can do with the pen tool and paths!