Cutting it Close: Photoshop Paths
Cutting it Close: Photoshop Paths
Ever wish you could cut that pesky ex out of your pictures? Or have you ever wondered how people doctor photos to catch UFOs in mid-flight? Photoshops version of your dull set of Fiskars is cleaner and more precise. Because we know Photoshop is a bitmap program, we cant simply draw a line and cut out whatever we want. In order to cut or copy pixels, we need to create a path.
Creating a path in Photoshop is a little different than creating a path in Illustrator. With Photoshop, we are selecting pixelsonly then can we cut or manipulate them. What is different from Illustrator is that we cant adjust the curve of the path until after the path is closed. Though the subject matter is not exactly tabloid material, well see how drawing paths differs from Illustrator and how we can cut the pixels in that path and place them in a different picture.
When drawing paths, there are two tool palettes/boxes that are most important: The Layer and Paths palettes.
Coincidentally enough, they are even in the same window. The Paths toolbox is empty at first. Create a new path is like creating a new layer: click the page icon in the bottom right side of the window, right next to the trash can.
Notice a new Path section opens up. A new path, again, is much like a new layer. We need to have the Path 1 selected in order to draw a path (which will become visible in the box on the left once we begin).
To draw a path, use the Pen tool.
The path will appear as a white line around the object. This is the Working Path.
We can draw any shape with the pen tool. Well start with a six-sided shape. Once the path is closedthat is, the last point is connected to the firstwe need to select the path. If we try to change the pixels before making a selection, nothing will happen. We need to go into the Paths options (click on the right-side facing arrow next to the tab that says paths. This will open a new menu, pictured below. Click Make Selection.
Upon clicking Make Selection, a new dialog box will pop up. Feather radius is the amount of pixels that we are telling Photoshop is okay to estimate around the path to make a selection of whole pixels. The more precise we are with the pen tool, the lower the number inserted. Once we have entered in a feather radius, click OK. If we decide we want a different number, hold down option (or control, if youre on a PC) button and Z to Undo.
Once the selection is made, choose the Move Tool shaped like an arrow in the upper-left most section of the Tool palette on the left. This will allow us to move our selection wherever we want.
We can resize the selection by clicking and dragging on the bounding box.
Once the selection has been made, we can also cut and paste the selection into any other picture we choose. That means Bigfoot can be seen traipsing about the mall, strolling along a boardwalk, even playing volleyball. For our purposes, though, were going to release our swan into the wild.
Once we paste into this new picture, a new layer will automatically be created.
As long as we can still see the bounding box and the Move tool is still selected, we can move our object within the field of the new background.
The above picture lacks in realismin order to change that, were going to draw a path around the swan.
To do so, well re-open the picture of the swan and create a new path and draw with the pen tool.
Once the path has been drawn, go to the path options arrow and click Make Selection.
To cut the picture either go to Edit>Cut, or click Option + C.
If we select the pixels closest to the original object, the result looks quite realistic. In the above picture, a swan the size of a small house would look natural if not for its size and location (check out the bottom right-hand side of the photo).
If selecting the object is difficult, make sure the Show Bounding Box box is checked.
One last note: if the Pen tool a little difficult to use, create a path the same way using the Magnetic Lasso toolthe second tool on the left.
Now that we have the power of the path tool, we can create all kinds of new picturesby combining one, two, even ten different picture elements into a photo collage. When doing multiple pasting, always keep an eye on our layers. Remember we can always move layers in the layers palette to change the order of objects pasted into the background picture.
Thats all for now. Well cover these aspects of Photoshop next month:
- The Color Palette
- Color Sliders
Lets Talk About Text
Last month we finished our Fido face. Now were going to add some text to go along with the graphic.
Make sure the Character palette is open. We can check this by going to Window>Type>Character. Make sure there is a check next to Character.
In this palette we can change the font type, size, leading (space between the words), height, slant, and kerning (space between the letters).
To draw a text box, make sure the Text Tool (on the left Tool Palette) is selected, and click and drag a box for text. Immediately a cursor will appear. Any time we want to use other tools, we can click on the Direct Selection tool (the black arrow on the Tool Palette) and click outside the text box.
Note: Its always a good idea to make a separate layer for any text.
If we want to manipulate the shape of individual letters, we can go to the Create Outlines feature of Illustrator, available in the Type menu on the top of the screen.
The text will then be grouped together, but will be treated by Illustrator as shapes. We can change these shapes by ungrouping the words (Object>Ungroup), and using the Pen Tool to change the anchor points.
This way we can either manipulate the whole sentence, or just a letter.
Anyone with a basic familiarity with Microsoft Word, or any other text editing software, can get the hang of how inserting text into an illustration works. As long as you know how layers work, you can change text into part of the illustration, giving it charactergroan. Bad puns aside, though this months section on Illustrator was short, well be digging through the Toolbox next month.