1.2 Using the Pen Tool and Paths
In this lesson you will learn how to use the Pen Tool, how to best control it, and how to use the Paths it creates. There’s a simple project in the Course Files you can use to follow along and a more complex example so you can see how the same principles are applied to a real-world project.
1.2 Using the Pen Tool and Paths
[MUSIC] Hello everybody welcome back to this coffee break course on how to use the pen and pads in Adobe Photoshop. Let's go ahead and launch Photoshop and dive right in. The Pen tool has its own keyboard shortcut which conveniently is the P key. It's also one of the primary tools in Photoshop and it has it's own sub tool menu. It's also one of the oldest tools in the program. But even though it is a classic tool, it is still one of the most useful. You just have to know how to use it. And one of the best features for learning how to use the pen tool, called the rubber band. Now as mysterious as that sounds, see this is sort of like training wheels for using the pen tool. So the basic functions of the pen tool is that it draws out a vector shape or path. And the advantage of using those is that it's not primarily pixels, the images are defined by mathematical algorithms, and not by actual pixel information. Therefore, anything that's drawn with the pen tool can be easily scaled up without fear of losing resolution. Now let's talk about how this actually works. If you use the pen tool to just simply click, you'll create corners of a shape. And as you round back around, you'll see that you get a little circle next to the pen tool icon. That indicates that you're closing off the shape and you've created a closed path to define this shape. Now the shape has all the same attribute settings that you would see from the shapes that are in the custom shape tool or any of the other shape tools in Photoshop. But simply clicking would be to ignore the power that is the pen tool. And you get that power by dragging out what's called tangent handles. Watch what happens when we click, we don't let up, but we drag. We get a pair of symmetrical tangent handles from this control point. And what those do is have influence on the path that comes out of those points. Whereas before a single click just created a hard corner by using the drag method to create these tangent handles so you create rounded curves. And not just simple hard corners. And the further out you pull those tangent handles, the more influence those handles have on the path that comes out of them. And while simply clicking and/or dragging to create rounded corners, is the basics of what the pen tool's about, there is so much more that you have control over with this tool. And most of that control comes by the form of the modifier keys. So if we're dragging out a path and if I hold down the shift key. That makes certain that my movement is locked to either horizontal, vertical, or a 45 degree angle, both on the placement of the points and on the direction of the handle. If I drag the handle out and then hold down the Alt or the Option key and move, well then now I've broken that handle, and it is no longer symmetrical. So it can have one side, have a nice long smooth, handle coming out. But the other one can be really short and have a much smaller impact on the curve that comes out of that point. And also, while the mouse is free before I've clicked if I hold down the Control key or the Command key, the tool changes to the direct selection tool. Which means then I can grab individual points and move them or even adjust handles before the path is even finished. One other really quick modifier is the space bar, and that comes into play when you're dragging out a handle, hold down the space bar, and now you can move that control point. With the handle kind of frozen in relative position to that point. So just those features alone make it so that you could probably draw almost anything with the pen tool. But that's not all there is to know because the next set of features that comes with mastering the pen tool is understanding how pads work together in the different path operations. And to explore these, I'd like to go through a little exercise. If you open up the pen icon .jpeg in the course files, we're going to create this pen icon. And in the course of doing this, we'll learn a little bit more about how to use these different shape modes and the arrangements of them. So first, let's start by drawing out this square down here. Now, I know we can use the rectangle tool to do it, but just for practice sake, I'd like you to use the pen tool. So click once on the corner, hold down the Shift key to get to the next corner, and keep that Shift key held down. And this is just very basic clicks. We're not dragging anything yet. And close off that bottom path. Now, I want you to notice that by default, the tools operation is set to new layer. So when we start creating another shape, it creates another shape layer in the layers panel. And that's fine for now. Let's go ahead and start working through this top shape. Now notice this shape should be symmetrical. Here's an easy way to make sure that you get good symmetry without having to actually try to do it yourself. First of all, where I've got one corner down I'm gonna go up to this next sharp point here and just drag this out until I get a path that appears to match. Now before I let go of my mouse button, I'm gonna hold down the Alt key and drag this handle over so that it fits along that next path. Then I'm going up, not to this point here, but even beyond it, to right about there. And then I'll hold down the Alt key again and pull it off to the side a little bit. And then I'm gonna come down towards the bottom here and just click about two-thirds of the way over and then close it off. And the reason I'm doing things this way is because I'm going to grab this shape and flip it horizontally, and that makes certain that I have a fully symmetrical shape. So let's make a copy of this and go to Edit > Transform Path > Flip Horizontal. And we can use either the move tool or the path selection tool to move this over. We nudge it right into place and then as we grab both of these shapes, we can combine them with control or command E. That combines the shapes together. Now that was done through the layers. There's another way to do it, then I'm gonna show you just uses the path. So I'm going to undo all the way back to where I had that first shape drawn out and I'm going to use the Path Selection Tool to make sure that path is selected and go to Edit Copy. And the path is still active, I'm going to Edit > Paste. And you can't see the pasted path in there because it's directly over the one that we copied. But it's the currently active ones so if we go to Edit, transform path, Flip Horizontal. Now you can see that I've got two instances of this here. So I can move it directly over until it intersects with that first one, it fits in just right. So I have two pads that are active on this same shaped layer. I can select both of them by holding down the Shift key, clicking on them both and go to merge shaped components, and that cleans things up. Now I realize there's a little bit of an issue up there at the top, cuz I didn't get it in there exactly where I wanted it to be. But that's okay cuz you'll see how this is all going to work out. Notice in here we have this circle that's right here in the middle of where the path is. I wanna replicate that, I've got my shape tool selected. Let's reduce the opacity a little bit of it and this time I will use this ellipse tool. This is what's important though. We go to the path operations and we select subtract front shape from it. Even though I'm using the ellipse tool this works the same way with the pen tool as well. Because now as I draw out that ellipse and center it right where I want it there, it is set to this subtract front shape mode. So I didn't get a new shape layer. It's still working on the same layer and it's using this shape to subtract the area from the shape that's already there. And I can do the same thing with the rectangle tool to trim in this top area. But now, we want to add this top little, smaller circle as well. And increase the opacity of my layer all the way back up. So now I can take that Elipse tool, make certain it's set to the combined shapes. And draw out that top ellipse. We can use that path selection tool to just dial everything in to make sure it all fits exactly how we want it to. I think this middle rectangle here could probably be squeezed in a little bit. So with that one selected, I'll hit Ctrl+T to get my transformation handles just to pull it in a little bit. Keep in mind that each sub path holds its own path operation property. This is what makes it a lot easier to troubleshoot a path network, especially if you're having trouble getting the path properties to stick a new subpaths as as you draw them. Sometimes it's easier to draw the path out and then assign a property to it. For instance, if drawing out this rectangle ended up with the combined shape, it's really not hard to just select that rectangle and set that to subtract front shape. Along with the path properties, is also the path arrangement as far as bringing shapes forward and back. And the reason that's important is because the path that's on the top, the property of that one will supersede the rest. For instance, right now this rectangle is set to subtract but the circle is set to add. And notice it is the circle's addition property that is superseding the rectangle. But if we grab that rectangle and we bring it forward, so we bring shape to front. It now carves out from that circle because that is the top shape. So to set it back, let's pick that circle and bring it to front. And we have the icon as we want it. Before we close out this course, I wanted to show you quickly, how some of this works in a real-life type of project. If you'll open up this profile illustration dot PSD and follow along. I'm not gonna walk through drawing this. I just want to walk through how each of these paths are assembled to create the full illustration. I'm gonna start off by hiding all of the path layers in revealing just the bottom two. That's the hair and the face. So in this case, the face was drawn out as a profile and the hair is working as a background. Now I could have drawn the face out as a sub path to the hair and use that Subtract from Path operation, but I didn't wanna do that. And the main reason for that was because I knew I wanted to draw in the lips and clip them to the face. Now without those clipped, you can see how they just sort of bulb out like that. But when you clip them in, it's clipped to this face layer. And from there let's move up to the eyelashes and the eyebrows. If you select each of these shapes you can see exactly where the control points are. And if you click on them with the Direct Selection Tool, you can see where the tangent handles are situated. Now for these large smooth shapes like the eyebrow and even the hair, the fewer control points you have, the better it's going to end up looking. It's very easy to distort a lot of these by having way too many points. Let's look at the hair curls. Now this was created using several just very smooth paths all added together into a single shape layer. And the earring attachment is a very simple rectangle and that earring should be a very familiar shape. Then as we go back down, take a look at both the blush and the eye shadow. These are gradients that are being defined by a path. And the way to accomplish that is by simply drawing out the path with the pen tool and then adjusting the fill to be a gradient, as opposed to a solid color. You can also set it to fill as a pattern too, but ultimately this entire illustration is done using pads in the pen tool. And because it's all vector, this can be scaled up to any resolution without losing any detail. Ultimately, the pen tool is your friend. It's not hard to use. There's no reason to avoid it or shy away from it. Once you learn its secrets, you find that it can be used for a large number of tasks in Photoshop that the other tools just can't really handle.