Advanced Technique & Process 2B: using Pen Tool in Photoshop

29th January 2015

In this session we learnt how to cut out pack shots in Photoshop using the Pen tool. We also learnt how to retouch skin in a realistic and flattering way, rather than making it look fake and degrading.

The Pen Tool can be quite a tricky tool to use, however with a few quick tips, it can make it a lot easier.

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 10.22.39

The aim is to create a path with the pen. You could go around the whole object making little points every couple of millimetres however it would take much longer than necessary. Along a straight edge of the object, one point can be made at the start and connected with another point at the end of it. When going around corners, a point can be made at the start of the corner, then another point can be made where the corner ends, however when making this point, keep the mouse pressed down and drag. The line created between the 2 points will then be adjustable so you can curve it in the right direction, to ‘fit around’/’follow’ the curve of the object. This will result in a straight line running through the point, showing the degree of the curve of the line. When the curved line has been successfully shaped and, for example, the next edge of the object is straight, if I was to just make a point half way along the straight edge, the line would automatically be curved and not straight (because of the previous curve created). Therefore to stop this happening, whilst holding down the ‘alt’ key, click the point that has the axis line through it, and this will take away one half of the line, from the direction you want to go in, then you can carry on making points along the straight edge. Next, if whilst making points around the object, you made a point by accident that was e.g too wide or too close in, if you hold down the ‘cmd’ key (on Mac’s, or ‘cntrl’ on PC’s, I think!) and click on the point that is out of line, you can drag the point back to where you need it to be. This can also be done with the axis lines/points that are made when creating the curve.

When the whole path around the object has been made, go to the top bar and where it says ‘Make: Selection’ click Selection and a box will come up and you can choose the edges ‘Feather’ options (which basically means how soft or hard the path is around the object). Here it is advised to type in ‘2’ if the object has very defined edges as this doesn’t cut out the image harshly but still looks realistic. Once this is ‘OK’d’ the pathway will be dotted and appear to be moving around the object to show the selection (this is sometimes know as ‘marching ants’). Next, depending on what is desired to be done to the object or background, you can play. It is handy to double click on the background layer to make it a Layer of it’s own so you can use the layers to experiment or make copies of the image on different layers depending on what you want. For example if you just wanted to cut the object out and place it on a new background it could be copied and pasted. However if you had drawn around the object and wanted to e.g lighten the background to get rid of unwanted shadows, you could go to the very top bar, click ‘Select’ > ‘Inverse’ and the selection would be inverted, onto the part that wasn’t selected. Then you could e.g go to Levels on the side bar and adjust the darks, greys and lighter tones in the background. Or by inverting the selection again you could do the same to the object itself. When you are happy with the way the image looks a quick way of de-selecting the ‘marching ants’ is holding down the ‘cmd’ and ‘H’ keys together.

cutout 4resized Image by Andy Vaines

cutout 4OLIVIAresized

This session taught me so much about short cuts in Photoshop that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Just such small tips eliminate so much time wasting in the long run, when wanting to cut out multiple shots for example. This has taught me efficiency in editing and the more I practice the quicker I will become. This could also be used within my genre of photography when e.g wanting to cut out a person and put them on a different background.

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