Sorting through the path tools

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Before I get into my long-winded description of how you draw and edit paths, here's a quick introduction to the path tools. First up, the tools on the pen tool flyout:

A Pen: Use the pen tool to draw paths in Photoshop one point at a time. H Click to create a corner in a path; drag to make a smooth point that results in a continuous arc. (Never fear, I explain this tool ad nauseam in the "Drawing paths with the pen tool" section later in this chapter.) You can select the pen tool by pressing P; press P again to toggle to the freeform pen, described next. (As always, the shortcuts assume that you turned off the Use Shift Key for Tool Switch option in the Preferences dialog box.)

A'-...- Freeform pen: Drag with this tool to create a path that automatically fol w lows the twists and turns of your drag. Simplicity at its best; control at its lowest. Luckily you can turn around and edit the path after you initially draw it.

A£i The magnetic pen, which debuted in Photoshop 5, evidently wasn't "a huge hit on the path tool circuit. In Version 6, the magnetic pen no longer appears in the toolbox. But if you select the freeform pen and then select the Magnetic check box on the Options bar, the freeform pen does a dandy impression of the magnetic pen. Click the edge of the foreground element you want to select and then move the cursor along the edge of the shape. Photoshop automatically assigns points as it deems appropriate.

+ Add anchor point: Click an existing path to add a point to it.

A- Delete anchor point: Click an existing point in a path to delete the point ■ without creating a break in the path's outline.

IN Convert point: Click or drag a point to convert it to a corner or smooth I point. You also can drag a handle to convert the point. To access the con vert point tool, press Alt when the pen is active. Press Ctrl+Alt when an arrow tool (explained in the next section) is active. (The terms anchor point, smooth point, and others associated with drawing paths are explained in the upcoming section.)

You can use a pen tool to add, delete, and convert points, too, providing that you turn on the Auto Add/Delete check box on the Options bar. Pass the cur sor over a segment in a selected path to toggle to the add anchor point tool; move the cursor over a point to get the delete anchor point tool. Press Alt over a point to get the convert point tool.

If all you need is a simple, geometric path, you can save time by creating the path with the new shape tools. I cover these tools in detail in Chapter 14, so I won't repeat everything here. Just know that after you select a shape tool, you shift it into path drawing mode by clicking the Work Path button on the Options bar, labeled in Figure 8-25. (The pen that appears on the button face serves as a reminder that you're in path country.) If you don't see the buttons, you're already in path mode. Photoshop sets the shape tools to that mode automatically if you select them while working on an existing path.

Work Path

Shape tools

Work Path

Shape tools

Figure 8-25: Click the Work Path icon to draw paths with the new shape tools.

Figure 8-25: Click the Work Path icon to draw paths with the new shape tools.

As you draw, Photoshop automatically adds whatever points are needed. You only need to worry about selecting a path overlap button, which determines how the program regards overlapping areas when you turn the path into a selection. See the next section to find out which button to choose when.

After you create a path, you can select it or edit it by using the two tools on the flyout directly above the pen tools flyout:

Note

It Path component selection tool (black arrow): This tool, new to Photo ^ shop 6, selects an entire path. Just click inside the path to select it. If you created subpaths, the tool selects only the one underneath your cursor. You also use this tool to select vector objects, as explained in Chapter 14.

||\ Direct selection tool (white arrow): This tool permits you to drag points ^ and handles to reshape a path. You can access the tool when any other path tool is active by pressing and holding Ctrl. And you can Alt-click inside a path to select the entire path without switching to the path component selection (black arrow) tool.

From this point on, I refer to these two tools as the black arrow and white arrow. First off, because we Photoshop users are a visually oriented lot, I'm guessing that you can find the right tool more quickly if I say "click with the black arrow" or "drag with the white arrow" than if I use the technical tool names. Second, the nicknames save some page space, enabling me to fill your head with even more jaw-dropping insights than would otherwise be possible.

You can access the arrows from the keyboard by pressing A. You know the drill: Press A to switch to the tool that's currently active; press A again to toggle to the other tool. (Add Shift if you turned on the Use Shift Key for Tool Switch option in the Preferences dialog box.)

Note

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