Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Photographers : The Ultimate Workshop



Path Selection tool

Photoshop provides a suite of vector path drawing tools that work in the same way as the pen path tools found in Adobe Illustrator and other programs that enable you to draw vector paths. If you are approaching Photoshop for the first time and have never any experience using vector path drawing tools, then the Photoshop path tools may require some getting used to.

When you should use vector path tools

There are many ways that you can create a selection in Photoshop. You can use the marquee tool, the magic wand tool, or you can make a Color Range selection, the list goes on… When you are faced with a situation where you need to define an outline in an image you need to weigh up which selection technique is the most appropriate to use. Any of the above methods might work, but where an outline is a little more complicated and can’t be selected so easily with a marquee tool or the magic wand, you might be tempted to use the freehand or magnetic lasso. But in all honesty, in the time it takes to define an outline with one of the lasso tools, you can often do a much better job by drawing a pen path instead. Now I am not going to pretend that it is easy to master the art of drawing pen paths, because it is not. But the ability to master the pen path is a skill that is definitely worth learning. In the long run you will find it is much easier using the pen tool to draw a pen path that defines the outline of an object (especially when you are trying to make a selection of an object that has been photographed against a busy background). You can then convert the pen path into a selection to be used the same way as you would with any other selection. For detailed instructions on drawing paths and working with the pen tool, refer to Chapter 8 on layers, selections and masking.

The path selection tool in use

The path selection tool can be used to select an entire path or sub path. If you have a path that is visible in a Photoshop document, marquee drag or click with the path selection tool to select a path and this will make all the anchor points become active. You can tell if the anchor points have been made active because they will appear as filled squares. Once all the points have been active, you can use the path selection tool to reposition a path, or use the keyboard arrow keys to nudge the path position. Note that the combination of the Command+Option/ Control+Alt keys can also be used to switch the pen tool to the path selection tool. The path selection tool Options bar is shown below in Figure 1.

Figure 1 The Path Selection tool Options bar. If two or more paths are selected you can use the shape area controls menu to add the areas together, subtract them from each other, intersect them or exclude the overlapping areas. Next to this you have the alignment controls. When two or more paths are selected these can be used to align the selected paths. And also in this menu are the distribution options. When three or more paths are selected you can use these to decide how the paths should be distributed.