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Curved segment: Drag at two different locations to create a curved segment between two smooth points.
Straight segment followed by curved: After drawing a straight segment, drag from the corner point you just created to add a Bezier control handle. Then drag again at a different location to append a curved segment to the end of the straight segment.
Curved segment followed by straight: After drawing a curved segment, Alt-click (Option-click on the Mac) the smooth point you just created to delete the forward Bezier control handle. This converts the smooth point to a corner point with one handle. Then click at a different location to append a straight segment to the end of the curved segment.
Cusp point: After drawing a curved segment, Alt-drag (Option-drag on the Mac) from the smooth point you just created to redirect the forward Bezier control handle, converting the smooth point to a corner point with two independent handles, sometimes known as a cusp point. Then drag again at a new location to append a curved segment that proceeds in a different direction than the previous curved segment.Going freeform
If the pen tool is too much work, try the freeform pen tool, which is just a press of the P key away from the standard pen. As you drag, Photoshop tracks the motion of the cursor with a continuous line. After
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you release the mouse button, the program automatically assigns and positions the points and segments needed to create the Bezier path.Tip
You can draw straight segments with the freeform pen: As you're dragging, press and hold Alt (Win) or Option (Mac). Then click around to create points. When you're finished drawing straight segments, drag again and release Alt (Option on the Mac).
Alas, automation is rarely perfect. (If it were, what need would these machines have for us?) When the program finishes its calculations, a path may appear riddled with far too many points or equipped with too few.
Fortunately, you can adjust the performance of the freeform pen to accommodate your personal drawing style using the Curve Fit control, which you can access by clicking the arrow at the end of the row of path-drawing tool icons in the Options bar. You can enter any value between 0.5 and 10, which Photoshop interprets in screen pixels. The default value of 2, for example, instructs the program to ignore any jags in your mouse movements that do not exceed 2 pixels in length or width. Setting the value to 0.5 makes the freeform pen extremely sensitive; setting the value to 10 smoothes the roughest of gestures.
A Curve Fit from 2 to 4 is generally adequate for most folks, but you should experiment to determine the best setting. Like the magic wand's Tolerance setting, you can't alter the Curve Fit value for a path after you've drawn it. Photoshop calculates the points for a path only once, after you release the mouse button.Going magnetic
To use the magnetic pen tool, first select the freeform pen tool and then select the Magnetic check box in the Options bar. The magnetic pen works like a combination of the magnetic lasso and the freeform pen. As with the magnetic lasso, you begin by clicking anywhere along the edge of the image element you want to select. (For a pertinent blast from the past, see Figure 8-5.) Then move the cursor no need to drag around the perimeter of the element and watch Photoshop do its work. To set an anchor point, click. When you come full circle, click the point where you started to complete the path.
You can create straight segments by Alt-clicking (Option-clicking on the Mac), just as you can when using the freeform pen without Magnetic turned on. And the Curve Fit option (in the Freeform Pen Options drop-down palette shown in Figure 8-29) controls the smoothness of the path. Lower values trace the edges more carefully; higher values result in fewer points and smoother edges. The other options here give you access to the Width, Contrast, Frequency, and Pen Pressure, all of which are lifted right out of the magnetic lasso playbook. Read "Modifying the magnetic lasso options." near the
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beginning of this chapter, for complete information.
Figure 8-29: While the freeform pen is active, select the Magnetic check box in the Options bar to access the magnetic pen. Click the arrow at the left of the check box to display additional options. Editing paths
If you take time to master the default pen tool, you'll find yourself drawing accurate paths more and more frequently. But you'll never get it right 100 percent of the time or even 50 percent of the time.
And when you rely on the freeform or magnetic pen tools, the results are never dead on. From your first timid steps until you develop into a seasoned pro, you'll rely heavily on Photoshop's capability to reshape paths by moving points and handles, adding and deleting points, and converting points to change the curvature of segments. So don't worry too much if your path looks like an erratic stitch on the forehead of Frankenstein's monster. The path-editing tools provide all the second chances you'll ever need.Reshaping paths