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Vector Drawing Techniques

Chapter Description

In this sample chapter from Adobe Photoshop Classroom in a Book (2020 release), authors Faulkner and Chavez cover the differences between bitmap images and vector graphics. You'll then learn to draw straight and curved paths using the Pen tool, save paths, draw and edit shape layers, and more.

Drawing a path traced from a photo

Now you’re ready to draw a path around a real object. You’ll use the techniques you’ve practiced to draw a path around the edge of one orange out of several. The path you draw will later be converted into a layer mask, so that you can change the color of that orange. The orange is partially covered by surrounding oranges, so the path you draw will be a combination of curved and straight segments, like the shapes you’ve practiced on. Later, you’ll combine the altered image with text and a shape layer to create a promotional postcard for a citrus farm.

  1. From Photoshop or Bridge, open the 08Start.psd file.

The image includes two layers: the background layer, and a template layer named Path Guide that you will trace to draw the path.

  1. Choose File > Save As, rename the file 08Working.psd, and click Save. If the Photoshop Format Options dialog box appears, click OK.

  2. Select the Pen tool, and then, in the options bar, choose Path from the Tool Mode pop-up menu.

Because Path is now selected in the options bar instead of Shape, what you see when you draw will be different than in the practice exercise. You’ll be drawing a path, not a shape. The path you draw will appear as a temporary work path in the Paths panel, and a shape layer won’t be created.

The reason you’re switching to a path is because you won’t need to print or export the path you’re about to draw. You’ll be creating a mask from the path, so the path itself doesn’t need to be a visible part of the final document. For more information about shapes and paths, see the sidebar “Comparing shapes, paths, and pixels.”

  1. With the Pen tool selected, click point A. A new temporary Work Path appears in the Paths panel.

  2. Click point B, and drag to the open circle on the right to create the initial curve.

  3. Click point C, and drag to the open circle to its right.

  4. Continue tracing the orange, clicking and dragging curve segments for points D through F.

  5. Click point G (do not drag). This creates the corner at point G.

  6. At points H and I, click and drag to their corresponding open circles to create their curved segments.

  7. Click point J to create a corner.

  8. Hold down Shift to create a perfectly level segment as you click point K.

  9. At points L, M, and N, click and drag to their corresponding open circles to create their curved segments.

  10. Position the pointer over point A, and when you see a small circle by the Pen tool pointer, click to close the path. The circle indicates that the pointer is close enough to close the path.

  1. Evaluate your path. If you want to adjust any segments, do step 15; otherwise skip to step 16.

  2. Select the Direct Selection tool (direct_selection.jpg) (grouped with the Path Selection tool (path_selection.jpg)), and then press the Esc key (or click in the document window away from the path) so that no points are selected, but you can still see the path. Then do any of the following with the Direct Selection tool as needed:

  • To reposition a point or a straight segment, drag it.

  • To change the shape of a curved segment between two points, drag the segment (not points).

  • To change the shape of a curved segment extending from a point, drag its direction point to adjust the angle of that direction line.

  1. When you’re done, leave the path selected, and save your work so far.

6. Converting a path to a selection and a layer mask | Next Section Previous Section

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