The Pen Tool – Beginner & Advanced Tutorials

Today we will practice using the pen tool. We will use the pen tool throughout the year in both Illustrator and Photoshop. We will begin with two demonstrations: how to use the pen tool in Adobe Illustrator and how to use the pen tool in Photoshop to create a multi-layer composite image.

If you have never used the pen tool, or feel like you never quite got the hang of it, you will complete the vector practice tutorial in Adobe Illustrator.

If you consider yourself a pen tool expert, you will use the pen tool in Photoshop to create a multi-layer composite image.

Pen Tool for Beginners: Vector Practice Tutorial

  1. Download the “vectorpractice.zip” file here.
  2. Unzip the file.
  3. Open the .ai file in Illustrator.
  4. Trace over each shape with the pen tool. (They are numbered from the simplest to the most complex.)
  5. Save your file as a PDF. (File -> Save as -> PDF).
    Remember where you saved your file! If you don’t know where you saved your file, the teacher certainly won’t.
  6. Create a new blog post. Upload the PDF containing the vector images you have traced and describe any difficulties you had with the pen tool.

Pen Tool Review for Experts: Creating a Composite Image in Photoshop

Today we will learn how to use the pen tool to path out part of a photo and copy and paste it on a new layer. This will allow us to edit just that part of the photos. This technique is called compositing, and serves many purpose. For example, sometimes part of an image will already be sufficiently exposed (is bright enough), while part of the image is too dark. In this case, you would want to lighten selective areas of your photo with a technique called compositing. You can also use compositing to put a filter on just one part of your photo.

How to create a composite image:

  1. Go to the “paths” window on the lower right side of the screen. It is likely tabbed next to the layers palette.
    Click the “new path” button. new_path_icon
  2. Go to the toolbar on the left side of the screen. Select the pen tool. pen_tool
    Outline the part of the photograph you want to modify.
  3. Once you have closed your shape by clicking on the first point, go back to the paths window.
    Right click on the path you have created, and click “make selection.”
    make_selection_layers
    Feather the selection by 1pixel (this will soften the edges of your selection).
    It should look like ants are marching around the part of the photo you have selected.
    marching_ants
  4. Control + click to copy your selection. Control + click to paste your selection.
    just_josh
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until you have pathed out, copied, and pasted all the parts of the photo that you would like to modify.
    just_darren_josh
  6. Now here’s the fun part – modifying each part of the image. Go back to the “layers” window. Click on the layer you want to modify, then at the top of the screen, go to Image -> Adjustments, and select the appropriate adjustment. In this case, I want to make the background black & white, so I clicked on the background layer:
    image_adjustments_bw
    finished_selective_color
  7. Repeat the steps above to individually adjust the levels on each part of your photo that contains unique lighting.
    For example, the people in my photo seem a bit too dark, so I can click on each of their layers in the layers palette, go to Image -> Adjustments -> Levels, and adjust the levels on each person until I am happy with the lighting.
    darren_josh_selective_color_levels

Today we will:

  • Practice using the pen tool by completing one of the following tasks:
    • Newbies
      • Complete the vector practice tutorial in Illustrator
      • Create a new blog post with the following:
        • A PDF of the work we completed today
        • A few sentences describing any challenges you faced when working with the pen tool, and how you worked through them
    • Experts
      • Use compositing to selectively edit part of a photo in Photoshop.
      • Create a new blog post with the following:
        • The before and after of each edited photo. Brian did a great job experimenting with different filters on multiple photographs.
        • A few sentences describing any challenges you faced when working with the pen tool in Photoshop, and how you worked through them

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