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Working with the Paths Palette in Photoshop CS2

Working hand-in-hand with the Pen tool in Photoshop CS2 is the Paths palette. You can think of it as a kind of Command and Control Center for your paths. Although it isn't mandatory, opening up your Paths palette is a good idea before you create a path so that you can stay apprised as to what's happening with your image. To open the palette, choose Window --> Paths.

The icons at the bottom of the Paths palette from left to right are

  • Fill Path
  • Stroke Path
  • Load Path as Selection
  • Make Work Path from Selection
  • Create New Path
  • Delete Current Path

Walking a work path

When you create a path, it automatically appears in the Paths palette as a work path.

Remember that a work path is temporary and unsaved, and you can have only one work path in the Paths palette at a time. If the work path is selected when you begin another path, your actions are added to the current work path. But if the existing work path is hidden and you begin drawing another path, then that new work path replaces the existing one.

Creating a new path

You can save yourself a lot of grief if you make sure that your path is saved before you start. If you select New Path from the Paths palette pop-up menu before you create the path, Photoshop automatically saves the work path, and it becomes a saved path or named path. You can also just click the Create New Path icon at the bottom of the Paths palette.

Saving a work path

To save a work path, double-click the path in the Paths palette. Or choose Save Path from the Paths palette pop-up menu (click the triangle in the upper right to open the menu). Then provide a name in the Save Path dialog box and click OK.

After you save your path, you can reload it at any time. Unlike layers, paths take up very little storage space, so don't hesitate to save them. Plus, you don't want to go through all that work again if you don't have to. Unlike work paths, you can have as many saved paths as your heart desires.

Deleting, duplicating, and renaming a path

To delete a path, drag the path to the trash can icon at the bottom of the palette, or choose Delete Path from the Paths palette pop-up menu.

You can duplicate a saved path by choosing the path in the Paths palette and selecting Duplicate Path from the Paths palette pop-up menu. You can also drag the saved path on top of the Create New Path icon at the bottom of the palette.

To rename a path, double-click the path name in the Paths palette. Then enter the new name directly within the palette.

Stroking a path

You can use the Stroke Path command to paint a stroke along the path. You can choose which painting or editing tool to use to stroke the path. Follow these steps to stroke a path:

1. Select the path in the Paths palette, and then choose Stroke Path from the Paths palette pop-up menu.

Or press the Alt key (Option on the Mac) and click the Stroke path with the brush icon (an outlined circle) at the bottom of the palette.

You can also click the Stroke Path icon without the Alt (Option on the Mac) key. Note that this option bypasses the dialog box in Step 2 and just strokes your path with whatever setting you used previously.

2. In the dialog box that opens, choose one of the 16 painting or editing tools you want to use to apply color to the stroke. Click OK.

Make sure that you verify your chosen tool's settings on the Options bar because Photoshop uses those settings to stroke your path. Photoshop also applies your current foreground color to the stroke.

If you're using a pressure-sensitive drawing tablet, you can select the Simulate Pressure check box to create strokes with varying widths.

If you select one or more paths with the Direct Selection tool, the Stroke Path command changes to Stroke Subpath(s), enabling you to stroke only the selected paths.

Filling a path

You can fill the interior of a path with color by choosing the Fill Path command. Follow these steps:

1. Select the path in the Paths palette and choose Fill Path from the Paths palette pop-up menu.

A dialog box gives options for Contents, Opacity, Blending, and Rendering. Briefly, for your Contents, choose between colors, pattern, or history.

Or you can press the Alt key (Option on the Mac) and click the Fill Path with Foreground Color icon (a solid circle) at the bottom of the palette. You can also click the Fill icon without the Alt (Option on the Mac) key. This option bypasses the dialog box and just fills your path with whatever setting you used previously.

2. In the dialog box, leave the Blending Mode option set to Normal.

Using the Layers palette to apply your blend modes is better because you have more flexibility. Here's the scoop on the remaining options:

• The feathering option gradually blurs the edges of the fill into the background. Enter the Feather Radius in pixels. The more pixels, the greater the blur or feather.

• The anti-alias option just slightly softens the very edge of the fill so it doesn't appear as ragged.

If you select one or more paths with the Direct Selection tool, the Fill Path command changes to Fill Subpath(s), enabling you to fill only the selected paths.

3. After you set your options, click OK.

Your path now is filled.

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