The Pen Tool in Adobe Photoshop is a remarkable tool with all sorts of special powers. I’ve actually written a number of posts that discuss this tool that you can click through to view below.
If you take a look at the last post in the above list, you’ll see that this tool has the ability to create vector masks. This is an awesome feature that can truly come in handy during a project that calls for these types of masks. Another incredible feature is that we can use the Pen Tool to create selections as well. This isn’t something the average, everyday user of Adobe Photoshop knows. As far as most people are aware, to make selections, they need to take advantage of one of the selection tools. Of course, there are a few additional methods for creating selections as well, but none as popular as the selection tools themselves.
In today’s post, I’d like to walk you through the process of using the Pen Tool to make a selection in Adobe Photoshop. The benefits of using this tool for this purpose are many. You can draw with this tool, you can create shapes with it, you can trace existing shapes and so much more. If you’re an expert at using the Pen Tool in either Photoshop or Illustrator, deriving a selection from an existing path is something you definitely need to know how to do.
Today’s Demo Image
I wanted to locate an image that had some sort of a curve in it because tracing curves with the Pen Tool is so much more exiting then tracing straight lines. When I saw this guitar, I knew I hit the jackpot. Take a look.
While there are many beautiful curves on this guitar, I’ll merely trace the bottom part of the white area that’s located in the lower right corner. I’m not going to go nuts with this either. I’m simply going to trace part of the curve and then close up the shape. The real reason for this post isn’t to teach you how to use the Pen Tool, but rather how to transform a path into a selection.
Tracing the Curve
To do my tracing, I’ll go ahead and select the Pen Tool from the left vertical toolbar.
After that, I’ll click on the image where I’d like the selection to begin. Then, I’ll continue clicking, which will create an anchor point each place I click. To create a curve, I’ll click on one side of the handles that appear on either side of the anchor point. I’ll then drag them closer or further from the anchor point and move them around until I see the path curve in a way I like.
And when I’m ready to close the loop of the path I drew, I can simply return back to the first anchor point I created and when I see the mouse cursor change to the shape of a pen with a little circle next to it, I’ll click. That will close the path.
There, that looks pretty good. It’s not perfect, but it’ll do for this demonstration. There’s actually quite a bit that goes into learning how to use the Pen Tool in this application and others and if you’re interested in learning about that, I encourage you to click through to those posts I linked to above.
Converting a Path into a Selection
What I’ve created so far is what’s referred to as a “path.” If you’ll notice in my Layers panel, all I’m working with is the original background layer.
This is kind of strange because I’m so used to working with layers. I figured there’d be something else there, but there isn’t. Paths are a beasts unto themselves and it would require me to write many posts on the topic to explain them thoroughly. For now though, I’ll merely tell you that paths are vector-based (line) drawings. The good news is, they have their own panel that saves and showcases them clearly. If I click either the Window > Paths menu item or simply click the Paths tab to the right of the Layers tab, I’ll see the path I just drew.
If I double-click on the path name, I can rename it.
Now for the main point of this post. I’ve already gone ahead and created a path. Now I’d like to convert that path into a selection. To accomplish this, all I need to do is hold down the Alt key on my keyboard and click the path thumbnail once. After that, I’ll see the familiar marching ants that I usually see with any selection I make.
Once the area is a selection, I can go ahead and do anything I would usually do with a selection, such as add a layer mask or an adjustment layer. And what’s even more spectacular is that the path is still there. Just because I turned it into a selection doesn’t mean I can’t continue to adjust the path itself. While the selected area will remain, the path can always be stretched any way I want with one of the selection tools. How cool is that? I don’t want to go off topic too much here, but I wanted you to be aware of that.
I hope I clearly explained how to turn a path into a selection in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions regarding this post, please leave them for me in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!