February 4, 2011 / Photoshop/Illustrator / Winter 2011

Make smoother selections using Photoshop’s Pen Tool

Written by Idea File Staff

When cutting a single object out of an image, a wide range of tools are available to use. One tool often overlooked is the Pen Tool in Photoshop. The Pen Tool provides a much greater level of control than other selection methods because you can select partial pixels, creating smooth edges around your selection.

1.  Open a photo that has a dominant object that you can distinguish easily from the background, such as our giraffe.

2.  Select the Pen Tool from the Tools palette.

Image step 2

3.  Starting on the edge of the image, click to create an anchor point. Begin outlining the giraffe by slowly creating anchor points around the edge. Zoom in if you need to see the edge more clearly. Pen Tool tracing step 3

4.  When a curve is needed, make a point and then while making a second point, hold down and drag. This action will make the line curve between the two anchor points.

5.  When you have drawn completely around the object, click on the starting point, which is marked with a small circle, to close the work path and create the selection.

6.  To adjust some of the lines you have created, use the Add Anchor Point Tool, Delete Anchor Point Tool and Convert Point Tool, found with the Pen Tool.

Pen Tools step 6

7.  Once you are satisfied with the shape, turn your line drawing into a selection. With the Pen Tool selected, click and hold down the Control button. A menu will appear. Choose Make Selection. Set the Feather Radius to 1 pixel and click OK.

image selection step 7

8.  With the object selected, you can copy and paste the object, creating a layer with the object by itself. (We placed the giraffe at the seaside.) Or, while the object is selected, go to Select Option on the Main Menu bar and then choose Inverse. Now the background is selected. If you select delete, the image is the only part left from the original image.

new image step8

Do not worry if you did not cut the object perfectly from the background. With a little practice, you will never use any of the other selection options in Photoshop again.

  • Thank you! I’m actually on the school newspaper, not yearbook, just browsing for ideas. I’m such a supporter of the pen tool and no one believes me that it’s the easiest and best thing to use for cutouts. It takes some getting used to, but it’s actually very simple.

Idea File Staff

Idea File Staff reports are posts compiled by the Walsworth Yearbooks Marketing Department, covering a wide range of yearbook topics.