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Part 3. Selection Techniques > Task 5 How to Convert Selections to Paths

Task 5 How to Convert Selections to Paths

Because paths and selections both define the edges of an area, it's only natural that you would want to convert a selection to a path. This is a good technique if you're one of those people who prefer using the Brush or selection tools instead of the Pen. Simply make a selection and convert it to a path. To convert a path back to a selection, see Part 9, Task 4, “How to Convert a Path to a Selection.” If you want to know more about paths in general, Part 9, “Using Paths,” goes to great lengths to describe how to work with paths.

1. Open the File

Click the Go to Bridge icon in the Options bar to launch Bridge. Navigate to the desired file and double-click its thumbnail to launch it.

2. Make a Selection

Use any combination of selection methods described in this part to select the area to be converted to a path.

3. Open Paths Palette

Select Window, Paths to open the Paths palette.

4. Make a Work Path

Select Make Work Path from the Paths palette menu. This option creates a temporary working path (the work path) that has not yet been saved. After a path is saved, it is no longer a work path.

5. Set the Tolerance

Set the Tolerance level in the window that appears. The Tolerance value determines how many points are used in the path. If the setting is too low, the path will be cluttered with too many extra points; if it's too high, the path will not conform to the selection. Experiment with values between 1.0 and 3.0 for most selections.

6. Save the Path

When the path is completed, double-click the work path in the Paths palette to launch the Save Path dialog box. Name the path and click OK to save it.

How-To Hints

Cleaning Up the Selection and Path

Before converting the selection to a path, be sure that no stray pixels are selected. Stray pixels are converted to tiny paths if they are not removed from the selection ahead of time. After the path is selected, select View, Actual Pixels to see the image at full size. Add, delete, or move points as needed to complete the path.

Using Paths Instead of Saving Selections

Paths are a smart alternative to saving selections. Paths add very little to the file size and can be modified and resized infinitely. Selections, on the other hand, are saved as channels, which can quickly bloat overall file size.

Note that there's a difference between making a selection and saving a selection. Saving a selection creates a separate channel that is masked to show the selection area. This channel is used as a base when the selection is reloaded. It's the channel itself that adds to the file size, not the ability to select the channel.

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