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Up to this point, you've learned to outline a single solid-shaped object with one path. But there are many objects that have both an inside and an outside. For example, the shape of a coffee cup consists of the actual coffee cup and the hollow handle area. Or think of Superman standing broadly with his hands on his hips, ready to save the world. The Superman form is made up of his body and the three triangles of negative space formed by the two arms on his hips and widely spread legs. Believe it or not, many composites have given themselves away when the artist outlined the figure but forgot to outline the hollow negative spaces, resulting in a composite where the figure is in an environment but the studio backdrop between the triangle formed by their arms or legs is still visible.

For practice, we'll separate the lion head doorknocker (figure 4.21) from the background to place it into a different picture, as shown in figure 4.22. We'll start by outlining the outside contour and then the inside contour that makes up the shape.

Figure 4.21.


Figure 4.22.




Outline the outside of the doorknocker. Outlining the area of the knocker handle is straightforward, while the intricate areas created by the lion's mane require the use of modifier keys. When you reach a corner where you need to move in a different direction, click to set the anchor point and (Option + drag) [Alt + drag] in the direction of the angled path to create a directional anchor point as shown in figure 4.23.

Figure 4.23. On distinct changes of direction, (Option) [Alt] drag to change direction and add an angle anchor point.

Close and name the outside path (figure 4.24).

Figure 4.24. Start by making and naming the outside path.

In the Options bar, click the Subtract from Path button (figure 4.25).

Figure 4.25. After clicking the Subtract From Path Area button (circled), outline the interior space of the doorknocker.

Outline the inside of the doorknocker. Notice that the icon of the existing path changes as you outline the hollow area (figure 4.26). Make sure to close the inside shape path.

Figure 4.26. Subtracting the hollow negative area from the outside path is clearly visible in the Path icon.

Activate the Direct Selection tool and zoom in on the path. Fine-tune the path by adjusting anchor points and direction handles. In figure 4.27, you see two extraneous anchor points that I need to delete. (Ctrl-click) [right-click] the anchor point to bring up the context-sensitive menu and choose Delete Anchor Point.

Figure 4.27. Fine-tuning the path now will help make your composites more successful.

Making the path in and of itself doesn't change the image. So after making a path, naming it and saving the file as a PSD or TIFF file, you have a number of creative options for altering the image, as discussed throughout the book. To create the simple composite of the doorknocker in the sky, follow these steps:

Click the outside path in the Paths palette to activate it. Use the fly-out menu and choose Make Selection (figure 4.28). Use a feather of 1 to very subtly soften the edge of the selection and click OK.

Figure 4.28. Turning the path into a selection with a subtle feather of 1.

Open the clouds file and return to the lion head image. Use the Move tool to drag the selected lion head pixels to the new background (figure 4.29). Dragging with the Move tool makes a duplicate of the selected pixels and moves them, leaving the original file intact.

Figure 4.29. Adding layer effects is a flexible way to enhance an image.

I added a slight drop shadow using the layer styles to create a subtle separation between the doorknocker and the clouds.

Intersecting the Details

When an image has numerous hollow areas, as is the case with the nostrils in the steer skull shown in figure 4.30, I find it easier to use the Pen tool on these areas first (figure 4.31). Then I click the Intersect Path Area button, as shown in figure 4.32, and draw the outside path around the steer's skull to create the path in which the interior hollow areas are removed from the exterior path.

Figure 4.30. The original digital camera snapshot of the steer head.

Figure 4.31. Outline the three nostril areas as one path.

Figure 4.32. Click on the Intersect Path Area button in the Options bar to create paths that describe complex inside and outside relationships.


To Specify How Overlapping Areas Interact

Create a path or select an existing path in the Paths palette, activate the Pen tool, and choose one of the following options in the Options bar:

  • Add to Path Area to add the new area to the existing path.

  • Subtract from Path Area to remove the overlapping area from the existing path.

  • Intersect Path Area to restrict the area to the intersection of the new path and the existing path.

  • Exclude Path Area to exclude the overlapping area in the consolidated new and existing paths.

Figure 4.33 shows an industrial oven that Mark Beckelman had to photograph and then separate from its industrial environment. Because of the reflective surfaces, he photographed the oven twice—once using the fluorescent room light and once using his strobe equipment. He then combined the two exposures with an image of a kitchen, as explained in Chapter 6, “Layers Are Your Friends.” Figure 4.34 shows the oven in a clean environment and the path that Mark used to silhouette the oven.

Figure 4.33. The oven in the manufacturing environment.

Figure 4.34. The isolated industrial oven.

© Mark Beckelman

When Are Separate Paths Needed?

In the previous examples, we added to, subtracted from, or intersected paths to isolate an object with both the positive and negative space outline on one path in the Paths palette. When you are selecting an object with elements that interact, such as objects with translucent attributes like the windows of a car or someone's eyeglasses, it is better to have each element outlined with its own path.

The advantage of having separate paths is that you can convert each path into a selection, enabling you to handle each image element differently. In the following example, we will be treating the windows of a classic Studebaker differently than its solid body parts.

To separate the car from its environment, shown in figure 4.35, I first outlined the car and then made sure the car path was not active when I created a separate path for each window. To control each image element separately, it is very important that after creating and naming the initial exterior path, you select the Add to Path Area button in the Options bar and deactivate the initial path before outlining the interior areas to create separate paths for each window. Separate paths, which will be converted into active selections, enable you to control the density of the car windows in the final composite (figure 4.36).

Figure 4.35.


Figure 4.36.


Outline the entire car body with the Pen tool.

Make sure the car path is not active and that the Add to Path Area button on the Options bar is selected (figure 4.37). Outline the front windshield and name the path.

Figure 4.37. Make sure that the initial path is not active (not highlighted) before continuing.

Continue making and naming a separate path for each window of the car. Figure 4.38 shows the resulting Paths palette.

Figure 4.38. Each aspect of the car requires an individual path.

To complete the image as shown, save the file and continue on to the next chapter. When the image background is replaced, you can control the density of the windows with the density of the layer mask, as shown in figure 4.39. By using shades of gray in the layer mask, the feeling of the glass windshield is maintained. If I move the car to another part of the picture, the scene behind it changes appropriately (figure 4.40).

Figure 4.39. Varying the shades of gray in the car's layer mask controls the density of the windows.

Figure 4.40. Upon moving the car, you can see how the background changes show through the windows.

If I just cut out the car and left the windows solid, the composite would look wrong—the original background would show through the car windows, as shown in figure 4.41.

Figure 4.41. If the car windows are not masked out, the original environment causes a visual disconnect.

Creating every outline on a separate path gives you greater flexibility, and because they are so easy to combine, move, and activate, many photographers are in the habit of making one outline per path.

Combining and Moving Paths

As you create more and more paths, you'll find that you have a path in one file that would be useful in a different file. Rather than redrawing the path, you can drag and drop the path from the first file to the second.

Moving paths is a practice frequently used in studio still-life photography (figure 4.42), such as when a photographer makes a path of an object and then decides to work with a different frame of the same object.

Figure 4.42. The camera was photographed on a turntable to create a QuickTime VR and it now needs to be isolated.

To move the path from the first file to the second, use the Path Selection tool (black arrow) to activate the path you need to transfer, drag the path from the image or the Paths palette into the target file. Photoshop will add the path to the active path or, if no path existed before, create a Path that you then name.

You can also stack the individual shots in a layer stack and create a path for each layer. If the path doesn't fit perfectly, use the Direct Selection tool to select the points that need refinement. Select Edit > Free Transform Points, press (Cmd + T)

[Ctrl + T], and transform the path into place (figure 4.43) to create the final path (figure 4.44). When the second path is completed, duplicate it by dragging it down to the New Path button on the Paths palette and then refine it for the next layer.

Figure 4.43. Transforming the path into position.

Figure 4.44. The refined path.

For each layer, start with the path from the previous layer and refine by transforming, adding, or deleting points, and bending the direction lines into position until each layer has a corresponding path(figure 4.45).

Figure 4.45. Each camera layer has a corresponding path, which is carefully named to minimize confusion.

If the Path Fits

When you are copying and pasting or dragging paths between files, both images must have the same pixel resolution for the path to fit the target image—something I forgot to check before dragging the bottle path from the wine1.psd file into the composite file shown in figure 4.46.

Figure 4.46. For the dragging of paths to be predictable, image resolution must be identical. Notice the teeny path in the center of the image.

To fix this oversight:

Delete the mismatched path and use Image > Image Size with Resample Image unselected to make the pixel resolution of the origin and target files identical.

In this case, I changed the pixel resolution of both files to 266 per inch, a common size used in magazine printing (figure 4.47). Resizing the image with Resample Image unselected will not degrade the quality of the image or the path.

Figure 4.47. Use the Image Size dialog box to make sure that both files have the same pixel resolution.

Return to the original file—in my case, the wine bottle image—and drag and drop the path from the Paths palette to the target image. Voilá, the path comes in at the correct size, as figure 4.48 shows.

Figure 4.48. After adjusting the image resolution, dragging paths between files yields useful and predictable results.

Use the Path Selection tool (black arrow) to move the path into position as I did in figure 4.49, and continue with your work.

Figure 4.49. After using the Path Selection tool to position the path.

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