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Introduction

Adobe Photoshop CS is a hybrid application, not only can it handle raster information (pixels), it can also hold path information (vector). Photoshop stores raster information in the Layers palette, and stores vector information in the Paths palette. When you use Photoshop's vector drawing, or pen tools, Photoshop creates a path in the Paths palette to store that information. In addition, it is possible to create a selection with Photoshop's traditional selection tools, and convert that selection into a path. Paths are defined mathematically using anchor points and segments. Once created, they can be precisely modified to fit any design situation. In many ways, paths serve a function similar to channel masks—they can define selections, but because they're vector and not raster, they are much more precise. When paths are saved they take up far less room than channels.

Working with the various Pen tools, it's possible to create precise paths, and even create complicated selections around virtually any shape. Once the path is created it's a simple matter to subtract anchor points, and add new or modify existing anchor points to produce complex paths. It's even possible to convert straight segments (the visible line that connects two anchor points together) into elegantly curved segments, or you can remove the curve from a segment with a single click of the Convert Curve tool. Paths can be used to precisely guide a brush stroke, or the interior of a path can be filled with any color, pattern, or gradient available in Photoshop using the Stroke and Fill Commands. Paths can even be used to create a clipping path around an image. When moving an image into a layout program, such as InDesign, a clipping path lets you define certain areas of an image as transparent. In addition, you can create paths in Photoshop, then export and open them in Adobe Illustrator. Using Photoshop paths give you precise, mathematical control over the creation of complex shapes, selections, and even transparency.


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