For the Photoshop Foundations series, I have been sharing how to set-up and prepare files for a new project in Photoshop. I always go through these same steps when starting a new project. I call it my “Project-Prep Ritual”. The last post was about how to place all of the elements you will be needing to complete your artwork, on their own separate layers in the new file. If you missed the last few posts in this series, you can go back and catch up on them here:
- Photoshop Foundations: Setting up a new project in Photoshop: Part I (Document Settings)
- Photoshop Foundations: Setting up a new project in Photoshop, Part II (Smart Objects)
Now that all the files and elements have been placed in the image file, the next step is to create work paths.
What is a work path?
Creating work paths is a major part of my work flow. I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything without work paths and masks. First, what is a work path? Work Paths can be used for a lot of different things but I use them for one primary reason and that is saving the cutting lines around my objects. You know those little dotted lines on coupons and it tells you where to cut?
That is exactly what I use them for. It is the Photoshop version of “Cut here”… This step can be a little time consuming. Actually, you will probably find a lot of artists skip saving their selection as a path. However, I want to encourage you not to skip this step and here is why. Selecting objects, in order to create a mask for them, can be time consuming. Once you make a mask out of your selection, if you don’t save that selection as a path then, when you need to use that object’s outline for anything else (i.e. a shadow), you have to go through the process of making that selection all over again. Saving your selection as a path saves you a lot of time. All you have to do is click on the saved path and hit “Make selection” and your hard earned, perfect selection is back in one click!
Work paths are quite simple to generate.
- Open the “Paths” dialogue box. You can do this by going to Window>Paths
2. Next, click on your object layer and select the portion of the image you want to cut out by using one of Photoshop’s numerous selection tools: Lasso, Magic Wand, Marque, etc… (I will be going over all the different tools you can use to make a selections in future posts. For today however, I just want to cover the general workflow.)
3. Click on the little arrow in the upper right hand corner of the Paths dialogue box…
3. Choose “Make Work Path”…
4. A little dialogue box will pop up asking you for a tolerance. Now, without getting too complicated here is what this is about. Photoshop is asking you “How accurate do you want me to make this path? Do you want it exactly like the selection? Or is a general loose outline close enough?” I always set my tolerance to within 1.0 pixel. This means it will create your path to within 1 pixel of what you have selected. This is very, very accurate and that is usually what I want. Once you set your tolerance, click OK. This is what you will see…
5. That outline with the little squares is your new work path. Double click on your new path in the dialogue box and rename it so you don’t loose track of what it was for. In this case I named it “Models”. This new path is fully editable. If you get in close and you want to move any of those squares or points you can use the pen tool to make changes to it. (A whole post on the pen tool is in the works…)
6. Now that you have your path saved, every time you need to select that object, all you have to do is click on your saved path and then click on the dashed circle icon at the bottom of your paths dialogue box. It will then load that path as a selection! No more reselecting objects over and over again! YES! This is SUCH a time saver.
Now that we know how to save all our hard work we can go about making all the object selections and saving them as paths. For the next Photoshop Foundations, I will cover some of the different ways you can make accurate selections.
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