One of the tasks I’ve been assigned to a couple of times now, is to use Photoshop to cut out celebrities from the backgrounds of the provided pictures. When I was first assigned this task, I dove into it using the quick selection tool to either isolate the background or isolate the person (whichever seemed to be the quickest) and then put a layer mask on it. I would then go back and clean up any areas that needed touching up. Most of these were easy, shot on white or gray backgrounds, but some were extremely challenging, like a man in a dark pinstriped suit standing on a shiny black floor near a very dark grey wall, this one took a lot of time (this one would have probably been easier to do with the pen tool.) Anthony saw me working this way and felt that it was inefficient and taking too long, he also felt that the results were not precise because some of the people seemed to have halos around them when placed onto dark backgrounds. He asked me if I knew how to use the pen tool in Photoshop, I said yes, but that I wasn’t that good with it, he instructed me to use the pen tool instead. I’ve now used the pen tool for about six or seven sports players, most of them action shots rather than posed shots, and I’m getting better with the pen tool in Photoshop. Using the pen tool to create Bezier curves can be tricky and it is definitely an acquired skill.
Because I’m not yet very skilled with the pen tool, each image took me about 45 minutes to trace with the pen tool, but the outcome was more precise and there was generally less cleanup around the edges afterwards. It feels to me that using the pen tool takes more time per image than the quick selection tool. Depending on the color similarities within the image, it is more precise to use the pen tool since you choose exactly where your edge will be and the quick selection tool differentiates based on color differences, and when the colors are too similar, it will select portions that you don’t want selected requiring more time to select and deselect the subject. I’m also working on a photograph of a large group of people with one central image, I’ve been assigned to cut out the central person and then groups of people. This will be used in a motion graphics video for a club.
Anthony has also pointed out to me that when I get into the field with a “real job” that I will need to use the pen tool for tasks like this. It is good to learn this lesson at an internship rather than at a “real job” in the field. An internship is also a good environment in which to hone the skills of the pen tool. I may need to redo some of the celebrities that I had originally done with the quick selection brush with the pen tool, he’ll let me know.
He did not ask me to redo any of the figures I’d done previously, but he did give me another image where he wanted me to cut out the dancers from their background. I spent several hours on this and am gaining more confidence with the pen tool. These he wants me to use in an After Effects composition that will be a part of the same video.