The return of Graphic Tips with Jailer; Using the Paths Tool

Good evening readers, me again! I just want to start by saying a huge thank you to Maiya and the amazing team here at SDC for giving me the opportunity to post here once again.

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Jailer (exodus27 on Stardoll) and I am a veteran Graphic Designer with 4 years experience. You may recognise me from such projects as X Magazine, X Apparel, and VIS. I'll be here to share some (hopefully) useful graphic tips with you all, as well as answering any questions you may have, and providing easy-to-follow tutorial posts to aid in your own graphic ventures. I create all of my graphics using my iMac, Wacom tablet, and a free design programme called GIMP - you can download it from their website, it is absolutely free! All of my tutorials will be made using this programme, but most will apply to other programmes such as Photoshop as all the tools are fairly similar.

Without further ado, let's move on to our first tutorial - the very foundations of my technique; the Paths tool.

The paths tool is a seemingly intimidating but nevertheless simple and incredibly useful tool to create lines and shapes. The tool appears like this in the GIMP v2.8 "Toolbox"

The way this tool works is through creating "anchor points" which are connected by a "path" that bends out at each side. In this tutorial, we will begin by clicking once and then again on another part of the image to create two anchor points, like so;

The white dot is the very first anchor, the dot with a square inside of it is our current anchor point, each path line will link to the previous anchor. You can bend each path twice, at any point along the line by clicking any part of the path and dragging it in a certain direction. The curve of your path will always bend out from it's closest anchor point. In the examples below, I first dragged two parts of the path above the anchors to create one curved line, then dragged one of the parts below the anchors to create an "S" shape;

The yellow lines perpendicular to the white path line are the anchor "controls", click and drag the white square at the end of a yellow line to manipulate it's responding "curve" in the path.

There are two ways to use the paths tool; Stroke and Select. I will first show you how to use "Stroke from Path". Stroking a path creates a single "line" which follows your path. To stroke a path, you must first set your brush - this will determine the colour, thickness, and shape of your end result. In this example, I used a generic circular brush in white on 30pt thickness;

Next you create your path -- I created the same "S" shape as before. Then, back in the Toolbox, click "Stroke path", it should look something like this;

A new window should appear, providing options for the stroke. To stroke the path using the brush we just set up, you need to click "Stroke with a paint tool", make sure you have selected the Paintbrush from the dropdown menu (it is usually the default) and then click "Stroke"

And voila, you have created your line! I have found this usage of the Paths tool great for creating things like lettering, shoelaces, and outlines. Easy, simple, and effective!

Next, we will use the other option for paths; Selection from path. This ones a little bit more tricky as it requires more anchors - in this example though, we will create a basic eyebrow shape. First, click to create our anchor points. Think about where the shape of the eyebrow will begin, where it will need to curve, and then connect it back to your first anchor;

Then, click and drag your path lines to create the desired shape -- remember, each line bends twice!

Now that we have the perfect eyebrow shape, head over to the Toolbox and click "Selection from Path";

The path you have created should turn into a selected area, outlined by what we call "marching ants";

The great thing about using the Paths tool to create a selected area is that after creating and then selecting your path, you can alter each path line to make it perfect. Once you are 100% happy with the shape of your selected area, click the Paintbrush tool and colour in the selected area - be sure not to miss any!

You can see that after filling in the area, we have a perfect shape that we want.

The Paths tool is a great tool to create seamless lines and shapes, and is a lot more clean and smoother than the popular "Free Select" tool. It's a very simple basis, which while takes a while to get the hang of, becomes a very easy habit with enough practice. Once you are more confident with the Paths tool, you can use it to create whole connected shapes and layers, like this one;

It's a very simple concept of placing anchors, bending your paths, and creating a shape that flows perfectly with little to no rough edges.

That just about wraps up our first tutorial! I hope that this has helped some people in understanding the Paths tool more, and how to use it. If you have any questions about this tutorial, or would like to suggest an idea for a future tutorial, please leave a comment/send me a message and I will do my best to help.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you all soon for our next tutorial which will be on shading skin and using the right opacities for different skin tones!




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