Extracting Sims and Objects from Screenshots - Intermediate
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Tutorials by BlackGarden added Jun 28, 2009, read 7235 times
Previously, I've shown you a simplified technique for extracting a Sim from a screenshot for preview pictures or stories. However, a simple technique doesn't always provide the best results.
In this tutorial I'll show you how to use Photoshop's pen tool to extract a Sim, or an object, from a screenshot taken with the Sims 3 in-game camera. This tutorial is aimed at intermediate Photoshop users who maybe just aren't quite sure what the pen tool does, or how or why they should use it.
- Photoshop (any version, however "Elements" versions may not have the pen tool, which is required for this tutorial)
But first, why do we want to use the pen tool? Why not just put your Sim or object against a plain background?
It's a good question, it's really quick and easy to put a Sim or an object against a plain background and then use the magic wand selector in Photoshop to remove the background. However, this technique can result in a jagged edge, rather than a smooth edge, which won't look as good on previews. The pen tool allows us to create a smooth path to select our Sim or object with.
Also, for pictures of Sims, the best lighting in the Sims 3 game is in Create-A-Sim. Pictures taken in Create-A-Sim will show off your Sim and clothes in the best possible light, but of course we can't have a plain background in Create-A-Sim, so the easiest way to remove the background is using the pen tool.
- Open up your Sims 3 game, and take any screenshots you like using the in game camera. Here's the screenshot I'll be using for this tutorial (fig 1):
- Decide which part(s) of the picture you want for your screenshot. I only want the Sim, nothing else.
- Open your screenshot in PhotoShop and choose the pen tool.
- Decide where you're going to start from. I'm going to stop at the top right side of the picture, and work round clockwise.
- Now, identify two "corners" to your Sim, or object. By "corner" I mean somewhere where the edge changes sharply, rather than in a smooth curve. Click once on each of these first two corners, and anchor points will appear on them, as shown in the picture below (fig 2).
- Of course, the edge of the Sim betwen these two points is not straight, so we need to adjust our line to make it match. You can add a curved anchor point anywhere on your path just by clicking. So here, I'll add an anchor point halfway between the first two points, like in this picture (fig 3):
- The points are still a straight line, but now we just hold the CTRL key, and click and drag the new point into position. The line will automatically curve in between the three points (fig 4).
- You may need to add many anchor points to make your path match the curve of your Sim or object. If you add an anchor point then decide you don't need it, click it again to remove it (fig 5).
- Sometimes, you might add an anchor point which makes your path stick out a long way from the edge of the Sim or object you're trying to cut out. This isn't a problem - as you can see below it's easily fixed just by adding more points, holding CTRL and dragging them into place (fig 6).
- Continue in the same way - identify the next corner, click it, then add anchor points between that and the previous corner, and drag them into place until they match the curve. When you get back round to where you started, click on your first point again to complete your path (fig 7). If you need to adjust your path after you've closed it, hold CTRL and click on it - this will 'reactivate' your path so you can continue to add more points.
- Now you have the outline of your Sim or object, but what if they have some extra gaps that we need to cut out? This sim has a gap under her arm, and some between her fingers (fig 8).
- Simply click on the first two corners of one of the gaps, and create a path for the gap in the same way as you did the main outline (fig 9).
- Here is my finished set of paths. I've added a path in the gap under her arm, and more around the fingers (fig 10).
- Now, open the "paths" panel. This is usually on a tab near the "layers" panel, but if it's not you can also select it from the Window menu.
- Click this button (shown by the arrow in fig 11) to turn your paths into a selection.
(Note: if this doesn't select everything you wanted it to, hold CTRL and SHIFT, and click on each of your paths in turn to "select" them all, then press the button again.)
- Copy and paste your Sim onto your preview picture. Check the edges to make sure you're happy with how it turned out. If they're not, go back, and CTRL + click on a path to 'reactivate' it for futher editing, and make any changes you consider necessary. This is my finished cutout (fig 12) (keep reading for more tips!):
Fig 12You can also see my finished cutout in her preview picture by clicking here.
TIP: When you add an anchor point you'll notice a straight line with two dots on the end appearing. The line is a tangent to the curve, and these dots are called "handles". You can move the handles to change the angle of the curve at this point. The best way to find out how this works is simply to do it! Create a straight line, add an anchor point in the middle, and see what happens when you adjust the angle and length of the handles.
TIP: A unique preview that stands out will really show off your work at its best. For ideas, look through the downloads area of TSR, and study those screenshots which catch your eye. A good example of an excellent preview style is Murano. Notice how he maintains a consistent style, which means his work is instantly recognisable, but at the same time shows off his work in an interesting and eyecatching way.