Bézier Tool How-to

Software: PhotoImpact X3 (other versions will work but may have different locations for tools)
Skill Level: Intermediate
Created for Photoimpact International by Jim aka Sidewinder

I know some people seem to hate the Bézier Tool in PI but with a little practice and some simple steps it can be your best PI friend.

The Bézier tool in Photoimpact is arguably the most useful yet most unused tool in the program. Many people get scared away from this tool because of its seemingly wild behavior. I avoided using this tool for years opting instead for the lasso tool. That is until a friend convinced me the Bézier was the only way to get the clean selections that I wanted. So let's delve into the mysterious Bézier Tool.

First, to get the feel of the tool, open a new image in your choice of color.

Before we jump into the Bézier let's get a grip on the anchor points and handles first. Go to your line and arrow tool on the tool bar and chose the straight line option. Don't worry about the other selections as we will be deleting this in a minute or two.

Bézier

Ok, now make a line, any length. On the attribute tool bar click the edit switch.

Bézier

You should have something that looks like the below except it's still in a straight line. To show our anchor points and allow us to manipulate them click the switch maker with the letter A in the illustration below.

The bottom right point (C.) on the illustration points to the anchor point. You will have too anchor points for every section of line. Now click on the line between the anchor points (B.), it will change color to indicate that it is selected. Now, on the attribute tool bar under edit mode you will see a curve switch—at least that's what I'll call it since I don't know that actual name(D.). When you click this the line will become curved or wavy.

Attribute Bar explained

Great, now to change the shape of the line click on one of the anchor points. The handles should appear on both anchors like in section one below. The line is attached to the anchor and can be turned like a crank. Click and drag one of the handles in a circle to get the feel of the tool.

You can see how the line follows to handle like a rope attached to a swivel.

As you were pulling the line around with the handle you probably noticed that it changed length as it rotated. That is because the length of the handle controls how long the line is. As you can see in section 2 as you pull the handle the line gets longer. Pull one of the handles down on your line to see the effect.

Ok, now, if you want to move your anchor points it's simple enough, just click on one of the anchor points and drag it to the new location. The handles will stay in place as the anchor moves so you may have to readjust your curve a little to fit the shape you are trying to achieve.

Once you get the line in the shape you want click the edit tab again and the line will appear solid and as an object.

Bézier handles

Now that we know how the handles work, let's make something. We'll start out with something simple like a heart.

Click on your Bézier tool on the toolbar. Now make a triangle like the one shown by clicking on the canvas to create your anchor points. When you connect the last line to the first anchor point double click to select. And you will have triangle selection.

OK now, on the tool bar select the Path Edit tool, it's with the group two spaces down from the Bézier tool. Once selected go to the attribute tool bar and click the tab under the A on the illustration below. It's the same symbol as we used with the line and arrow tool.

Now you should see your triangle looking like the one in the image; your anchor points should be showing. Now we have a problem, we are never going to be able to bend the top line enough to make the two-lumped section for the top of the heart. So, under where I've marked B (the plus + sign) click that. Now when you click on the line you will add a new anchor point. If you click twice by accident and you have an unwanted point you can remove it by clicking the minus (-) symbol beside the plus symbol to delete any point on the selection. After you've added your new point click back on the tab between A and B‚that I forgot to label—to be able to work on your selection again without adding a new anchor point every time you click.

Bézier points

Ok, now that we’ve got the middle anchor on the top line and have switched back to the edit tab, click the line on the left segment to highlight it and then click the curve tab like you did with the line and arrow tool before and pull the handles up and adjust them until you get something that looks like image 1.

Ok now, do the same thing to the other side. Oops, chances are you got something that looks like image 2. This is the reason so many people get frustrated and give up on this tool. It seeming does random crazy movements. Take a deep breath we're going to fix this problem now. In image two you'll see the shape that looks like the Bézier tool icon on the attribute bar, click it. The drop down gives you two choices. The top choice is the Non-Free Edit mode, this is the default mode, and in my opinion, it was designed by Satan. It does have its uses; it makes the transition from one side of the anchor to the other kink free, but in doing so it moves both sides and causes distortions like the one below.

So what we want is the second option on the drop down, the one that looks like a stick figure giraffe and says Free Edit. Once that is chosen you can manipulate all handles separately.

So to finish up our heart pull and rotate the handles until the top is close to even. Round the sides, adjust the bottom until it has about the right slope and curve. This will leave a little indent so simply pull the anchors out on the sides until you have a smooth arch.

Once we have the shape you go back to your tool bar and chose the Path Drawing Tool, I chose 3D round and picked my finishing touches from the Easy Pallette.

Bézier curves

Of course there are other great reasons to use the Bézier tool, for instance you can use it to select part of an image to copy or cut out of a photo like the girl in the picture below. The difference here is that instead of clicking on the Path tool you'd click on the pick tool and then either cut and paste or convert to object.

Bézier selection

It's also great as a stencil for painting. You can use it to chose the section you want painted...like for example, if your cousin sends a picture of his new Audi that costs more than your house, you can digitally vandalize it ad send it back to him. Not that I'm jealous of my Cousin Brad's car or anything or the pictures he keeps emailing me.

Bézier as stencil

The Bézier can be a little difficult at first, but with practice you'll never use the lasso tool again. Well, except if you get lazy...ok, I still use the lasso on occasion, but then I am a lazy, lazy person.

I hope this helps a little, if I missed anything or didn't explain it well please ask, I'd be happy to help, either at the PI-I Board or e-mail me at dontlosethisaddress -at- gmail -dot- com (keep in mind that the help forum at the board might be quicker).

 

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