pen tool

An August Avalanche of New Courses at dekeAcademy (aka Deke's collection)

My dekeAdemics, welcome back to school---the School of Deke, that is. Our favorite graphics guru has been working his digital fingers to the bone this summer and has not one, but three, new courses out at this month. (And there's another one just gone to the elite editing team. Whew. You've earned a quick nap, Professor Deke.)

Here's a review of what's new at the ol' dekeAcademy (aka the Deke McClelland Collection at what the new courses cover, who might want to watch them, and why you might find them useful. Remember, if you're not a member of, you can still watch a few (often useful) free movies (I've embedded some below for your sampling convenience). And you can always get a 10-day free trial subscription by signing up at

And these will be just a few of our Fall 2015 offerings:

New Course: Photoshop CC 2015 One-on-One: Fundamentals

What: Photoshop CC 2015 One-on-One Fundamentals is a total refresh of Deke's flagship step-by-step project-based Photoshop tutorial for beginners, with all new sample files for those of you who are revisiting what's happened with Photoshop in the CC 2015 version.

Who: Anyone who wants to learn Photoshop from the ground up, folks who haven't used Photoshop in a recent incarnation, or anyone who ever feels like they're half-guessing at why they do what they do in Photoshop.

Why: Because knowing is better than guessing when you're looking for predictable results and efficient creativity.

What else: Complete updates to the Advanced and Mastery levels soon to follow. So. if you find Deke's method works for you, you're set for the rest of your Photoshop education.


New Course: Adobe Pen Tool Fundamentals

What: Adobe Pen Tool Fundamentals is a course on the basic skills and knowledge needed for using the powerful, yet mysterious, Pen tool in Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator.

Who: Anyone who wants to learn to draw free-form shapes with precision in any of these three applications.

Why: The Pen tool has some, shall we say, un-intuitive behaviors, but once you know the basics, its powers start to unleash in your mouse-hand.
What else: The second part of this course is coming later this year, and will solidify your mastery of precision curve-drawing.


Eight Things to Know about Photoshop

What: Eight Things Everyone Should Know About Photoshop is Deke's list of the top  general features in Photoshop that will help you wrap your mind around this pixel-wranging behemoth of an application. It's a sort of "How do I even know what I need to know?" solution.

Who: Anyone who'd like to get more of the big Photoshop picture in a quick and entertaining course.

Why: Actually, these movies Deke created for Photoshop's 25th anniversary were so good we didn't want to let them languish in the history files.

What else: You can read more about this course (and watch the movies) here.

And coming soon, Illustrator 2015 One-on-One: Fundamentals which features this delightful creature, one of my favorite dekeAssets ever:

  Read more » 

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Deke's Techniques 285: Making a Scalable Avatar in Illustrator

Make a Scalable Avatar in Adobe Illustrator

In this week's free Deke's Techniques episode, Deke takes the photo-inspired paths he drew in Photoshop last week, brings them into Illustrator, and completes his scalable, vector-based homage to my cartoon self. He also leaves me a little happier this week, as you can see from the "Three Faces of Colleen" progression below. 

But you don't need an avatar of me, you say. (Wait, why would you need an avatar of me?) Fear not, the advice you can glean while watching Deke create Cartoon Colleen can be applied to your own photo-to-avatar transformation, as well. In this video, you'll see how to take the paths we traced last week and combine, join, cut, erase, bend, and otherwise adjust them into shape.

Along the way, you'll also acquire such pearls of wisdom as: "Best to draw the avatar bald, so you can update its hairstyle as needed." Or: "If you don't know the person well, you may want to run it by them before posting to Facebook." Since variations on this image have been all over Deke's Facebook page since he started working on it, we can assume he doesn't put me in that category. 

At the end of this exercise, you'll see how Deke created the uniform black-and-white strokes that make up the structure of my alter-ego. If you're a member of, you can watch the exclusive movie this week that shows you how he added the shading and blue (?) hair. (Is Deke trying to tell me something?) 

Not a member? You can get a free week's trial at Then you can scour the entire collection of Deke's Techniques looking for other pixel-based experiments I've been subject to.  Read more » 

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Deke's Techniques 284: Tracing a Photo in Photoshop to Create an Avatar

Trace a Photo in Photoshop to Create an Avatar

First of all, Deke, is it really fair to make someone watch a video, featuring a photo of themselves on vacation, on the first day back at work? OK, I admit, it's often hard to distinguish between "vacation" and "work" here in the dekeOpolis. And also, this particular exercise was done in the service of creating a cool avatar for yours truly. 

You can use what you're about to see in this week's episode of Deke's Techniques to create your own avatar, rendering yourself cartoonishly looking off into your horizon of choice. In the video, Deke uses the pen tool to trace around my profile in order to create paths that he'll import to Illustrator in next week's episode. 

For me, sometimes, watching people draw is akin to watching paint dry, only without the mind-altering fumes. But watching a master of the pen tool work is really illustrative for those of us who suffer from xenophobia. Listening to Deke narrate where he's clicking and how (with various modifier keys) to trace my face is actually quite useful. 

Here's the photograph he starts with: 

Which, when he's done working his pen tool magic, becomes this outline:

Tracing a photo with the pen tool in Photoshop

Pretty close, but not enough to garner me swarms of Twitter followers. Next week, he'll use these paths in Illustrator to finish the project. Here's a sneak peek at the final result:

An avatar created from a photograph.

See you next week in cartoon form! Read more » 

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Friday Fundamentals: Illustrator Pen Tool Mysteries Decoded

For today's Friday Fundamentals adventure, we'll be deciphering some of the mysteries of the Pen tool in Adobe Illustrator. I used to think the real mystery was figuring out how to draw efficiently with bezier curves. When to click and when to drag. And what to drag. And where to drag. And where to click...

However, a recent review of a free movie from Deke's Illustrator CC One-on-One: Fundamentals course reminds me that there's an even more basic and ancient Illustrator mystery: what on earth do the various stages of the Pen tool cursor actually mean? Ancient Illustrator spirits, what are you trying to tell me? 

Decoding the Pen Tool Cursors in Adobe Illustrator

Ostensibly, the following movie---a free sample from Deke's course---is about one of the more basic Illustrator maneuvers: connecting two open paths. But as you'll soon see, during the course of simply connecting two line segments, the cursor changes to indicate what's going to happen next. (What's going to happen next is my true Illustrator mystery; please tell me I'm not the only one who's ever inadvertently drawn a giant gash across my artwork by misconnecting endpoints.) 

The chart that Deke uses to explain the various Pen tool states might look familiar to those of you who follow Deke's Techniques (where Deke once explained how to draw this very chart in, uh, Illustrator, but, uh, without the freaking pen tool.)

Think of this movie as the decoding of that chart. And now, for those of you whose heads are aching, read on as I additionally decode the video, using Deke's sample file for, uh, Illustrator illustration: Read more » 

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Deke's Techniques 253: Drawing the Pen Tool Icon in Illustrator Without Using the Pen Tool

Drawing the Pen Tool Icon without the Pen Tool

Anyone who knows me knows I approve of any drawing exercise that eschews the Pen tool. It's not that I don't appreciate the power of a finely crafted Bezier curve, it's just that I'm completely inept at using the tool used to create them in Adobe Illustrator. 

That's why this week's free Deke's Techniques episode is particularly, delightfully, useful to me. Using a variety of Illustrator features, none of which are the Pen tool itself, Deke reveals the variety of implements he used to create the Pen tool icon in last week's useful graphic, which, ironically, showed you how to understand the various states of the Pen tool:

For the record, I highly approve of irony. (By the way, if you love the Pen tool, or wish you loved it, or have always been slightly confused by what it's trying to tell you, you can actually download this very chart from last week's post. )

The icon takes shape via a combination of the Line Segment tool, the Reflect tool, the Round Corners option, the Rotate tool, and, of course, the Transform command (for the itinerant asterisk that accompanies the Pen tool cursor in its native state.) Even if you're not interested in the Pen tool per se, this exercise will empower you with an entire toolset at the ready for the next iconic rendering you might attempt.  Read more » 

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