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Photoshop CS5 Puppet Warp Tool

One of the new features in AdobeR PhotoshopR CS5 is the Puppet Warp tool. If you have used the Liquify filter or the Warp Transform tool, you know how limited these tools can be for certain tasks. The new Puppet Warp tool is a whole new way to manipulate your photographs or digital art and gives you much more flexibility and control.

The Puppet Warp tool creates a triangular mesh over the objects on a layer. This can be an image, shape, text, mask or vector mask layer. One nice feature is that each separate object on the layer gets its own mesh and you can manipulate each object individually. For example, you may have a layer that contains a snowman and several trees. The Puppet Warp tool will give a mesh to the snowman and each tree. Once you have the mesh, you use your mouse to place pins in the mesh. You use the pins to manipulate one area and the adjoining pins act as anchors keeping the adjoining areas untouched. Notice that in the example, we have three independent mesh squares that are on the same layer. To manipulate the top left square, I have moved the lower pin to stretch the square downward. As you can see, the second pin in the mesh keeps the upper part of the square unchanged. You have control over several mesh settings including the mode (elasticity), density (number of mesh points) and expansion (outer edge of mesh). In tight areas, you can turn off the visibility of the mesh and view only the pins.

As the name suggests, you can use the Puppet Warp tool to move the arms and legs of the subject in your photographs much like a puppeteer. This can be useful for subtle editing of small areas such as moving an arm slightly higher or shaping the hair. However, one can easily get unrealistic results such as elongated body parts.

On the other hand, there are tasks that can be completed easily with the Puppet Warp tool which previously took several cut and paste steps involving several layers. For example, you may have an illustration of a snowman with a scarf around his neck. You have used the Puppet Warp tool to move the snowman's arm but now the scarf hides the snowman's arm. Instead of selecting, cutting and pasting the arm to another layer above the scarf layer, you can now use the Puppet Warp's Pin Depth control to move the arm to the front of the scarf. All this on one layer.

But you can use the Puppet Warp tool for tasks beyond moving arms and legs in a photo. For example, you can use this new tool to transform text for special effects or to create a whole new font. Whatever you use the Puppet Warp tool for, the process can easily be reversed if you first convert your layer to a smart object.

*Adobe provided a review copy to me free of charge.


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