Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wednesday Q & A: When To Use Photoshop's Eraser Tool --- Never!

I look through a lot of tutorials.  Some have some interesting tricks that I’ll incorporate into my workflow.  But!  I’ll tell you where I lose my curiosity.  As soon as the mention of the Adobe Photoshop CS6 (and before)’s Eraser Tool (E) comes up, I’m out of there.  I might flip through to see how the tutorialist (hey, somebody has to make up new words) gets to their finished product, but as far as thinking I might learn a trick or two, no thanks.  I haven’t used the Eraser Tool in at least a half dozen years.  As far as I’m concerned, there’s just no use for it.  My recommendation, for anyone trying to learn something from internet tutorials, is to have a red flag/fireworks/a distress signal of any stripe go off at the point where the “educator” first mentions the Erase Tool.  Take a look at today’s image.  Obviously I’m not trying to impress anyone with a wonderful work of art.  It’s strictly there as a means of explaining my advice to anyone using the Eraser Tool in Photoshop.  It’s a one word suggestion/recommendation/nudge/command/shout/warning.  STOP.  TO see my explanation and why I’m saying it, hit the “Read More”.

Don’t worry about the big image in the middle of CS6’s work space.  Focus your attention on the two Layers shown in the Layers Panel in the lower right (in the yellow circle).  As you can see in the main image, it looks like three quarters of a red circle.  Check the Layers in the Layers Panel.  They’re both active.  They’re both visible (although the top Layer is blocking the lower Layer.  The important thing is that you can see the invisibility checkerboard through both Layers. 

Let’s say we’re working on some master piece of a design and some portion of a red circle is integral to making it work.  We go on and embellish the design and submit it to the customer.  If we had gone the Layer 0 route and the customer said they’d like to see it with more of the circle visible, we’re screwed.  By using the Eraser Tool we trashed/dumped/tossed/got rid of the pixels in the upper right quadrant.  They’re not there anymore.  There’s nothing we can do to bring them back.  The only thing to do would be to go and made a new red circle and see how the customer likes that attempt.  If it’s okay with the buyer, great.  If not, go make another one.  Submit that.  It would end up being a guessing game with an infinite number of possibilities.  A real waste of time.

Let’s look at scenario two.  Using Layer 0 Copy.  Rather than using the Eraser Tool we’ve used a Layer Mask.  As you can see in the thumbnail, all the pixels are still there.  We can see through to the invisibility checkerboard because the upper right quadrant is blocked by the Layer Mask.  At the moment there’s a 90 degree section that’s masked out.  If the art director wants it to be an 85 degree section or a 75 degree section of a 78.5 degree section, or any number he/she sets his/her heart on, the pixels are there.  All that’s required is to uncover them. 

The difference is that Layer 0 destroys pixels and Layer 0 copy hides pixels.  Why would you want to destroy something/anything that you might have a need for later.  It’s just bad practice to use the Eraser Tool.  At one point I’m sure it was useful.  That would be a time when there was no such thing as Layer Masks. 

Did I ever use the Eraser Tool?  Sure.  I was a newbie once too. 

When should you use the Eraser Tool today?