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In Photoshop and Bridge CS5 for Photographers New Features, author Chris Orwig explores the enhancements in Photoshop CS5 and Bridge CS5 from a photographer's perspective. This course introduces the Mini Bridge, a brand new panel to browse and open images without leaving Photoshop, expanded layer functionality, improved sharpening and noise reduction in Adobe Camera Raw, cleaning up and enhancing photographs with the new Bristle Brush and content-aware tools, and working with the new High Dynamic Range (HDR) toning controls. Exercise files are included with the course.
Now that we know a little bit about how we can refine and improve our selections in Photoshop CS5, let's take a look at a scenario that's a little bit more complicated, so that we can take a look at how we can combine some of our selection and masking skills and then refine our selection in order to have something that's perhaps even better. Well, let's say that what we want to do here is we want to remove the subject from this content, or from this background, or for that matter, maybe we want to change the background. Either way, what we want is separation, so that we have a selection of the subject.
In order to do that, we, of course, first need to build up a selection of that background. One way to simply do that is to click on the Add Layer Mask icon. Now from here what we could do is go to Color Range. And then with this Color Range dialog, we can then sample an area in the background, in this case this blue, and I can add to that selection by using the Add to Sample eye-dropper icon, or I can hold down the Shift key and simply click around the image, or I can also click in the mask, or for that matter, simply click and drag in order to build up this selection.
I'm just going to go ahead and do that here. Now, while this selection isn't perfect, perhaps it's going to be a good starting point for what we'll need to do. If you notice any problematic area in the image, again just hold down the Shift key and click through the photograph in order to really build that selection up, press the Spacebar key in order to access the Hand tool, and then click and drag to pan through the image. You know what I'm going to do is just move around here a little bit, and try to click on some of these problem areas in order to improve my overall selection. Now, of course, this selection will not be perfect, yet perhaps, a good starting point.
Let's go ahead and click OK. Now one of the problems with this selection right now is that I can see a little bit of the model coming through here in the middle of the image. Well, how then can I improve this particular area of the mask? One of the best ways to improve masks is to view it in a Black and White View mode. To do so, hold down Option or Alt, and then click on your layer mask. Well now at this juncture, I can see that, you know what? This mask is okay. It's a little bit problematic.
How then could I improve this? One of things I could do is grab one of my tools, like I Quick Select, and I can go ahead and click and drag over the subject. And then here, I can grab one of my painting tools, like the Paintbrush, paint with black. I'll go ahead and paint with black at 100%, make my brush a little bit bigger by pressing the right bracket key. I am just going to go ahead and paint over these areas where I notice that the mask wasn't very good. I don't need to paint over too much of the area but just a couple of places where I notice that it needs to be kind of bulked up a little bit.
On the other side of the equation, I can always inverse this selection. Select > Inverse, and now here what I can do is rather than paint with black, I'll paint with white. Press the X key to exchange those two colors, and here I'm just going to go ahead and paint on this background, and this will just ensure that this background is nice and white. You'll notice that I'm not getting too close to my edges, because I want to be careful not to modify those, and so I'm just kind of going away to the far areas of the background, and just painting with white again. Just to sweeten up this mask, tighten things up a little bit.
Well, now that we've done that. Let's navigate to Select and choose Deselect, and then let's go out of this Black and White View here by Option or Alt clicking this particular layer mask. Well, now at this juncture, we have the exact opposite of what we want to have selected. So, what we need to do is click on Invert. Now once we click on Invert, we see that, okay, for the most part, this is a decent starting point. Yet there are a little bit of some problem areas. Let's zoo in a little bit on the image.
Well, one of things I'm noticing is that there is a little bit of the blue background coming into the image. Also, my selection edge is really harsh, and just kind of jagged. I need to clean that up. We can clean this up by navigating to Mask Edge. This will then open up this Refine Mask dialog. One of the first things we might want to do is go to Decontaminate Colors. Now when we select that option and increase this a little bit, you can see that what it's going to do is really remove that blue fringing that we see around here.
Perhaps, you can see it even more clearly around the jewelry here. Press the P key. Here is our before. Let me zoom in, so you can actually see that. Press the P key again, and you see how it's removing that fringing from those edges. Now we'll zoom back out, so we can evaluate these edges. At this juncture, we can also see that these edges are just much too harsh. Let's figure out where we need some softness, where we need some hardness. We can do so by clicking on Smart Radius. Now with Smart Radius, what we're going to do is click and drag this up.
And you're going to see that it's really going to improve the hair. Let me zoom in, and the hair has lots of variants, hard and soft edges. Here is our original, and then there is our after. So, that Smart Radius is really helping things out quite a bit. Next, we'll move to Adjust the Edge. We can soften this up a touch, and then also add some Contrast. One of the things that I find is that Smooth and Contrast, they are kind of partners in crime. They work really well together. And so you want to try to find the combination of these two, where you have that softness, but also you don't completely the loose the edge.
So, just be sure to dial those in appropriately. Now in this case, I'm zooming in, kind of for demo purposes, so you can see the edge. Let's take a look at that. Here is our before and then our after. If you zoom in even closer, again, our before and then our after. This edge is looking much better. Now, of course, we want to evaluate this image at 100%. And here is 100% for this file. And at this juncture, when I look at this edge, it looks really good.
Now, my final option here is how do I want to output this? In other words, what do I want to do with this way that I've refined this mask? Well, you can see that right now, its saying, 'Output this to a new layer with, in a sense, a new layer mask.' I could also output this to a new document, or a new document with a layer mask, or I could simply put this on a new layer. Well, in my case, what I'm going to do is output this to a new layer with a layer mask, and I'll go ahead and click OK. You'll now see that I have two different layers.
Now the nice thing about this is that what I can do then is I can compare these two. So, we'll go ahead and zoom in a little bit, and when we click on that Background layer, or the Underline layer, we can see what the edge used to look like, again zooming in a touch more. Now here's what it looks like on our new layer. There are a few areas that we might want to touch up a little bit. Let's go ahead and click on Mask Edge in order to refine this edge even further. Well, one of the things that I can do, for starters, is click on Smart Radius. I can then increase my radius.
You can see what it did to my hair there, kind of bulking it up a bit. So, in this case we're refining our Mask Edge twice. We can also select this tool here and change our brush size, right or left bracket key. And we can paint over not different areas. And you can see that as I am painting over this different area of the hair, I'm bringing in a little bit more of that hair detail that I lost, that became just a little bit too removed. So, I want to make my way through these edges, and say, 'Hey, Photoshop. Kind of pay attention to these edges up here, and see what you can do to improve them,' and make them even better.' Now, as I build out this hair area and add a little bit of transparency, I have some contaminate color. Well, no problem.
Let's go back to Decontaminate Colors here. That will then take care of that issue. You also may notice that you need to work on your edge a little bit more. Well, again, we can smooth this up just to touch, as needed. I'll go ahead and do that, and a little bit of contrast. And then this time, I'm going to go ahead and output this, once again, to a new layer with mask, just so we can compare all of these different results. Let's click OK. Well, here we have our three options. Let's compare how we did. Clicking off the Eye icon of all of these and then clicking one on at a time, we can see here was our original selection.
It was okay, but actually pretty problematic. Then we improved it in this sense, and we can see that as we turn this one on and off that, it does indeed look a little bit better here, just tightening things up a bit. Then this last layer up here was the one that really just sweetened stuff up. The hair was not quite transparent enough in this context, but this layer was the one that really brought it together. So, if we click on that Background layer, we can see the edge that it added there and then how we've really improved that along the way.
Now the last step with an image like this might be to zoom out, and let's say change that background color that we were talking about. Well, how then could we do that? One of the things that we could do is we could actually take advantage of one of these layers. For example, I'll go ahead and turn on the original model layer. Next, I'm going to hold down the Shift key, and I'll click on this layer mask, which will then in turn, turn on that background, so that I can see the entirety of this layer. Next step: I'll click and target this layer, and then click on the Adjustment layer icon and choose Hue/Saturation, and here I'm just going to simply shift or change that background color.
Now the nice thing about this is that as I make these changes, we can see that the hair has nice transparency. It's actually seen through to this background color, and we can see that in these different ranges of colors, which really are showing us that we have a great mask selection there, and we're able to successfully separate the subject from the background. Now in closing, I want to say that this was a little bit of a complicated movie, yet again, what I'm hoping is that this can give you a glimpse into the power of Refined edge. And in particular, I hope that it can give you a glimpse into how you can integrate this into the skills that you already have in regards to working with masking and selections, because this tool isn't a save-the-day tool. Rather, it's a tool that we can use in order to compliment and extend and enhance what we already know.
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