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Deke's Techniques is a collection of short Photoshop and Illustrator projects and creative effects that can be completed in ten minutes or less. The series is taught by computer graphics guru Deke McClelland, and presented in his signature step-by-step style. The intent is to reveal how various Photoshop and Illustrator features can be combined and leveraged in real-world examples so that they can be applied to creative projects right away.
Hi! This is Deke McClelland. Welcome to Deke's Techniques. This week we are going to take this guy right here, who is obviously my twin, and we're going to unsharpen him, because he is just a little bit too tactile I think. And we're going to do that using an Inverted High Pass Filter, set inside of an anti-edge mask. And I know that sounds absolutely backward compared to every sharpening technique out there, because as I say, we are trying to unsharpen him. Here, let me show you. All right! This image from Warren Goldswain of the fotolia image library has been stressed on purpose.
It's over-sharpened with a reason. But let's imagine that we've decided it's in need of a little bit of cosmetic TLC. And we want to unsharpen the image, not blur it, but rather, extract some of the sharpness. And we want to extract that sharpness just inside of the anti-edges. So it's exactly the opposite approach that we would apply when sharpening an image. Here's how it works. For starters, I am going to press Ctrl+Alt+J--Command+Option+J on a Mac--to jump this image to a new layer, and I'm going to call it High Pass because that's the filter we'll be applying initially.
Then I'll click OK. Now, I'll go up to the Filter menu, and I'll choose Other, and I'll choose High Pass. And I'm going to apply a pretty big Radius value of 20 pixels, and basically what's going on with High Pass is it looks for these 20-pixel halos around all the edges inside of the image. It keeps them more or less intact, and everything that falls outside of those halos ends up going to gray, which works beautifully when combined along with the Contrast filter. So I'll go ahead and click OK, and then the filter you usually apply, were we sharpening this image, we would go up to the Blend Mode pop-up menu, and we would change the blend mode from Normal to Overlay and we get this enhanced edge effect here, which is somewhere between a sharpening and a clarity effect.
However, we want exactly the opposite of that. So press the Escape key if you're working on a PC, so that that Blend mode option is no longer active, and then press Ctrl+I--or Command+I on a Mac--to invert that layer, and now notice that we're reversing the sharpness of the image. Problem is, if we just let things go here, we've got a lot of weird little sharp edges left behind as you can see here. So, we have a lot of pockmarks. In order to get rid of those pockmarks, we need to create an anti-edge mask, and here is how that works.
Step number one is to go ahead and turn off that High Pass filter, click on Background and make it active again, and then switch over to the Channels panel. The next step is to grab the green channel and drag it to little Page icon down here at the bottom of the Channels panel in order to create a copy of it. And I am going to go ahead and rename that channel "anti-edge," like so. All right! So the third step is to go up to the Image menu and choose Adjustments and then choose Levels. What we want to do here--I'll go ahead and zoom out a little bit--we want to get rid of all the obvious non-edges inside the image, by which I mean I'm going to go ahead and increase the contrast of the image dramatically.
I'll take the Black point value up to 50, so anything with the Luminance level of 50 or darker is going to become black. And I am going to take the White point value down to 140, which means anything with the Luminance level of 140 or brighter is becoming white, which means we're losing all sorts of detail inside this image, which is exactly what we want. We're not harming the image, after all; we are making a mask. So now go ahead and click OK, and then I am going to grab my Brush tool, which I can get by pressing the B key. I think I have 50% Hardness going on. Indeed, I do.
I just went ahead and right-clicked with the brush to check out my settings here, and this is going to work out beautifully. Now, I want to make sure that white is my foreground color, as it is, and then I am going to paint away the stuff that I do want to sharpen; in other words, these things are not going to be counted as edges. So I want to get rid of any of the blemishes, in other words, inside of the image right upfront. Anything that I leave behind is going to end up being counted as an edge, and therefore it's going to be protected from my Reverse High Pass effect. All right! So this looks pretty darn good to me.
I can always change my mind later, by the way, once we apply this as a layer mask. All right! Step number four: go up to the Filter menu, choose Stylize, and choose Find Edges, which will go ahead and trace all of the edges inside of the image with little, tiny black outlines. Now, they're not thick enough, and I can see that I've got a few other little sort of shnivels going on up here in his forehead, so I'll paint those away, maybe over here in the side and the bridge of his nose as well, down his jaw--do whatever cleanup you want to. Now, these edges are far too thin; I need to thicken them up, and I can do that with step number five: go to the Filter menu, choose Other, and then choose Minimum.
What Minimum means is that you're going to expand the minimum luminance level which is black. Maximum would expand the maximum one, which is white. All right! So go ahead and choose Minimum, and let's take that value up to 3 pixels where this image is concerned. It really depends on resolution of the image, so you'll want to go higher for high-res images, lower for low-res, 3 pixels or so works out very nicely for this one. Remember that value, because it sets in motion the future values. Go ahead and click OK at this point. All right! Now, we're ready for step number six. Go up to the Filter menu, choose Noise, and choose Median, because notice here that we have these big squares all over the place, because we blew up the square pixels.
Well, now we need to round them off, and that's exactly what the Median filter does--especially if you match the exact same value you just applied a moment ago. So I applied 3 pixels worth of Minimum. I follow it up with 3 pixels worth of Median. Click OK. Step number seven, you go up to the Filter menu, you choose Blur, and you choose Gaussian Blur, because these edges are too stiff and rigid right now. And I'll enter twice the last couple of values that I have entered. So instead of 3, I am going to enter 6 pixels. Click OK in order to apply that effect, and we are done. That is an anti-edge mask.
Basically, it's just the reverse of an edge mask, for those of you who have created an edge mask with me in the past. All right! Let's go ahead and load this guy up, by Ctrl+Clicking or Command+Clicking on that channel to load it as a selection outline, switch back to the RGB image, then switch to the Layers panel, turn on that High Pass layer once again, click on it to make it active, and then finally go ahead and express the selection outline as a layer mask by clicking on the Add Layer Mask icon down here at the bottom of the Layers panel, and we end up getting this effect here. I'll zoom in so that you can see things a little more clearly here.
I am going to switch to the Rectangular Marquee tool as well. So if I were to Shift+Click on a layer mask, that will turn it off. So this is what the effect looked like before without an anti-edge mask, and this is what it looks like now: a heck of a lot better. Now, we do still have some rough transitions, at least some very abrupt transitions, between the smooth areas and the unsmooth areas. So what you might want to do at this point is reduce the opacity. I am going to take my Opacity value down to 70% by pressing the 7 key, and I end up getting this effect here.
So if I turn off the layer, you can see this is the before version of the image with these pretty sharp, harsh transitions inside of the skin, and this is the after version of the image. It's a subtle difference; it's not a complete cosmetic alteration. However, it delivers a big bang for the buck because you can pull off those anti-edge masks and this inverted High Pass effect lickety-split here inside Photoshop.
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