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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.
Hey gang! This is Deke McClelland. Welcome to Deke's Techniques! This week we're going to take the black stripes on this juvenile zebra right here and we are going to infuse them with color. We're going to create a red-green-blue zebra, or what I like to call an RGBZ, or for my British friends who are having problems understanding me, an RGB Zed. Here, let me show you exactly how it works. All right gang! Let's get started assigning colors to the stripes on a zebra.
We're looking at an image by this guy right here. His name appears in the lower-right corner of the window, because I didn't want to mangle it by actually trying to pronounce it. He is with the Fotolia Image Library, about which you can learn more at fotolia.com/deke. If you turn on the masked layer, you will see the colors that we're about to assign to the zebra, and you can see that the colors are nicely integrated into the actual photograph. So let's see how it's put together. Go ahead and turn off the masked layer for now. Also turn off that Type layer, just so it doesn't get in our way, and turn on the colors layer.
I'm going to go ahead and scroll up so we can see what's going on here. What I did was I selected regions using the Polygonal Lasso tool and then filled them alternately with shades of red, green, and blue. And just because that took a while-- it was fairly tedious--I thought I do that for you in advance. So we'll be coming back to that layer, but first of all, we've got to mask it. So you've got to turn the layer off so that we can select the stripes using the Color Range command, and here's how we're going to work. Make sure that the foreground color is black. If it isn't, tap the D key to access your default colors, because the Color Range command by default will always try to select the foreground color, and that's exactly what we want.
Now, I'll go up to the Select menu and choose the Color Range command. I want you to very simply--this is going to be one of the easiest selections you've ever created in your life-- I want you to crank that Fuzziness value up to 200, and that is it. Go ahead and click OK, and you will select all of the stripes inside of the image. Now turn on the colors layer and then click on it to make it active, and then drop down to the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of Layers panel and click on it in order to mask the colors inside the stripes. Now, all is not perfect, okay, and part of the problem is that if you look very closely at these stripes here, you can see that we're dropping out colors inside various regions, and that's just no good.
So we need to modify this mask. If you were to Alt+Click or Option+ Click on the Layer Mask icon right there to take a look at the mask independently of the rest of the image, everything that is white--and this is a little bit confusing-- but that everything that appears white inside this mask is actually black inside of the zebra image, because we're selecting the black stripes. However, it's not white enough, because we're not selecting enough of those stripes. So what I want you to do is go up to the Image menu and choose the Adjustments command and then choose Levels.
We're going to increase the contrast of this mask dramatically by taking this White point value down to 30. So we're taking any gray value inside this mask with a Luminance level of 30 or brighter and turning it absolutely white. So we're clipping colors like crazy, but that's exactly what we want to do. We want to make sure that we're coloring every single bit of these stripes that we can. The non-stripes are nicely protected, so you don't have to adjust the Black value. You just go ahead and change the White value to 30 and click OK, and then Alt+Click or Option+Click on the Mask Icon once again to return to the full-color image, and you will see this.
Now obviously we're over- coloring the stripes at this point. So I'm going to go ahead and center the view here and then zoom back in. What we need to do is mitigate things using a blend mode. Now there's a variety of different ways you might work, and it really depends on your image. Now obviously, I'm not sharing this technique with you because I think you have a burning desire to change the colors of a zebra. You might want to change the colors of any dark objects, and you'll need to fool around with the blend modes to figure out what's best. You might try Screen. If the stripes are very, very dark, Screen would work for you.
In our case, the stripes aren't dark enough and we end up with very, very bright stripes as a result. That's no good. If the stripes were fairly light then you could infuse them with color by choosing Multiply instead. In our case, our stripes are too dark to handle that. Another option would be sort of the middle zone. You could try Overlay instead, and you could end up with some very vivid colors as a result. However, the route I'm going to go is straight old Color. We're just going to colorize those stripes by choosing the Color Blend mode, and we'll achieve this effect right here.
Now, you might look at this, and say, "Gosh, Deke! This isn't looking very good, especially, these spikes in the creature's mane. We don't have very much in the way of natural transitions." Well, we're going to take a couple of approaches to that. First of all, we're going to exclude some Luminance levels using that Underlying Layer slider bar, and then we're going to set about hand modifying the mask. So go ahead and double-click in an empty region of this layer, either above or below or to the side of the word Colors to bring up the Layer Style dialog box, and then I'm going to move this over a little bit, so I can see what I'm doing.
And notice if I drag this White slider for Underlying Layer, if I drag it over to the left, then what I'm doing is I'm forcing through the brightest colors from the underlying layers, so that we're not covering up so much of the stripe detail. Well, that's all very well and good. I'm going too far obviously with my modification. Even if I choose something in the middle here, I end up with some very jagged transitions. So I have to Alt+Drag, or Option+Drag, the slider triangle in half, and I'm going to Alt+Drag the right side of the triangle to a value of 188.
And then I can release the Alt key, the Option key on the Mac, and drag the left half of the slider triangle over to, let's say about 70 should work out pretty well. So between 0 and 70, then the Luminance levels and the underlying layers get covered up. Between 70 and 180 there's a slow gradual drop-off, and 180 and brighter forces its way through, and we end up with this effect here. All right! It's looking good, with the exception of the fact of course that I was coloring in areas using the Polygonal Lasso tool.
I could have painted the stripes I suppose, if I wanted to drive myself absolutely nuts and spend the rest my life on this project. Instead, it's a lot easier just to go in and hand paint that mask. So I'm going to scroll up inside the image. We'll deal with the mane first. I'll grab my Brush tool, which I can get by pressing the B key. Make sure that black is your foreground color, and by the way, make sure the layer mask is selected. Right now, it's not, so I'd be painting inside the zebra. That would be an absolute disaster. So click on the layer mask thumbnail to make it active. Black is still my foreground color.
If it isn't for you, press the X key to switch the colors around. I need the Opacity value to be 100%, so I'll press the 0 key to raise it to 100, and then I'm going to right-click inside the image. I'm going to take that Size value up to about 250. The Hardness value should be 0%, so that's good. And then I'll press the Enter key a couple of times in order to hide that pop-up panel. I'm going to paint pretty close to the scalp, where the front portion of this mane is concerned, and you want to make sure to paint away any colors that are appearing up here in this area where I'm wiggling the cursor. All right! Now, let's switch over to left portion of the mane.
And in this area, you can leave some colors showing like so, because we've got a lot of mane to work with. But once the mane starts getting closely cropped again, as on the animal's back, then you need to paint closer into the mane. You'll end up with an effect like this one, which I think looks reasonably good. Now, let's try the same thing out for the snout. It doesn't want to be sort of this weird shade of red with just a little bit of green and blue poking through, so I'll just paint some of the snout away. I might reduce the size my cursor by pressing the Left Bracket key a few times and paint the muzzle.
Then I want to reduce the size of my cursor even more. I'll zoom in to this detail. I want to paint just slightly around the eyes, so the colors drift into the eyes. And it's kind of cheating is basically what I'm doing. I don't have the patience in order to create a rainbow effect inside the snout, so I might as well just let it drift to black. Totally up to you if you decide to work this way or not, whether you're on a deadline, or you decide you have all the time in the world to work on the image. It's up to you. All right! Now I need to paint away some of these details along the bottom of the animal's head and along the front of the neck.
And for that, I need a Hard Brush, so I'm going to right-click inside the image window to bring up this pop-up panel. I'll reduce the Size to about 50 pixels, increase the Hardness value to 100%, press the Enter key a couple of times, Return key on the Mac, in order to accept that modification. Then I'm just going to click and then sort of Shift+Click along the bottom of the animal's face, and the Shift+Click allows me to connect one point to another. Now once I get very close to the neck, I'm going to have to reduce the size of my cursor further by pressing the Left Bracket key a few times, and I'll click right about there.
Then I'll Shift+Click like so to get that mask line started. And I'll increase the size of my cursor, click right about there, Shift+Click, Shift+Click like so, right on down the animal. If you click in too far, you can switch the color to white and paint back in some details. Then I'll go ahead and click here, Shift+ Click, Shift+Click, and Shift+Click my way down. Now if you ask me, those transitions are way too harsh, and here's how I suggest we deal with that. Actually, it looks like I could have come in further right about there. No, no, I had it right in the first place.
I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Alt+Z, Command+Option+Z on the Mac, a couple of times in row to restore that jaw. All right! Here's what I'm going to have you do. Right-click inside the image window, and let's go ahead and increase the cursor to, I don't know, about let's say 70 pixels might work out, decrease the Hardness value back to 0, press the Enter key a couple of times, Return key a couple of times on the Mac, in order to hide that panel, and then I want you to press the 5 key to reduce the Opacity value up here in the Options bar to 50%. We're just going to paint along the bottom here.
You don't have to click and Shift+Click. You don't have to be that careful is what it comes down to. Just go ahead and paint along these edges in order to create sort of a fading transition. And then if you feel like you need to paint a second time, go for it, just paint to taste. Thanks to the fact that we've reduced the Opacity value to 50%, we have a lot of flexibility, and a lot of wiggle room as well. All right! That's all there is to it. I'm going to press Ctrl+0 or Command+0 to center my image, and then Ctrl+Plus, Command+Plus on the Mac, a couple of times to zoom back in. All right! We're finished! There are your colorful stripes, thanks to a combination of the Color Range command, a blend mode, some advanced blending in the form of that Underlying Layer slider, and finally, hand masking, just a bit of hand painting here inside Photoshop.
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