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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. Now I am so excited because I just finished work on my Photoshop Masking & Compositing: Fundamentals course, which is available right now inside the lynda.com Online Training Library. During my discussion of the Color Range command, which is this insanely useful selection feature inside Photoshop, we end up creating this sky-shark composition. Now, it's technically impeccable, but compositionally, I knew something was missing, and I finally figured out that what was missing was a rainbow. Not a fakey rainbow like this one-- although this is part of the process--but a photorealistic, albeit synthetic, rainbow, like this one right here.
Here, let me show you exactly how it works. Here is my sky-shark composition with the rainbow visible in the background. We're going to be recreating that rainbow, so I am going to click on the rainbow layer here inside the Layers panel and press the Backspace key, or the Delete key on the Mac, to get rid of it. I'm also going to turn off the shark group so that we can focus exclusively on the rainbow and its relationship to the background. With the Background layer selected, I'll press Ctrl+Shift+N, or Command+Shift+N on a Mac, to bring up the New Layer dialog box. I'll call this layer rainbow and click OK.
Now then, I want to create a rectangular marquee that's the entire width of the image, and I also want it to be about 190 pixels tall. And so the easiest way to create such a marquee is to dial in those values. I am going to drop down to this little Doc option down here in the bottom-left corner of the window, and I'll click on it to see the dimensions of my image. And I can see here that the Width of my canvas is 1840 pixels. So, with the Rectangular Marquee tool selected, I'll go up to the Style option here in the Options bar and change it to Fixed Size, and then I'll dial in a Width value of 1840, which is the width of the image, then Tab over to the Height value and change that to 190. And you may wonder "well, why a 190 Deke?" Well, it just happens to work well for this specific composition.
Now, I am going to click inside the image, anywhere, in order to create that rectangular marquee, and we're going to fill that marquee with a rainbow gradient that I've created for you in advance. So go ahead and grab the Gradient tool, which you can get by pressing the G key. Then click the down-pointing arrowhead. And you'll notice among the list of the default gradients there is one that's called Transparent Rainbow, and it's very close to what we want, but not exactly. So I tweaked it, and I came up with this alternate rainbow effect. Go ahead and click on the right- pointing arrowhead and then choose the Load Gradients command. And I'm going to go ahead and grab this Rainbow colors.grd file and click on the Load button to open it on up.
Now let's go ahead and select that Rainbow colors gradient, and now let me show you what's going on with it, by clicking in this Gradient bar up here in the Options bar. That will bring up the Gradient Editor dialog box. So here is the difference, folks. If you take a look at the Transparent Rainbow, which is the one that ships along with Photoshop, notice it has just six colors: red, yellow, green--then we have this very bright cyan. I've never seen a cyan like this in a rainbow. Then we've got blue, and we have a very bright magenta--again, unlike any rainbow that I've ever actually seen.
So the changes I made, just to give you a sense--for those of you who don't have access to this GRD file, you can make your own based on this one right here. But what you would do is go ahead and space the colors out a little more. Add orange because you do actually see orange inside of a rainbow. I also went ahead and added a violet toward the end of the gradient. And you may also notice that I dimmed down the cyan and the magenta. So if I double-click on that little cyan color stop, you'll see that I took the Brightness down to 80%, whereas the Brightness of cyan inside the Adobe version of the rainbow is 100%.
So, just to give you a sense of what I did. Anyway I am going to cancel out of here. Cancel out of this dialog box as well. With my custom rainbow colors gradient selected, I'll go ahead and draw inside of my Rectangular Marquee from the top to the bottom. I am pressing the Shift key as well, to constrain the angle of my gradient to exactly vertical, and I end up with this effect here. Now you can press Ctrl+D, or Command+D on a Mac, to deselect the image, and we are now going to bend the rainbow. And the best way to do that, if you want to achieve flexible results so you can change your mind later, is to convert this rainbow layer to a Smart Object.
So I am going to click on the Layers panel flyout menu icon right there, and then I'll choose Convert to Smart Object. And what that does is it places the rainbow gradient inside a protective container, and now we can transform and warp it as much as we want. All right! I am going to switch back to the Rectangular Marquee tool, just to get rid of that ghostbuster's cursor. And now I'll go up to the Edit menu and choose Free Transform, or you can press Ctrl+T, or Command+T on the Mac. We are going to start things off here by warping the heck out of his gradient. So click on the Warp icon up here in the Options bar, then change the Warp option from Custom to Arc. And finally, I want you to change the Bend value to 90 degrees so we get an incredibly arching rainbow, like the one you see here.
Now I am going to drag it into a better position, so we can see what we are doing. I'll go ahead and zoom back in. I want to scale this rainbow a little bit, so I am going to click on the Warp icon to leave the Warp mode and switch back to the Free Transform controls. Turn on the Link icon between the W and H options here, and change the Width value to 70%--ends up working out quite nicely. I also have a specific position in mind for this rainbow. So if you're working inside your own composition, this won't matter; but if you're working inside mine, then you would click the upper-left point here in this little reference point matrix on the far left side of the options bar and change the X value to 450 and then change the Y value to 98 and then press the Enter key, or the Return key on a Mac, in order to position that rainbow.
And, by the way, those coordinate X and Y values that I just gave you, those are in pixels, not inches or centimeters or any of that. Now at this point we need to mask the rainbow so that it's appearing strictly in the sky and not descending down into the grass. I am going to create this mask by first turning off the rainbow layer and then going up to the Select menu and choosing the Color Range command. My Fuzziness value is set to 40, as by default. The Localized Color Clusters check box is turned off. I'm going to click somewhere inside the bright portion of this grass, and then I am going to Shift+Drag along the entire top of that grass formation, and a little bit down as well--just to make sure that I'm selecting as many of these bright grass colors as possible.
You should end up with a mask that looks something like this. The white areas of this mask preview inside the dialog box represent the areas of the image that will be selected. The black regions will be deselected. Go ahead and click OK in order to create that selection outline. Then turn the rainbow layer back on and make sure it's selected, and then drop down to the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of Layers panel and Alt+Click or Option+Click on it. So, Alt+Click on it on the PC, Option+Click on the Mac, and that will mask away that selected region. All right! I am going to zoom in here, so that we can take in the grass.
Notice that it's a little sharp. I'll zoom in one more click, so you can see it. It's a little sharply focused, a little too jagged. So with that layer mask selected, I'll go up to the Filter menu, choose Blur, and then choose Gaussian Blur. And I'm going to change that Radius value to 0.3 pixels, so just a little bit of blur does the trick. Then click OK. Now, I am going to go ahead and zoom back out. And we want to actually blur the rainbow-- it shouldn't be this sharply focused-- so I'll click on the Smart Object thumbnail--very important--so that we are modifying the rainbow and not its mask, and then go back to the Filter menu and choose that very first command Gaussian Blur. Or you can just press Ctrl+F or Command+F on a Mac.
Because we're working with a Smart Object, Photoshop forces the display of the Gaussian Blur dialog box. Go ahead and change that Radius value to 14 pixels this time around, so a lot of blur action, and click OK to accept the effect. Now our rainbow at this point is too opaque. We need to blend it in with the background. You do that by changing the Blend mode from Normal to Linear Light. That's your best bet, in my experience. That will create a very garish effect, as you are seeing here; however, you can mitigate it tremendously by reducing the Fill Opacity value.
So change that Fill value from 100% to 15% like so, and you end up getting this very diffuse, and I think credible, rainbow effect. All right! The shark is a little bit incredible, but let's go ahead and throw him back into the scene. And I am going to turn on my text elements as well. All right! Now I am going to press the F key a couple of times in order to switch to the Full Screen mode, and here is the final version of the composition with my taciturn, enigmatic sky-shark backed up by a bright, happy, beautiful rainbow, here inside Photoshop.
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