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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 the Deke McClelland. Welcome to Deke's Techniques! This week I am going to show you how to create a hybrid image, that is, a single photographic composition that appears as two different images depending on your distance from it. For example, this image looks like a full-grown male adult lion when viewed from far away; however, if you take that exact same image and view it up close, it appears as a cute little cuddly cub, and yet they are one and the same.
Here, let me show you exactly how it works. All right, we are going to start things off with this two-layer image. In the background we've got the lion layer, and in front we've got the cub. Now notice that of the two of them the lion layer features the least amount of contrast. If I press Ctrl+L or Command+L on the Mac to bring up the Levels dialog box, you can see that we are missing a whole spate of highlights here, which is actually a good thing. That's going to serve us well. So we want the low-contrast image in back.
We will turn it into the low-frequency image which you can see from far away. I will go ahead and cancel out here. And then you want your higher-contrast image in front. We will turn that into the high- frequency image that you can see close up. So let's take each one of these images and convert them into a Smart Object. So I will click on the lion layer to make it active, I will click on the Layers panel flyout menu, and then I will go ahead and choose Convert to Smart Object, and I'll do that exact same thing to the cub layer. And the reason we are converting each one of these layers to Smart Objects here is so that we can apply Smart Filters to them.
Now with that cub Smart Object selected, I will go up to the Filter menu, choose Other, and then choose the High Pass command. We are looking for a Radius value where this image is concerned, of this resolution, of about eight pixels; however, if you have a higher- resolution image, why then you would want a higher radius value. If you have a lower- resolution image, which is unlikely, by the way, you would go with a lower radius value. Also, it's worth noting, you want to adjust the Radius value depending on how much want to emphasize this foreground image. If you want it to be more noticeable, you take that Radius value up to, say, in our case 12 pixels; if you want it to be less obvious from a distance, for example, then you take the Radius value down to something like 6 pixels.
I am going to go ahead and set it to 8 pixels and click OK in order to accept that modification. Now let's go ahead and merge this high- frequency image with the layer behind it, by going up to the Blend mode pop-up menu and changing it from Normal to Overlay, and we end up with this effect here. Because we have a relatively high- frequency image in the background, we really can't see the cub layer anymore. So we need to take that lion layer, click on it to select it, and turn it into a low-frequency image by going up to the Filter menu, choosing Blur, and then choosing the Gaussian Blur command.
And we want a very high Radius value, 20 pixels in the case of this image. Again, if you're working with a higher- resolution image then you would go with a higher radius value. Now I will click OK in order to accept that change. Now at this point the composition needs more contrast, and we are going to give it more contrast in a couple of passes here. I am going to tidy things up a little bit here inside the Layers panel just to give myself some more room, by right-clicking on each one of these filter masks and choosing the Delete Filter Mask command. That way I will be able to see the Adjustments panel and the Layers panel at the same time here.
Now I am going to click on the cub layer to make it active. We want to increase the contrast specifically of this layer so that we are burning in these high- frequency details a little bit. And I'll do so by pressing the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, clicking the Black/White icon down here at the bottom of the Layers panel, and choosing the Levels command. And I am going to call this layer HF contrast for high-frequency contrast, and then I will turn on the check box Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask so that I am clipping this levels adjustment into the cub layer.
Now I will click OK, and I will go ahead and increase the Black Point value to 50, and then I will decrease the White Point value, this third value right here, to 205, and that's going to increase the contrast of this layer and only this layer. What I notice happening if I go ahead and zoom out here, you can see that we are starting to resolve from the cub into the background lion, but notice that the cub eyes are still showing up a little bit there. In order to diminish that effect-- I will go ahead and zoom back in here-- I am going to add a layer mask to this levels adjustment layer, by clicking on the Add Layer Mask icon down here at the bottom of the panel, and then I will go ahead and select the Brush Tool, which I can get by pressing the B key; make sure that my foreground color is set to black, as it is; and I am going to increase the size my cursor just a little bit so I am working with a 500-pixel brush, as you can see here.
The Hardness is set to 0%. That's very important. Now I will just go ahead and click on each one of these eyes in order to reduce the contrast ever so slightly actually. Now let's increase the contrast of the entire composition by once again pressing the Alt key of the Option key on the Mac, clicking the Black/White icon down here at the bottom of Layers panel, and I will choose the Levels command once again. I am going to rename this layer global, because we'll be affecting the contrast of the overall composition. Click OK. And notice here that we are missing some shadows.
We don't have the nice black shadows that we are looking for. We are also missing some highlights here. If I want to make sure I have an accurate histogram, I will click this little calculate button. And then I am going to go ahead and take the Black Point value up to 10, and I'll tab over to the White Point value, take it down to 215, and then I am going to Shift+Tab back to that Gamma value, and I'll take it down to 0.9. And that is our overall effect. I am going to go ahead and collapse the Adjustments panel so that we can see all of the layers working together. To get a sense of what this image looks like when you see it up close, you want to go ahead and zoom in on the image like so. And clearly we are going to be able to see the cub's face when we are looking closely at the image.
And then if you go ahead and zoom out, you will see the cub gradually fade away into the adult lion. Now the best way to get a sense of what these images look like is to go up to the File menu and choose the Print command, then print your image, take a look at that image closely, and then back away from the image, remove your glasses if you wear them, or go ahead and squint your eyes in order to see the low-frequency image in the background. And that's how you create a hybrid image here inside Photoshop.
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