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Photoshop is the tool of choice for most creative professionals and has quickly become household name synonymous with computer art and image manipulation. In Photoshop CS3 One-on-One: Beyond the Basics, internationally renowned Photoshop guru Deke McClelland teaches such digital-age wonders as masking, filters, layers, blend modes, Liquify, Vanishing Point, and vector-based type. Along the way, Deke also teaches tried-and-true methods for sharpening details, smoothing over wrinkles and imperfections, trimming away jowls and fat, and wrapping one image around the surface of another. Plus, the training teaches how to construct and organize the elements in a composition so you can edit them easily in the future. Exercise files accompany the tutorial.
Ready for more Photoshop CS3 training with Deke? Check out Photoshop CS3 One-on-One: Advanced Techniques.
Note: Photoshop CS3 One-on-One: The Essentials is a recommended prerequisite to Photoshop CS3 One-on-One: Beyond the Basics.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.
Alright I have been throwing a ton of masking and compositing techniques your way it's almost done though and it's all for a good cause. We are trying to achieve the most realistic composition possible. And we are going to do just that in this exercise we are going to modify the selected portion of the layer mask in order to ensure that we have nice soft transitions down here in the low focus portion of the hair detail while retaining nice sharp transitions up here in the high focus areas.
Now you may recall we had just visited the Quick Mask mode and I am going to go ahead and press the Q key to reinsert ourselves into the Quick Mask mode here so that we are seeing the mask version of the selection outline and I had drawn a dark to light gradient here a black to white gradient inside the Quick Mask mode. Then when you press the Q key to escape that Quick Mask mode it converts it into a marching and style selection but we still have the soft transition at the top. Alright I want you to click on the Layer Mask thumbnail here inside the Layers palette.
Let us now set about softening the bottom portion of this Layer Mask. For starters I want you to go to the Filter menu I want you to choose the Blur command and I want you to choose this guy right here Gaussian Blur. Now I have already taken the time to enter the correct setting the setting I want you to enter which is a radius value of 30 pixels so we are going to do an whole lot of softening and go ahead once you have entered a radius of 30 you don't have to say 30 point like I have on screen just 30 is fine then click OK in order to apply that modification and notice the difference.
I am going to zoom in here a little bit. This is before we blurred that layer mask this is after and we have done a tremendous job of getting rid of those dark halos that edge fringing that we had a moment ago. But in its place we have somewhat I would say unnaturally soft edges because we can see this top of the desert this ridge here going into the translucent portion of the hair. Let's try to tighten that up just a little bit. We are not going to get to rid of all that translucency just a little bit of it by pressing Ctrl+L or Command+L on the Mac in order to bring up the level dialog box.
And I am going to increase the black level here to 50 so I am saying anything with a brightness level a 50 or darker inside the layer mask is going to go black. And that moves, notice that moves the edge inward a little bit so I will show you what's happening there. The more I drag the more we are moving that edge inward. And if I don't want to do that if I want to move it outward a little bit then I would drag the black slider triangle to the left instead I could also move the white triangle to the left in order to bolster that edge notice that.
But I don't want to take it that far because that reintroduces the dark fringing that we had a moment ago. So I will just take this value down ever so slightly just 10 luminance levels to 245 so I have got 50 for black 245 for white 1.0 for gamma I didn't change the gamma value and I clicked OK in order to accept that modification. So that takes care of the softening that I want to apply to the hair detail. There is one problem however you may notice in this composition I am going to go ahead and press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac to deselect that region of the image.
Isn't it peculiar that the hair at the top of the image is in high focus and in this large region of hair toward the bottom of the image is out of focus and then somehow the background is back in focus again? Cameras don't work that way. You can't have multiple levels of focus inside of an image. Now you can if you want to. I should say it's your art work you can do whatever the heck you want with it. You can violate any rule you like but if we are going for realism then this background also needs to be out of focus so I am going to click on the background layer at the bottom of the layer stack here then I am going to go up to the Filter menu.
I am going to choose Blur and this time instead of choosing Gaussian Blur which is a relatively simple blur function I am going to choose this more elaborate blur function which stimulates the effect you get when you are actually shooting an image out of focus and it's called Lens Blur. Go ahead and choose that command now there is a ton of sliders I am not going to walk you through how this command works right now. You can set your iris shape to anything you want to I don't care what you said blade curvature and rotation to. Brightness should be 0 threshold should be 255 noise should be set to 0 but the value I am really concerned about is this guy right here radius.
I want you to set the radius to 30 and then once you have done that go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification and we now have a blurry background combined with some blurry hair detail toward the bottom of this portrait shot and of course this high focus hair detail at the top of the shot. I am going to go and zoom in here so we can evaluate some of this information. Now we do have some nice soft edges toward the bottom of the hair a little bit of fringing going on in this region and this region too.
But we have to choose our battles when we are compositing one image against a new background, not everything is going to go totally right especially when the images were shot under such different conditions. But now I am going to scroll toward the top so we can see the just absolute wonderfulness of these individual strands of hair and let's see what a difference this middle lightness layer makes. This is without the middle lightness layer this is with it. Can you see what a difference that makes? How integral that lightness layer is to the entire composition? Just absolutely amazing the power of masks in compositing here inside Photoshop.
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