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Photoshop is one of the world’s most powerful image editors, and it can be daunting to try to use skillfully. Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced, the second part of the popular and comprehensive series, follows internationally renowned Photoshop guru Deke McClelland as he dives into the workings of Photoshop. He explores such digital-age wonders as the Levels and Curves commands, edge-detection filters, advanced compositing techniques, vector-based text, the Liquify filter, and Camera Raw. Deke also teaches tried-and-true methods for sharpening details, smoothing over wrinkles and imperfections, and enhancing colors without harming the original image. Exercise files accompany the course.
Recommended prerequisite: Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.
All right, now for the wacky technical item associated with transforming images inside of Photoshop, you may recall from our discussion of the Image Size command back in the fundamentals part of this series, whenever you enlarge or reduce an image, Photoshop has to go through and redraw all of the pixels and the question becomes how does it do that, what method does it use to average the former pixels inside of the image to create new ones? And this happens not only when you resize an image but also when you rotate it, when you skew it, when you distort it, what have you, and by default, Photoshop uses bicubic interpolation but you can change that if you want and if you are going to change the interpolation method, you need to change it before you apply the transformation in the first place.
So let me show you what I mean. I have opened this progress document here, Clock face in place.psd. I have slightly modified it in the previous exercise. We went ahead and aligned these two layers with each other. As this Clock parts.tif, which contains of course, the clock face, now I'm going back to retrieve my original clock face, so that I can once again scale it and my clock face remains selected; if your's doesn't, go ahead and reselect it and then press the Ctrl key on the PC or the Command key on the Mac and you are going to need to drag and drop this selection onto the Title tab right there.
Now I want to make something clear about that because I have run into a few users who were a little bit confused about this. You don't just drag and drop. You don't just do that number. That's not going to do you any good. Notice we did not go ahead and drop the clock face into its new background. It's hard to tell that we didn't because we have got this other clock face sitting there, but you will know the difference in just a moment. Anyway, what you have to do is you press the Ctrl key, Command key on the Mac, you drag and you hold on that tab and then you will switch over to the other image and then you move your mouse back in to the image window and then you drop it like so.
All right, so now we have this monstrously large clock face, let's go ahead and call it monster or something like that and the reason I'm doing this is because we are going to come back to it a couple of times. I just want to keep that originally sized face in place here so that we can come back to it when we need it. Then I'll press Ctrl+J, Command+J on a Mac to create a copy of it, let's move it down the stack to this location right there and we will call it Sharper, you will see why in just a moment, and let's turn this guy off, turn off Monster. So we are just looking at sharper in face. Now, what I need to do is I need to repeat the last transformation I have applied which was the scaling operation from a couple of exercises ago. So I need to repeat it but first I need to show you the technical weird thing.
To change the interpolation method that is used by all of the transformations inside of Photoshop, you press Ctrl+K or Command+K on the Mac to bring up the Preferences dialog box and then you change the Image Interpolation method right here, and see that Image Interpolation is set to Bicubic (best for smooth gradients) by default and you may recall the technical aspect of that is that as Photoshop is generating any new pixel inside of a transformed image, that is calculating nine neighboring pixels at a time or a group of nine pixels at a time I should say, eight neighbors.
You can if you want to use nearest neighbor, which is going to use no interpolation whatsoever. It's just going to throw away pixels, which can be good for screen shots and that kind of stuff; anything that you don't want to see get anti-aliased. But that's a pretty rare thing. Bilinear is fairly useless. These guys right here, however, can be useful. For example, let's say that you are doing a lot of web work and you are making your images smaller on a regular basis, much smaller and you want them to be nice and tactile for the web, well Bicubic Sharper can work and in that case, it is best for reduction, in that one unique case. I find that Bicubic is the best setting, for normal circumstances, Bicubic Smoother is best if you have a high noise image, if there is a lot of noise going on, and Bicubic Sharper is best if you have a low noise image and you really want to sharpen up the details.
All right, so let's try Bicubic Sharper, and Click OK and now this is going to be applied to every transformation that we apply from this point on and also if I go to the Image menu and choose the Image Size command, we will see that Bicubic Sharper is in place here as well by default. Now you can change it to something else, but we have now modified this command's default setting, cancel out. So I want to be able to repeat the last transformation I have applied. I want to apply that transformation, that scaling that I have applied to the face layer here, I want to apply it to sharper and so I can do that inside of Photoshop by going to the Edit menu. This is a terrific trick by the way, go to the Edit menu, choose Transform and choose Again or press Ctrl+Shift+T, Command+Shift+T on a Mac.
Now if you are following along with me, please don't do that. The reason is because Transform Again not only repeats the last transformation, it also repeats the last interpolation method. So it's not going do us any good for comparison sake here and instead what I'm going to have you do is choose Free Transform or press Ctrl+T, Command+T on the Mac, in order to enter the Free Transform mode, I'm going to press Ctrl+ 0 or Command+0, to back out, to fit on screen so that I can see my boundary there, my transformation boundary. Now, go to the Edit menu, choose Transform, and choose Again and the brilliant thing about choosing the command when you are in the Free Transform mode is that you can see what you did. Let me show you. So Ctrl+Shift+T, Command+Shift+T on the Mac, is a keyboard shortcut here. So first we do Free Transform, so we are in the mode, then we do Transform Again and now notice we have not applied the transformation, which means we can see our settings.
That's one of the great uses for it. This I do all the time I say, oh, that's what I did, I did 43.2%. Okay, that's good to know because maybe I'm going to be doing some other transformations and I want to come back to that one later, so I'll write that one down. That can be pretty useful sometimes. But also, because you haven't yet applied the transformation, now as soon as you Click that check-mark, or you press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac or what have you, that's when the interpolation is going to get applied. So I'm going to go ahead and apply my transformation right now by Clicking that check mark just for the sake of variety. All right, let's zoom back in there. Now of course, my clock faces are not aligned with each other, check it out. This is the sharper clock face, if I turn it off and there below is the smoother clock face, I would assume, we will see. Anyway, we need to align the two together using that trick I showed you in the previous exercise. So go ahead and turn this dude on. Let's go ahead and select both Sharper and Face together, Click on a Link icon. Now we have all three of these guys linked together and either face or frame are in the proper position. So Click on one of them.
Then go up to the Layer menu, choose Align. God! This so ponderous and then choose Vertical Centers. I hate this. I hate even showing it to you, I hate acknowledging that this is the way you have to work. Go to the Layer menu again, and choose Align, and choose Horizontal Centers, and now the two guys are aligned in place with each other. All right, let's zoom in, so we can see the difference. Right now we are seeing Sharper and can you see, let's zoom in even further, can you see how there is these slight light edges around the number and around all the tick-marks here? So we have dark followed by light, and then followed by sort of medium. That wouldn't be there, if I turn off Sharper, you are not seeing that effect.
So this is normal, now that I have Sharper off, we are seeing normal Bicubic Interpolation applied to the Face layer there versus the more sharpen version, that's a function of Bicubic Sharper, and then you can go ahead and try out Smoother and all the other two in order to get a sense of what the differences are and whether you want to use them on a regular basis or not. Totally up to you. You have got that Monster layer to work with if you want to. I am going to go ahead and turn Sharper off, because I don't want to work with it. By the way, I should tell you, I only use Sharper for final web work. So when I'm creating my final web version of an image, I'll go with sharper, if I'm doing a dinky little like 500 pixels wide image. But otherwise, I just stick with Bicubic Interpolation for most of my work, and it's very important that you reset that, if that's the way you are going to work, Ctrl+K, Command+K on the Mac, to bring back up the Preferences dialog box, go to Image Interpolation and reset it to Bicubic (best for smooth gradients) which of course is a lie, that has nothing to do with gradients but that's okay; Bicubic, Click OK and we are back in business.
I know that was a technical detail, I know that. But I wanted you to be aware of it. Hopefully, you are the smarter happier person for it. In the next exercise, we are going to merge this clock face with this cardinal's face, face on face coming right up.
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