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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.
Now that you know all of the special tips and tricks for working inside the Curves panel, here inside the Adjustments palette, let's see how we go about actually correcting this elephant. I'm still working right along here, inside High-contrast elephant.jpg. Tell you what, we can either just go ahead and reset our settings by clicking on this Reset button down here next to the Trash Can, in the lower right corner of the Adjustments palette, and that should restore my diagonal line here inside of the Curves panel.
But if you weren't with me in the previous exercise, all you need to do is open this elephant right here. I'm just going to go ahead and Delete this layer, and then by pressing the Backspace key of course or the Delete key on the Mac, and then go to your Adjustments palette and just click here on Curves in order to create that new Curves adjustment layer. Then here's what we're going to do. We're going to start by adding a very light point. We could go ahead and lift it from the image if we wanted to. Make sure that you have the Eyedropper selected if you're going to go that route. Here in the toolbox is where you would select the Eyedropper.
Then you would Ctrl+Click or Command+ Click some place in a light portion of the elephant. I'm going to undo the addition of that point right there. I'm going to recommend that we lift a point from the wall here. So I'm going to Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on the Mac, here inside the wall. That's going to add a point, very high, inside of the graph. Notice for me, the Input and Output values are both 245 right now. They might be something different for you. But I'm going to go ahead and change my Input value to 250 right here.
Now, this is very, very misleading in my opinion. Even though the Input value is listed second here inside of the Adjustments palette, it should be listed first. We should see an Input value mapping to an Output value, that's how it works. So I do not know who in the world decided that Output should be first and Input second, but that's absolutely wrongheaded in my opinion. But I'm going to talk in terms of Input first and Output second, just so you know what I'm up to. Then I'm going to press Shift+Down Arrow to reduce that Output value to 235. So we're mapping what were formerly pixels that had a Brightness value, a Luminance Level of 250, we're now mapping them to a Luminance Level of 235. So we're darkening those colors.
Notice we're sending this graph now on a precipitous decline. We have this sun cliff here, and then we're blacking out a ton of colors. Obviously, we don't want anything like that. So I'm going to go ahead and add another point pretty close. Notice if you get this cursor right there, that looks like a little move cursor, which is what it is, the little four arrow cursor, that means you're going to end up moving the points. So you don't want that if you're going to add another point. You want to make sure that you got the cross, like this, and then you can click, but notice, anytime we move close to the line, it wants to move that point again.
So I've got to move pretty far down right to about there, I can get my cross cursor, and that means I can click to add a point at that location. This time I want the Input Level to be 242, so that means I'm going to have to nudge this point over. I'm doing it from the keyboard. I'm just pressing the Left Arrow key, in my case, a couple of times to move that Input value over to 242. This is all trial and error, folks. I just came up with these values in advance for you, but you could mess around and find out your own values if you wanted to. But I'm going to take that Output value to 219 right there. So we're taking what were formerly pixels with a Luminance Level of 242 and now mapping them to an Output Level of 219. Notice that sends the graph back up. This is, by the way, this luminance curve right here, it's a Spline Curve, just in case you're curious. What that means is every point is redirecting the line in a different direction. So the points act as directional handles, in addition to making the curve go through the point.
All right. So the next point that I want to add; I want something close to the center this time around, so I'm going to go ahead and click around this location, right about there. I want an Input value this time of 146 and I want an Output value of 131 is what I'm looking for. Again, I'm just reading this off this piece of paper that I have in front of me; I just went ahead and did this in advance, so it's pre-baked. Next thing, let's add a point around this location right here. I'm going to move it to an Input value of 54 and an Output of 76 this time around. Isn't this fun watching me change these points? It's even more fun if you're working along with me, if you have access to this file. But if not, you can get a sense of what kind of contributions each one of these points is making to the condition of the colors inside of this animal right here. So you can see it on a fly, as it happens. It's as exciting as watching the paint on an elephant dry.
All right. I'm going to go ahead and add a point. Actually, I'm going to add a couple of points down here, couple of shadow points. Let's go ahead and select this point right there first. I'm going to take it to an Input value of 7 and an Output value of 28. Now, watch what happens, notice how I've got this hump right there in the curve, and it would get worse if I move this guy farther down. What this is called by the way, when you have a curve that's going up-down, up-down like this, that's called an arbitrary map. An arbitrary map will just ruin the appearance of a continuous tone photograph, as we're seeing right here.
The reason that it ruins the appearance of the continuous tone photograph is because any place where we have flattening of the curve; we're going to get grays, these weird gray areas inside of the image. Then of course, if we're going the wrong direction all of a sudden, we're going down when we should be going up, then we're going to have colors reversed and invert inside of the image, and that's just not going to look good. Arbitrary maps can be super useful when you're creating masks; as I explore in my Photoshop Channels and Mask Series, you should check it out, right here on the lynda.com Online Training Library by the way, just hours and hours of material available to you there. But for correcting continuous tone images, I don't recommend arbitrary maps. I recommend that you keep your curve nice and fluid is the idea.
So let's do something about this point right there. He's in a bad position, I think, so let's make him better. I'm going to take the Input value to 15, so move it very close to that other point right there. So we have one Input value at 7 and another at 15, and then I'm going to take this guy up to an Output value of 43. Notice what a nice smooth curve we have now and what a nice gorgeous elephant we have as well. Let me give you a sense of the contribution of this adjustment layer. This is before; this is the image as it originally appeared, with such a black background, notice that, the interior of this pachyderm container or whatever it is, this unfortunate cage back here, is so very, very dark, and with the Curves layer turned on, it is illuminated, and we can see a little bit of that disturbing form back there, but not enough to truly be disturbing, not enough to be as icky as it was before. But we're really bringing in a lot of detail.
By the way, really quickly, in case you're curious here, we have a total of eight points on this curve, which makes this a pretty point intensive curve by the way. If you're curious what those points are, I'll go ahead and move back to the first one here. Notice it starts with Output and Input of 0, and then the next point up, that guy right there, is Input 7, Output 28. Then we go to Input 15, Output 43. Then we have Input 54, Output 76. I'm just repeating this for those of you who may be struggling to keep up here. Input 146 for the next one, Output 131. Of course, I'm discussing them in the opposite order of their listing. The next one is Input 242, we have Output 219. Then we have 250 Input, Output 235, and then finally we have the White Point, which is 255, 255, just locking down the whites there.
The beauty of it is this elephant is in much better condition than he was before, but he is too; she, I'm sorry, I think it's a she, she's too pink, much too pink, she should be more of a grayish color, and this grass should be greener. You'll see. We're going to correct it. But we're going to correct the color cast of the animal now using Channel by Channel modifications here inside of the Curves panel, and we're going to do that in the next exercise.
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