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Photoshop Smart Objects explores the creation and use of Smart Objects, one of the most technically demanding tools in Photoshop. Deke McClelland walks through the four primary purposes of Smart Objects, and focuses on one of their most practical advantages, non-destructive transformations. This feature allows any object to be manipulated in any way, while still maintaining its original pixel information. Finally, Deke shows how to crop compositions without affecting a single pixel, even in masks. Exercise files accompany this course.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.
In this exercise, we are going to create a more elaborate filter mask than anything we have come up with so far. It's going to be based on the contents of the image itself. And that turns out to require a little bit of finessing, as we'll see. I have gone ahead and saved this image as Colors balanced.psd found inside the 06_filter_masks folder. Now what I would like to do, and this is going to sound a little strange but it's going to look great, and you'll see it in just a moment. I want to render his flesh in a kind of woodgrain pattern and I also want him to bring in some of that texture into his collar and in his coat and so forth, and it's going to look like this right here.
The name of this image by the way is Excellent textures.psd found inside that same 06_filter_masks folder. And you can see that we have these interesting grain patterns that are going on right here throughout his flesh. And then we have texture that's not only inside of his flesh tones but also going into his shirt collar and his jacket and so on, and there are some of the grains in his jacket as well. If you take a look at the Layers palette, there is a fair amount of stuff going on here, including this filter mask right here. I went ahead and Alt+clicked or Option+ clicked on that filter mask, and you can see that it's based on the luminance levels inside of the image.
So it's light where the image is light. It's dark where the image is dark. This is what's known as a luminance mask. It's a modified luminance mask, as we'll see. But what it allows us to do is just keep the Mezzotint filter, which we will be applying in a second, which goes and describes that wood grain. It just keeps that filter in the Highlights and not in the Shadows. So white reveals, black conceals, and the gray values are showing the filter to a limited extent. So we are going to see the filter totally inside the Highlights, not at all inside the Shadows.
So let's see how that works. We will switch back to the Colors balanced.psd image, and we do have a Smart Object here. You may recall we have an embedded Smart Object actually. So this is a Smart Object that contains yet another Smart Object. It has Variations applied to it, and I am going to add another filter. I will go up to the Filter menu, and I will choose Pixelate, and I will choose Mezzotint. And Mezzotint is great for creating woodgrain. In my opinion it's better oftentimes-- there's this other command here that's called Fibers that also allows you to create grain like patterns.
But oftentimes, I prefer to go with Mezzotint. You can go your own way. You can try different effects obviously. Anyway, I am going to choose Mezzotint. By default, you are going to see this set to Fine Dots, which produces this little fine dot pattern. Now you can't control which part of the image you are previewing here inside of the dialog box. So we are previewing the bottom of his chin, which I find to be quite helpful. That's excellent. Yes, I can totally see how that would resolve to the rest of the image. What a ridiculous preview. Anyway, I don't use that many different types inside of this dialog box, and I have become pretty familiar with what it can do over the years.
Usually, I'm a big fan of Long Strokes. That's going to be your best. And also, by the way, the Fine options, any time you see Fine or even Medium, you are talking about such tiny little lines and dots that you're probably not going to be able to resolve them out of print. So you are better going with things that say coarse or long inside of this dialog box. Anyway, I am going to go with Long Strokes, and I am going to click OK, and we are going to end up ruining the image like this. So, perfect. Now obviously, what we need to do at this point is we need to apply a little bit of blending to blend the effect in with the original.
So I'll go over here to the little slider icon. Double-click on it to bring up the Blending Options dialog box. You will see the effect shifts a little on screen strangely. And then I'm going to change the mode to Screen so that we are exclusively lightening the image using this grain pattern, and that brings back some of the original image, which is appealing I think. And then I am going to tab down here to the Opacity value and change that value to 50% like so. So just go ahead and produce a 50-50 mix of the effect and the underlying image, subject to the Variations non-filter right there, because each filter builds on top of the last one.
And then click OK in order to accept that effect. Now, at this point I decide you know what, I really just want to relegate this effect to the highlights. I don't want to be affecting the shadow detail. I think it's going to look better that way. But the question is, how do I create a highlight mask, how do I gather that luminance information? One way is to go the Channels palette, but you'll see if you take a look at the red channel, or the green channel, or the blue channel here, that all of the channels are affected by that Mezzotint filter, so we have highlights that are not only associated with the original image, the good highlights for masking purposes, but we also have all these random highlights like in his ear.
That should not be part of our mask. Similarly, if I go back to RGB, switch over to layers again, and then go up to Select menu, this is how we are going to be generating this mask incidentally. We are going to go to the Select menu and choose the Color Range command. If you loaded dekeKeys, you have got a keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+Shift+Alt+O or Command+Shift+Option+O on the Mac, because this is such an extraordinarily great command inside Photoshop. But if I click here in order to select some Highlights, it works a lot like the Magic Wand tool. I will show you more about it in the next exercise.
But if I began to select of the Highlights inside the image, or if I just say you know what, I want to select the highlights. I'll just go ahead and choose that Highlights option. I am not only going to select the bright colors inside the image, but I am also going to select these highlights inside the grain pattern as well. We will see those if I switch the Selection Preview over to grayscale like that. So this is an awfully harsh mask at this point. This is not what I wanted. But you can even see when I'm relegating the Color Range command to just the most highlighty highlights there are, the brightest colors, we're still getting these little wood grain patterns, little Mezzotint lines. So what do I do? Well, I cancel out and I answer that question in the next exercise.
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