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Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Advanced, the second part of the popular and comprehensive series, updated for CS5, 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 CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
In this exercise, I'm going to pass along a few tips and tricks for working inside the static Curves dialog box, i.e. it applies static color adjustments inside Photoshop. Then in the next exercise, we'll move on to the dynamic Curves Adjustment layer. I'm still working inside Snowy old barn. tif, and I've gone ahead and chosen the Curves command, added a couple of points in my graph. Now, some of the features inside of Curves are identical to those inside the Levels dialog box. You have the trio of eyedroppers right there. You have the Auto button for applying auto tone, and then you have the Options button for switching to one of the other Auto functions.
You also have a black point triangle and a white point triangle, and they do exactly the same thing. So, you could darken up your shadows with the black point, lighten up your highlights with the white point. If you Alt+Drag or Option+Drag either of those triangles, you're going to preview the clipping. You also have this Show Clipping check box right there. If you turn it on, you'll see the clipping without pressing the Alt or Option key. This is actually pretty darn handy. Anyway, I'm going to turn it off, and I'm going to reset the white point and the black point, because I don't want to be clipping any highlights or shadows inside of this image.
We have more than enough contrast. Now, that does very much like the way it is inside Levels. Here is some stuff that's totally different. We've got these points, notice that we're working with inside the graph, but sometimes it's difficult to figure out how those points map inside the image, which is why you have this eyedropper right here. So, when you move your cursor out of the dialog box, it turns into an eyedropper. Then when you drag inside the image, what I want you to do is watch the Curves graph right here. When you drag inside the image, you'll see this little bouncing ball, and that's showing me exactly how the pixels under my cursor are mapping into the graph.
So, notice when I drag from the sky, which is very bright, into the barn, all of a sudden that ball is going to whip down to the lower left region of the graph. So, that gives you a sense of what kind of luminance levels you're dealing with right here. But you might figure, gosh! It'd be really great to remove all ambiguity and just say, you know what, I want to be able to modify the brightness of this specific area of this slat of wood. So, I want to nail it. You do that by pressing and holding the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac, and clicking at that location.
What that did was it added a point right there inside the graph. So, I'll show you that again, just so that you can see it happen. Notice if I press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac, that point disappeared. So, watch this section of the graph, as soon as you Ctrl+Click or Command+Click, bang! It gets added. So there's no guesswork involved. Now, you also have the option, although, I don't take advantage of it as much inside Curves, just because it's a little bit more difficult to predict. But you can switch from the Composite channel to the Red, Green, and Blue channels as well, so you can modify every single one of the channels independently.
I will show you an example before this chapter is out. You can even add channel-by-channel points if you want to, and the keyboard shortcut in that case, I'm not going to do it, I'll just tell it to you, is Ctrl+Shift+Click out here in the image window or Command+Shift+Click on the Mac. You won't see a point added in the Composite view, but then when you switch to the individual color channels, you'll see a new point on the graph. All right, now notice that the new point is selected here inside of the graph. You can drag it around to a different location if you want, or you can nudge it using the Arrow keys.
If you press the Down Arrow key, notice you're going to reduce the Output level. If you press the Up Arrow key, you're going to increase that Output level. If you press the Right Arrow key, you're going to increase the Input level, and if you press the Left Arrow key, you're going to decrease that Input level. Now you might say, how in the world am I supposed to remember that? Well, you're really just moving the point in that direction, here inside the graph. So, when you press the Right Arrow key, you're moving it to the right, when you press the Left Arrow key, you're moving it to left. That just happens to affect the input value, because you're changing the luminance level that's getting modified, which is Input, and when you're raising and lowering the point, you're changing how it gets modified, and that's Output.
You can move the point in bigger increments as well, if you like, by pressing Shift, along with an Arrow key. So, that's Shift+Right Arrow, this is Shift+Left Arrow and so on. Notice this grid, that's to work inside the graph. If you want to see more gridlines, you can Alt+Click or Option+Click inside the graph, and then if you want to see fewer gridlines, you'll Alt+Click or Option+Click again. One way to select a point in the graph is to just go ahead and click on it, but when you do that, it's very possible that you're going to be a little sloppy about your click and accidentally move the point as you click on it.
If you want to eliminate any possibility of that happening, then you can cycle through the points in the graph using one of two keyboard shortcuts. I just mentioned this because back in the day there was keyboard X, and nowadays there is also keyboard Y, which works inside the Curves Adjustment layer as well. So, the old-school keyboard shortcut is Ctrl+Tab, and that actually cycles you from one point to the next. So, notice, I'm moving from this point to this point, Ctrl+Tab then selects the next point over and so on.
Ctrl+Shift+Tab moves backward. When I say Ctrl+Tab, that same keyboard shortcut works both on the PC and the Mac. The other way to work, and this is the preferred method, because it also works inside the Adjustments panel, also simpler I think, to press the Plus key to move forward through the points and press the Minus key to move backward. Also notice that you can select multiple points inside the graph, so I could Shift+Click and Shift+Click on these two points, and then notice when I drag any one of them, I move all the points together.
You can also go ahead and nudge the points around by pressing the Arrow keys. In this case, I'm pressing Shift along with an Arrow key. Then the final option inside of this dialog box is the Pencil tool right here. So, rather than working away in the Point mode, you can actually draw your own graph. This is sometimes known as an Arbitrary curve. So, if I grab the Pencil tool, and then start dragging around like so, I can draw my own brightness graph; or I can also, by the way, click, and then Shift+Click in order to draw straight lines. Now, if you draw straight lines like that, you may find that you need to go ahead and smooth them off a little bit.
You can do that by clicking on the Smooth button. So, the first click of the Smooth button smoothes a little, if you want to smooth more, you keep clicking away. So, you can click multiple times on this button if you so desire. Another way to work, by the way, and this is pretty cool is to make radical changes like this. So, I'll click in the upper right-hand corner, Shift+Click down here, for example, and then Shift+Click right there. Now, I'm really making a mess of the snow. I'm revealing the fact that there is the sun in the background. There is the sun showing up darker than the sky.
How often does that happen? Now I could resolve some of this wacky noise that's showing up in the background by clicking on the Smooth button. That's going to smooth out the spiky transitions. So, those are the various options that are available to you in the Curves dialog box. We're next going to transition to a Curves Adjustment layer, and then after that, I'll pass along some practical advice for working with this image.
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