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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.
I am still looking at the Natasha.psd file and all we have done to this file is to walk through the layers in this fairly complex composition here and then merge all of the layers on to a single layer at top using Command+Shift+Option+E on the Mac or Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E here on the PC. Now this is a static layer of course, it exactly matches everything below it. So if I were to turn off this eyeball here, we would not see any sort of transformation inside of the image window because it's pixel for pixel identical to the flattened version of the composition below it. But it's also static.
So any modifications I'll make to it if I then turn around and change the layers below it, I would have to re- manufacture this layer. Now if you want something that's more forgiving and more dynamic, then you would want to go ahead and grab all of these layers here, click on one, Shift+Click on another in order to select them all like so and combine them into a smart object. We will be looking at smart objects in the future chapters, just that smart objects are one of the most complicated features inside of Photoshop. So we are going to save them for later. Right now, let's go with the static effect, it is the easier effect to wrap your mind around and to maintain, maintaining smart objects takes a little bit of effort. But we have got the static layer there, great.
Now we are going to create a diffused focus effect using a combination of Gaussian Blur and the Overlay blend mode and you can work in that order if you want to. In other words, applying Gaussian Blur first and apply Overlay second. But if you do, you will find it very difficult to gauge what you are doing inside the Gaussian Blur dialog box. After all, check this out. If I go to the Filter menu, I go to Blur and I choose Gaussian Blur like so, bring out the Gaussian Blur dialog box, the question becomes how much blur do I apply. Do I want to apply just a little bit of blur, just one pixel of blur? At which point I'm already really harming the detail inside the image and I'm not really doing all that much to smooth over any of the blemishes inside the skin tones, right.
So gosh, I guess I need to take it higher. Do I take it to five pixels though? That's a fairly porcelain looking effect at this point, but I'm going to be blending it. Thanks to the Overlay blend mode with the underlying layers, so I'm going to lose some of this smoothness and am I going to lose too much? Should I take it up for example, to 25? I don't know. I have no idea because I can't see what I'm doing. I can just see the opaque blurred layer. I don't want that. Cancel out. So let's go ahead and apply the blend mode in advance, even though it won't look right initially. So you go up here to the word Normal, in the upper left corner of the Layers palette and that's your Blend Mode pop-up menu, go ahead and click on it and choose the first of the contrast modes, Overlay. Now this is a good place to start.
Normally, it is the mode you want to work with. If later, you decide you want to back off the effect and just try something different, then Soft Light is the other mode to try. The rest of the contrast modes are unlikely to do what you want them to do. So it's going to be between Overlay and Soft Light for this image and most images, it's going to be Overlay. So I'm going to choose the Overlay blend mode. Notice that creates a very high contrast effect and if anything it brings out more of the skin stuff that we are trying to get rid of. So it doesn't seem like it's the right approach quite yet. But that's because we now need to go ahead and blur it and we are going to blur it now of course, by going back to the Filter menu, choosing Blur and choosing Gaussian Blur or pressing Shift+F7, if you load a Deke Keys and now we can see Radius of 1 pixel barely makes any difference at all and if I take it up to 5 pixels, that actually looks pretty darn and good, but it might not be the degree of blurriness that we want and I want a little more bounce off this image.
So I'm going to try 20 pixels on her and see how it looks and that ends up giving me what I want anyway out of this diffused focused effect. You can try at a different radius value if you like, sometimes less ends up equaling more like I could take this value down to 10 and I might end up getting a better effect, something that I like better. But there is not really going to be an issue of removing more detail at higher values now that we have applied the Overlay blend mode. It's more about what degree of blurriness do we have, what degree of shine do we have going on inside the highlights and what degree of bounce do we have going on inside of the shadows.
So anyways, that looks good to me and you can see if I click on this eye, it bears no relationship to the opaque version of the blur effect, which we are seeing here inside the dialog box. So we are still able to track the opaque version if we want to here and then we would see the blended version out here in the image window. All right, anyway I'll click OK. In other words, we needed to see that image window preview, don't you know? Now you can reduce the opacity if you feel like you have gone too far. The only thing I'm uncomfortable with is the fact that we have too much contrast going on. So this before, and this is after.
So the colors are now officially over saturated. We are losing detail inside the highlights, we are losing detail inside the shadows. For example, check out her hair before, she has a lot more shine and detail going on inside the hair before we added this layer and now it's pretty much going black on us in most locations and we are losing some detail in this area as well and the highlights are just popping way too much across her face. We are losing that wonderful volumetric detail that we had before. So what do we do? Well, you go ahead and reduce the contrast of this all merged layer right here, just to keep it live and flexible, I'm going to suggest you do it with an adjustment layer. So let's go to the Adjustments palette right here and I'm going to go to the Levels command and we are going to use Output Levels, those exact functions that I told you really weren't that good back in Chapter 13 and a couple of chapters ago, telling you they are not very useful for reducing the contrast of an image.
Well, they aren't except when you are reducing the contrast of an independent layer that you are then going to turn around and blend with other layers, then it can be pretty helpful. So here is what we are going to do, I want you to Alt+Click or Option+Click on the little Levels icon right there in order to bring up the New Layer dialog box, and let's go ahead and call this reduce contrast or something along those lines and turn on this check-box, Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask. What that will do is limit the adjustment layer to just this one layer right here, just to the all merge layer and then those two layers will be blended together using the Overlay blend mode because otherwise you would ruin the entire overall image. All right, so click OK and I want you to change this Output Levels value there to 50 and then tab over to the second Output Levels value, which is the white point value, and change it to 205, which is 255-50.
So we are increasing the black point by 50, we are reducing the white point by 50. Then we end up getting this lower contrast effect right here which still looks really darn and good. Now, I'm going to go ahead and hide my Adjustments palette for a moment here, so I can focus on the Layers palette then notice that is it goes ahead and reduces the contrast of the entire image and you can see that's not what we want, that's exactly why I was telling you Output Levels are no good because when you apply them to a flat image, they end up producing this effect here.
However, if it clipped to just this layer, I'll go ahead and Alt+Click or Option+Click once again in order to clip it. Then it creates a very favorable effect because it's reducing the contrast of all merge before Overlay is applied to the layers below and now we can get a sense of what this layer has produced for us, this is the image before at this layer here. So it's a pretty subtle effect and this is the image after the application of this layer. So it still leaves a lot of good detail inside the image and it leaves the good signs of aging in my opinion. In other words, you wouldn't want to have no wrinkles whatsoever. So this way you still have all that wisdom, you just smooth over some of the stuff you don't want. It's basically the idea. This is not quite it though. This is great for your normal everyday average image. But where Captain Kirk specifically is concerned, we need another application of blur because we haven't gone far enough, we still need the blurs to pop more because whenever he fell in love, it really went blurry for him, so we'll do one more application of Gaussian Blur and we need to add some Film Grain because that was old school TV and they used film to shoot that show and I'm going to show you how to do both effects in the next exercise.
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