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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.
In the previous exercise I showed you static curve editing tricks, by which I mean tricks that work inside of the Static Curves dialog box. In this exercise, I'm going to share with you some dynamic curve editing tricks, and these would work with a Dynamic adjustment layer. So I'm still working in the High- contrast elephant.jpg image. Haven't made any changes to it so far, because I've just been canceling out of dialog boxes. I'm going to go ahead and make sure that I have made my Adjustments palette up on screen, and I'm going to click on the Curves Adjustment. So again, if Levels is failing you, this whole notion that I'm trying to share with you is that, if Brightness/Contrast doesn't work, then you move over to Levels, and if Levels doesn't work, then you move over to Curves. Curves is always going to work, so you needn't bother with Exposure.
I'm going to click on Curves to bring up the Curves panel here inside the Adjustments palette. It's very important when you're working with Curves to make sure that you have the Expanded View of this palette. So make sure it's nice and big like this. You can confirm that you have the Expanded View working for you, if you go up to the palette menu and you check that Expanded View has a check mark in front of it; which it does for me, so that's good. Because you really want to be able to see the entire width of 256 different Luminance Levels. If you can't see that, if you're working in the Small View, like this, then you don't have as much control of your curve, you actually lose control over the process, because you're going to make larger modifications. You missed some Input and Output Levels. It's a terrible thing actually. Really limits your control.
So I'm going to make it bigger, and then I was telling you, how we got the bouncing ball. Remember the bouncing ball that we saw on the previous exercise, how in the world do we get to it? You might think, well, you just move your cursor out of the Adjustments palette and you should get an Eyedropper. Well, you don't. Or you might think, I'll grab one of these Eyedroppers right here; the Black Point Eyedropper right there or the White Point Eyedropper, or you could even try out the Gray Eyedropper, which controls the Mid-tones. But if you do that, notice what happens, if I grab the Black Eyedropper and I click some place inside the image, I say make the color that I click on black. That's really going to make a mess of this elephant. We don't want that.
So I'm going to press Ctrl+Z, Command +Z on the Mac in order to undo that modification. Same with white, it's also going to destroy the image. I'm not very fond of these Eyedroppers in general. They also occur inside of Levels dialog box, incidentally. But I'll just show you how they work. If I click on a color now, it will change that to white, so again that just makes the image that much worse at this point. It does automate the process of course. Notice it has just gone ahead and figured out exactly on a Channel by Channel basis this curve needs to be modified in order to accommodate this Edit that I have requested there. Of course, it's a terrible Edit, so who cares. So I'll press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac to undo that modification.
This one, the Gray Eyedropper is a little more useful, because what it can do, if you get it, then you just click on the color and it will neutralize that color and modify all the colors to compensate. So watch this. If I say gosh, this sort of orangey poo area right there needs to turn gray. Sure enough, Photoshop goes ahead and does it, but it comes at the expense of a lot of other colors inside of the image. Now, if you have a Gray Card, like you've got a Macbeth Card that you've shot inside of your photograph, then you can use this Gray Eyedropper to click on one of the Gray Swatches on the Macbeth Card or your Gray Card or what have you, in order to ensure that you have proper white balance. But unless you have something like that, unless you have an industry standard Gray Card, I do not recommend this tool, because it's very difficult to predict what is going to happen to your image.
So anyway, I'm going to press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac, and I'm going to click on this Eyedropper again to turn it off. So none of these Eyedroppers are the Eyedropper we're looking for. Which is the Eyedropper we're looking for? The Eyedropper tool. This is new to Photoshop CS4. This has not been this way in the past. You've got to go get your Eyedropper tool, and this will allow you to get to the bouncing ball functionality, and it will allow you to lift points; both on a composite and component basis. So go ahead and get that Eyedropper. You can get it of course by pressing the I key, if you like. Well, you'd think you would just drag inside of the image to see the bouncing ball, but notice a complete lack of bouncing ball over here inside the graph. That's because what you've got to do, this is totally top secret hidden thing, and even people who have been using the program for years, it would be no way they know this.
You press and hold the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac, which does not change the Eyedropper to any other tool, so it just keeps it the Eyedropper; so Ctrl on the PC, Command on the Mac, and now drag inside the image, and look at the bouncing ball, there it is over there on the right side of your video, bouncing around inside of the luminance graph. Notice it just went ahead and added a point automatically for me, because I had that Ctrl or Command key down. That's the other way that of course you add a point. It's just the Ctrl+Click inside of a region or Command+click inside of a region, it will add the point to the composite graph here.
If you want to add a point to the RGB components, then you press Ctrl+Shift at the same time or Command+Shift at the same time and click. You're not going to see that point appear here inside the composite view, you're going to have to actually switch over to the Channels, which have the same keyboard shortcuts we saw just a moment ago, in order to see that new point. So there's one of the new points anyway and there's another one and there's the third one. I'm switching between these Channels of course by pressing Alt+3 for Red; that would be Option+3 on the Mac. Alt+4 for Green, that would be Option+4 on the Mac, and Alt+5 for Blue, Option+5 on the Mac.
Let's go back to RGB by pressing of course Alt+2 or Option+2 on the Mac. I say of course for no good reason, because it doesn't make any darn sense, so me saying of course is totally wrong. But anyway, those are our new keyboard shortcuts that we have to work with. What else? Oh, we also have, if I were to just sort of throw a few more points here, we also have the ability to switch between points, just as we saw inside the dialog box. Now everything is the same. So you press the + key to cycle forward through the points, or the - key to cycle backward, like so. Then of course you can also modify the location of the points from the keyboard by pressing the Up and Down and Right and Left Arrow keys, and you can press Shift with an Arrow key for a bigger modification.
One more thing that I forgot to tell you inside the Curves dialog box that works both inside the Curves dialog box and here inside the Adjustments palette is the ability to select multiple points. So for example, if I Shift+Click on points like so, I'm going to select multiple points as I've done here, and then I can drag them around as a clump like so. Or I can go ahead and nudge them from the keyboard if I want to by pressing, for example, the Up Arrow key or the Left Arrow key or what have you.
Now I'm pressing the Right Arrow key. What I want you to notice is now notice that we're seeing 3 and -3. What does that mean? Well, that's the relative modification from where all these points started. So if they started at 0,0, then I have moved them up 3 and over to the left 3 as well, which is presumably going to go ahead and lighten these colors just a little bit, especially as I raise that Output Level, that's always going to end up brightening. All right. So that's everybody there. Those are the secret hidden tricks. Of course, these work by the way when this Point tool is active. That's very important. I'll show you more, more, much more. We'll actually correct this elephant and also demonstrate the behavior of the Target Adjustment tool, which exists both inside the Curves dialog box and here inside the Curves panel of the Adjustments palette, beginning in the next exercise.
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