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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 explain how you use the Radius value here inside the Edge Detection area because it is something altogether unique to the Refine Edge or Refine Mask dialog box. Now, just for the sake of demonstration, I've gone ahead and apply the Feather value of 42 pixels because Feather like Radius is measured in pixels and also is measured as a Radius value. In the case of Feather, we are blurring the selection outward 42 pixels and inward 42 pixels as well, and that blur is evenly distributed so we get essentially a fuzzy selection outline.
That's not even sort of what I want; I want a nice crisp clean selection outline. So I'll reduce that Feather value to 0 pixels. But what happens if we increase the Radius value to that exact same 42 pixels and press the Tab key. Well, we might look at the results and think that this is some sort of smart blurring that is going on that the Refine Mask command is looking at these details. It's going ahead and applying some sort of 42 pixel blur to the hair detail so that we get better looking results, and that's not what's happening at all.
Instead, what you're doing is you are creating an avenue around the selection outline that's 42 pixels thick in one direction and 42 pixels thick in the other direction. So altogether in our case, it's about 84 pixels thick. This is an area in which the Refine Edge or Refine Mask command can basically redefine the mask inside of this avenue or channel that we've created. If we want to see what this avenue looks like then go ahead and turn on the Show Radius check box, and there it is right there. Now, I don't want to see this radius against a white background.
I want to see it against the original image. So, I am going to go ahead and change my view to Reveal layer, which I can also get by pressing the R key. All right, now everything that's black is outside of the radius and everything inside of the radius is appearing as that original layer. So, we can see that this 42-pixel radius that we have set up includes most, but not quite all of the hairs so we are not going outward or inward far enough at this point. It includes more than enough of the knuckles, and it includes more than enough of the edge of this sweater as well.
I am going to take that value up to 70 pixels, and this was just a trial and error value I came up with. Then press the Tab key in order to invoke the preview here. Notice that we our incorporating many more of the hairs at this point; we are also opening up the radius value so it's too big around the knuckles and the sweater. Now, why could that potentially be a problem? Well, what can end up happening and is happening to a certain extent where this image is concerned is this big radius value is opening things up so the Refine Mask command can look at those hairs, and it can reevaluate every single strand of hair which is a good thing.
However, once we come into this knuckle region and remember that we just had a few little jagged pixels around the knuckles and around the sweater details as well. They weren't 72 pixels in either directions so 140 pixels of thickness and all; they were just a couple of three pixels thick if even that. Because we given them too much room to work there, what can happen is that the Refine Mask command can end up making the knuckles or the sweater details translucent so that we see through them. That's actually happening in the case of this selection outline.
If I turn off Show Radius for a moment and we set the image against the Black background, then you can see back here inside of the sweater details, notice that certain curves of the sweater are turning translucent. So, we are actually seeing through them to whatever background we might establish, and that's not good. Anyway, I am going to you switch this guy back to Reveal layer for a moment and turn on Show Radius again so we can see what the solution looks like. It's this check box right there Smart Radius. The Smart Radius goes through inside of this radius value that you've established inside of this channel.
It goes ahead and reestablishes the width of the channel in order to accommodate all of the details that it finds. So, it's going to keep the channel pretty thick around the hair, and then it's going to make it much thinner around the tight details like the knuckle and the edge of the sweater. So, watch what happens when I turn on the Smart Radius check box; it goes ahead and reevaluates the size of that radius automatically. So, we still have a thick radius around the hair in which the Refine Mask command can do its thing. Then when it comes to the knuckles it knows that it needs to keep things pretty tight so it's not going to establish these huge areas of translucency around those edges, which is a great thing.
So, anytime you've got smooth details and soft details working together, or you've got simple edges, and then you have very busy edges working together, then the Smart Radius check box can really be your pal. If your image element is comprised exclusively of smooth edges, however, or you're just selecting hair edges and nothing else so you don't have any variation back and forth, then think about turning the Smart Radius check box back off, because in that case it just introduces an unnecessary level of complexity, and it can also mess things up.
Anyway, for our purposes this check box on, and the Radius value is set to 70 pixels works out brilliantly. To just see how brilliantly, I am going to switch back to On White, and I'm going to turn off the Show Radius check box so that we can see what we've done so far. Now, things are better so far, and we can check our progress by turning on the Show Original check box there. This was the original version of that layer mask, and you can see how we have all kinds of blue fringing, and we have got some jagged edges around the knuckles in the sweater outline as well. Now, thanks to our modifications of Smooth value of 20, Radius value of 70 and Smart Radius turned on. That's it.
We have achieved a much better, although not quite best selection. One of the problems is that we are bringing back in some blue, notice that, inside of these finger details, what do we do about that? Well, we take advantage of this tool right there which is the Refine Radius tool, and I'll show you how that guy works in the next exercise.
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