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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.
I have saved my changes as Enhanced barn.psd, found inside the 14_levels_curves folder. In this exercise, we're going to begin the task of darkening the snow, because it still needs more definition. If you look at this landscape here, we have a little bit of shadow detail underneath the barn, and we've got nothing going on in the background. Now, in order to solve this problem, in order to add a little bit of additional detail to the highlights, I'm going to add another Curves Adjustment layer, and we're going to mask this layer, so only the highlights are affected.
Rather than using one of the selection tools, we're actually going to dig in to the Channels panel, and we're going to create what's known as a luminance mask, which is about this simplest kind of mask that you can create. So, for starters here, I want you to Alt+Click or Option+Click on the eyeball in front of the Background layer, so that we're just seeing that original image. Notice that the barn is extremely dark, and the background is extremely bright. So, if you think of this as a layer mask, with a dark barn and a bright background, it means we'll protect the barn and we'll expose the background.
So, our mask is pretty much already created, we just need to go grab it. To do exactly that, go to the Channels panel, and then take a look at our color channels. We've got a Red channel here, which is pretty darn dark. We have a Green channel that's even darker, and we have a Blue channel that's darker still. So, we want to work with a channel that's got the most contrast, and that's going to be Blue. To convert a channel to a selection outline, all you do is you press the Ctrl key here on the PC or the Command key on the Mac, and you click on it.
That goes ahead and converts that channel to a selection outline. So, you're selecting the bright stuff in the channel, which would be the sky and the snow, and you're deselecting the dark stuff which would be the barn. All right, go ahead and click on RGB in order to make the Composite image active. Then switch back to the Layers panel and go ahead and Alt+Click or Option+Click on that eyeball again in order to turn on all the layers. Now, we're going to add another Curves Adjustment layer, and we'll do that, again, by pressing Ctrl+Shift+M or Command+Shift+M on the Mac.
I'm going to call this darken snow. Then I'll click OK. Notice that we have a new adjustment layer, and automatically, we converted the contents of that Blue channel to the layer mask, and you can see that little mask thumbnail in the Layers panel. That's what's known as a luminance mask. It's a found mask inside the image. All right, this time we're going to add just one point to the graph, and we're not going to lift it using the Target Adjustment tool, we're just going to click in the graph to create it. I want that point to be at an Input value of 165, so start it right there and notice that my Input level is 165, below the graph.
Go ahead and click, and then drag it downward, like so. So ultimately, I want you to map a luminance level of 165 to an Output level of 85, just as we see here. So, notice the Input value is 165, the Output is 85. If you need to nudge that value with the arrow keys, go for it. I'm going to go ahead and zoom out for my image, so we can see what a difference we've made. This is the before version of the image, and this is the after version. Now, we have two issues that I think are pretty obvious here. One is, we are darkening the barn a little bit, actually, which I don't want to do, and we're lightening the background a little less than I'd like.
So, I need to increase the contrast of my mask, so that we're completely protecting the barn and we're completely revealing the background. Then the second problem is that our sky and our snow have a little bit of a purple cast, and we'll solve that problem in the next exercise. But for now, here is what I want you to do. Go to this layer mask thumbnail inside the Layers panel, and Alt+Click or Option+Click on it. That's going to show you that layer mask independently of the rest of the image. I'll go ahead and zoom in, so you can see what you're doing. We need the barn to be totally black, and we need the background to be totally white.
So, we're going to clip the background to white using the best clipping tool on the business, and that's the Levels command. Now, we can't use the Levels Adjustment layer, because you can't assign an adjustment layer to a mask. That's just the way things works inside of Photoshop. So instead, we're going to apply a static adjustment. So, go to the Image menu, choose Adjustments, and choose Levels, or press Ctrl+L, Command+L on the Mac. There is our barn right there. It needs to be black. There is our snow and sky, it needs to be white. So, what I'd like you to do is go ahead and drag that white slider triangle over to about 200.
So, we're saying anything with a luminance level of 200 or brighter is going to become white. That means we're going to clip all of this stuff right there to white, which works great for masking. So, whereas you want to try to avoid clipping when you're adjusting a continuous tone image, when you're editing a mask, you want to clip like crazy. Now let's go ahead and drag that black slider triangle over to the right, and I'm going to move it to about 70, maybe a little farther actually. Let's take it up to 90. In this case, I'm saying anything with the luminance level of 90 or darker is going to become black.
That's going to pretty well-protect that barn. Now click OK in order to accept that modification, and I will once again Alt+Click or Option+Click on that layer mask thumbnail there inside the Layers panel. So, to give you a sense of the impact of the Levels command there, I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac for the before version. So, this is that radical Curves Adjustment applied slightly to the barn as you can see here. So, we are darkening the barn more than I'm comfortable with. If I press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z again, then we see the after version in which the barn is protected.
Now, we still have an awful lot of purplish sky and snow, and we're going to correct that problem by removing the color cast in the very next exercise.
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