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In the all-new Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Mastery, the third and final installment of the popular series, join industry expert and award-winning author Deke McClelland for an in-depth tour of the most powerful and empowering features of Photoshop CS5. Discover the vast possibilities of traditional tools, such as masking and blend modes, and then delve into Smart Objects, Photomerge, as well as the new Puppet Warp, Mixer Brush, and HDR features. Exercise files accompany the course.
Recommended prerequisites: Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals and Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Advanced.
I've saved my six-layer composition as Auto-blended trophies.psd. In this exercise, we're going to finesse the contents of just two of the layer masks, just for the top two layers in the stack. And we're not going to get too lost inside of this composition, because we're really just trying to help out the Auto-Blend feature. We just want to finesse the areas of focus that need the most attention, but you have to bear in mind, even though we turned off that option for blending the tone and color across the various layers, this is still a very tenuous composition, because each and every layer mask is exactly aligned with the other ones.
In other words, there is only one pixel at any given location that's opaque. The other pixels, going all the way down the stack, are transparent. And so what that means is we can paint in additional areas of opacity by painting in white inside of a layer mask, but we cannot paint black. If you do, you'll drill all the way down the stack and reveal a hole. Now of course, you can figure out which of the layers needs to support that hole, and you can paint it in, but between you and me, you're going to drive yourself nuts.
So those of you who consider yourselves to be perfectionists, where this specific effect is concerned, you're going to have to just sort of shed that, because there are going to be problems inside the composition once it's done. It's ultimately a pretty darn good, automated effect. For example, consider this. I'll go ahead and Shift+Click on this layer mask that's associated with the top layer in the stack, and bear in mind, the way I've arrange these. The top layer features the focus in the forward objects; the rear layer features focus for the rear objects. And that just how I happen to orient those images inside of the Bridge.
So if I Shift+Click on the layer mask to turn it off for the top layer in the stack, you can see that Hermes is well in focus, but everybody else is out of focus. When I Shift+Click to turn the layer mask back on, everybody appears to be in focus when we're zoomed out from the image, but as soon as we start zooming in, we start to see issues. For example, look around Hermes's wing right there. You can see that certain portions of the wing that should be in focus are little bit out of focus. More to the point though, Auto-Blend has seen fit to go ahead and reveal portions of this Seven awards-1.jpg layer, the forward layer that feature out of focus elements of the wall in the background.
Well, if I try to edit that, I'm in trouble. I'll go ahead and click on that layer mask thumbnail to make it active, there inside the Layers panel, and I'll press the B key to select my Brush tool. And here's the settings that I'm going with: a Size value of 125 pixels and a Hardness, actually this guy should be about 75%, where there about, and I'll press the Enter key a couple times here on the PC or the Return key a couple times on the Mac. Black happens to be my foreground color. Now if I paint to reveal the layers below, watch what happens. There are no layers below.
In other words there are, of course, layers below, but they are masked away. So then I would have to go back and figure out exactly which mask to paint into place at this location. Again, it's going to get very gnarly, very quickly, and I recommend that you avoid those kinds of points. In other words, ignore them. Before relying on Auto-Blend, we have to be reliant upon what Auto-Blend came up with. However, that's said, there are certain areas that we can fix. For example, down here in the lower-right region of the composition, there's this area of low focused table that's been revealed.
Well, bear in mind that the table is in the foreground, right here with the Hermes award, so it's going to be in focus in this top layer. If I can paint in focus, that's great. So when you're trying to adjust for the results of Auto-Blend Layers, while you can paint white into any given layer mask, you cannot get away with painting black without making your life miserable. All right, so I'm going to press the D key in order bring up the default layer mask colors, which means that now white is my foreground color. And I'm going to paint in the focus in the bottom-right corner of this image.
I'll also go ahead and paint in the focus along the base and along this little template, this label on the award. And then I'll scroll over to this location, paint in some more focus. We have all kinds of low focus going on in this region, so I'll increase the size of my brush by pressing the Right Bracket key a few times, and then I'll paint this area in. Now, I've got this weird thing going right here, where I have this edge being out of focus, and this edge as well. Well the second edge, the one that's over toward the left, is not in focus inside this front layer.
The first edge, that is the one on the right -hand side, that is in focus in this layer. So I'll go ahead and reduce the size of my cursor by pressing Left Bracket key a few times, and I'll paint that in. Notice it does not do me any good to paint that edge in. That doesn't work at all. I'll go ahead and undo that maneuver, in fact. And this little bit of low focus right there is not in focus inside any of the layers. In other words, we're seeing the contents of the top layer. If I turn it off for a moment, you'll see that there is no edge at that location in the other layers, meaning I'm going to have to crop it away.
All right, so I'll turn that layer back on, so that we can see it. Then I'll switch to the next layer down and click on its layer mask thumbnail, for Seven awards-2.jpg. This is the layer that features the Ava Platinum Award, for what that's worth, in focus, and I'll go ahead and paint in those highlights right there. And it also features Jacob, shooting the scene, and you can see that there are some jagged edges around him. I'll go ahead and paint him back in, so those jagged edges go away. I'll paint in the highlights inside the body as well.
I'm not going to be able to do anything with this area of low focus in the background, right outside of the woman's torso here, and that's about all I'm going to be able to do, where the masking is concerned. Everybody else is in pretty sharp focus. We can see the text. We can see what the awards are. That's going to have to be good enough, and actually it's pretty darn great. It's just that it's not exactly perfect. All right, the final step is to crop the image. So I'll grab my Crop tool, and then I'll drag around, let's say about this area right here, maybe bring over the left-hand edge just a little bit, bring the top edge up, so we're exposing the entire palm or whatever that is in the background, and then I'll go up to the Options Bar, and make sure Cropped Area is set to Hide, and I'll press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac in order to invoke that crop, and this is the final version of the composition, thanks to the impressive, although slightly imperfect power of Auto-Blend Layers.
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