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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.
All right so, there is no denying we have an improved image on our hands right here. It goes by the name, I have gone ahead and saved my progress as a file called Improved master.psd, named for the fact that this is an improved version of the dive master down here. This image is found inside the 16_ adjust_layer folder and just to bring everyone up to speed, even those of you who are already up to speed, forgive me for this, but I'm going to Alt+Click or Option+Click in the background layer. So that went ahead and manufactured the Red channel using this Channel Mixer layer right there.
Then I added a levels layer in order to improve the contrast. We added a color balance layer just to tweak things slightly and then in order to sway the color of the fins and his sleeve and his mask and so on, we added this Hue/Saturation layer right there. But just because we have a much improved image, there it is before, here it is after, doesn't mean that it's good enough. It still fails to represent the colors that I saw when I shot the image. This is called sort of what we are looking for right here and we are going to achieve this effect by first taking this version of the image, tossing it over to Lab, making a color adjustment, then tossing it back to RGB and doing some hand brush work.
Now another Photoshop expert might look at this, in fact if I wasn't the one responsible for this project, I might look at the scenario and say this is not a best practice. You do not want to build up a series of adjustment layers in RGB, toss it over the Lab at which point you lose your adjustment layers, add another adjustment layer there, toss it back to RGB at which point you lose that adjustment layer and then do some hand brush work, that's crazy. That's not a best practice. But I'll tell you what; there is no better practice, so you would have to just do it. If you know of a better practice, I'm all ears. Otherwise this must be the best practice. There is no arguing with that one, I win.
All right so anyway here is what we are going to do. Improved master.psd, we got it open. I'm going to urge you to go up to the Image menu, choose Mode and then choose Lab Color, at which point, now I was telling you when you switch color models like this, you are going to lose your adjustment layers. You cannot preserve the adjustment layers because what would Channel Mixer mean? We are mixing green and blue in order to create red. What would it be possibly doing in Lab? We are mixing a and b to produce lightness or something ridiculous like that, it would completely go kaffluey on us and we do not want kaffluey.
So what Photoshop is going to say to us if I ever get around to choosing this command, it's going to say changing modes will discard some adjustment layers. Should I change the mode anyway? And you say okay, if you say okay, this shouldn't be a highlighted button because if you say okay look what happens. It goes ahead and throws away all your adjustment layers and leaves you with this horrible image right here, which we have already seen. We can't correct this image, as it is in Lab and expect good results. So go ahead and press Ctrl+Z, Command+ Z to undo that, go back to the Image menu, choose Mode and choose Lab Color and then click on the button that ought to be the default choice right here, Flatten and that will give us the desired effect. We'll now be working from this good version of the image.
Now, you need to make sure that before you choose that command because we did just lose all of our adjustment layers, they got merged together in order to form this flat Lab image here, before you do that, it's a very good idea, I'll go ahead and undo that modification by pressing Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on a Mac to bring back the RGB image and all the adjustment layers. It's a very good idea to go to the File menu, choose the Save As command, save it as something and I have already done this. I have already save it as Improved master.psd but save the image as a layered PSD document.
Then once you have done that, go up to the Image menu, choose Mode and then choose Lab Color, Flatten the image of course, and then at that point you would go back to the File menu and choose Save As again and start a new file make it a layered PSD document as well because we are going to add an adjustment layer right now. All right. Go back to Adjustments now and we are going to add another levels adjustment. When you are working with the flat image, do not add multiple incarnations of a single kind of adjustment layer and then turn around and create another levels adjustment layer on top of it because that would amount to a destructive modification.
And yeah that's exactly what we are doing but we are doing it in a different color model. By the way, you really never want to combine very similar adjustments that are really doing the same kind of modification like you wouldn't throw on a Brightness/ Contrast adjustment layer and then throw on a levels adjustment layer and then throw on a Curves adjustment layer because they are all luminance modifications. All right anyway let's go to levels, working in a different color model, Lab, it does make sense. Alt+Click or Option +Click on that icon there, call it Lab levels or something that's going to make sense for you. Then click OK and now we have got our Lab level sitting there on an independent layer. I want you to go to the Lightness channel, it's already highlighted, you can't modify the composite colors inside Lab, you have to work on the independent channels, that's just the way it is.
So you could update the histogram if you desire to do so. You'll see that it's spikier than it originally was, it's not so quite so smooth. I'm going to give us more highlights and shadows here. So I'm going to bolster the shadows, bolster the highlights, so I'm going to send this value up to 10, the black point value and I'm going to take the white point value down to 225. So I'm going to press Alt+4 or Option+4 to switch to the A channel. I could have also just chosen it from this pop- up menu if I had a mind to. I am going to click in this black point value right here and I'm going to raise it to 40 by pressing Shift+Up Arrow, four times in a row that makes the image greener. Is that a good choice? Not really, but we need to do that in order to increase the saturation of this image, it really wants more saturation.
So we'll also tab over to the white point value and we'll press Shift+Down Arrow four times in a row to lower that value to 215 and that way we are balancing the increase in turquoise here with an increase in pink. But that's not far enough. We need to go still farther. So I'm going to add a little more pink by pressing Shift+Down Arrow, one more time, a fifth time to reduce that value to 205. And that way we are kind of centering our big spike on the gray point right there, which I'm going to leave alone. That Gamma value does not need to be changed. Then I'll press Alt+5 or Option+5 to switch to the b channel as you can see. I'll go ahead and start things off by increasing the amount of blue, by increasing this black point value to 40, by pressing Shift+Up Arrow four times and we are, of course, matching the modification that we applied in the b channel at this point.
Now I'll click in the white point value and I'll press Shift+Down Arrow four times, one, two, three, four, like so. Is that enough? Have we balanced the image properly? I think we could stand some more yellow, so I'm going to press Shift+Down Arrow twice more in order to get this effect here. Now that's too much yellow, we have gone too far with this modification but that's okay, it's going to prepare us for our brush work because then we are going to brush in what is essentially the missing color here which is orange. We are going to make his legs nice and natural, it's going to make his hands, his arm right there nice and natural. It's going to make the coral look natural and everything. We have now created a base image upon which we can build that effect.
All right so, beautiful. Now the thing to do is to go back to the Lightness channel and say you know what, the image is looking a little too dark, the midtones could be brightened, so let's click right there in that Midtone value, here in the lightness channel, press Shift+Up Arrow and then one, two, three, four, five, just the up arrow key in order to increase that Gamma value to 115. Let's go ahead and choose the Save As command just in case you didn't already do it. And I'm going to save this one as Lab master. I've already created this image in advance, but I'm just going to go ahead save over it, click Save and I'll say sure, I'll go ahead and replace that file, I'm feeling daring, I think I did everything the way I needed to do.
Now I'm going to go up to the Image menu and I'm going to choose Mode and I'm going to choose RGB Color. Notice we just saved that. I just want to make this clear. I kind of went through that a little too quickly there. I am going back to the Save As command, we are saving this in the native PSD format right there. As a Copy should be turned off, Layers should be turned-on and so on. All right. Now I'll go up to the Image menu and I'll choose Mode and I'll choose RGB Color in order to switch it back to RGB and at this point, it's going to offer me the option of losing my work if I click OK. Thank you very much Photoshop.
I will go with Flatten instead and that way I keep my work. Gosh! I like that better and that is the RGB version of the image. Then you would go, of course, up here to File, choose Save As again to make sure you didn't wipe out your Lab image, you get where I'm going. That's right. In the next exercise, we'll perform that final step. Actually, there are going to be a few steps after it, almost the final step. In order to achieve this image, it will be the final for this and we are going to this by creating a Solid Fill Layer and brushing it in, you need to do me a favor and stay tuned.
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