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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.
For those of you who sat with the previous exercise, which was all set up for this exercise frankly, I now reward you with this exercise, which is all follow-up from the previous exercise. I'm actually going to show you how these commands Auto Tone, Auto Contrast and Auto Color work. How they look at the existing histograms for an image and make modifications based on those histograms. I have got my Histogram palette, all set up, ready to go. I'm going to move it over to the left-hand side of the screen, get it out of the palette structure for a moment so that we can see each one of our images in full. So I'm going to be starting things off with this guy right here, which is the Auto Tone layer right there, so I'll go ahead and click on it to select it.
Now, I remind you of the histograms that we have going. Notice that we have a fair gap over in the highlight side of the histogram; bear in mind, where the Histogram is concerned, this is a bar graph of course of all the luminance levels inside of the image as you may recall from Chapter 05 if you watched it, way long ago. Over here on the left-hand side is black and over here on the far right-hand side is white and the other luminance levels are gray value is in between on a channel-by-channel basis. So we don't have much in a way of shadows going on inside this image, so we are going to have to correct for that. So the Histogram is going to get stretched out, every one of these Auto commands is going to stretch out this Histogram to fill in those shadows and increase the contrast. So they all increase the contrast of the image.
But because we have different gaps going on the highlight side of things, a small gap over here and even smaller gap for green, which is why the highlights appears, so very green and a big gap for blue. Because they are different, they are going to be accommodated differently by the various different Auto commands. So we are going to start things off with Auto Tone because it's the first command to appear. I'm going to go up to the Image menu and I'm going to choose Auto Tone and I want you to watch not only what happens to George here, George Hamilton, I presume because he is on money after all. Not only what happens to George, but also what happens to the various histograms that represent George in a fairly statistical manner. So I'll go ahead and choose Auto Tone and notice, all the histograms get stretched.
So the darkest color in each and every channel becomes black and a lightest color in each and every channel becomes white. So each one of the independent histograms is stretched differently, meaning that each one of the channels, red, green and blue is corrected differently. And as a result, we have pretty much made the lightest color white inside of this image. So what was formerly a greenish paper has now become a fairly neutral sort of whitish paper. Also notice that our blacks or dark colors here or shadows have gone from having a fairly greenish tinge associated with them to fairly reddish now. So Auto Tone has a habit of overcompensating for problems inside of the image.
But in our case, these were problems. We needed more contrast where the money is concerned but it was green, actual money; I'm holding a Dollar Bill right here, it's actually greenish just like the original scan. It's just that it lacked contrast, the original version of the image over here lacked contrast and so we need more contrast. So Auto Tone is not what we needed where this image is concerned. Possibly, since all we need is more contrast, Auto Contrast would do a better job, so I'm going to go ahead and click on that Auto Contrast layer right there and I'm going to bring up my Navigator palette because it gives me a little more control other than that bird's eye feature for this specific little diagram that I'm demonstrating to you, and I'll put the Navigator palette out of the way, move the Histogram palette over a little bit so that we can see the Auto Contrast Test layer right there on the left-hand side of the screen.
Now I'm going to go up to the Image menu, watch the histograms, watch them as you watch George and I'm going to apply Auto Contrast. And notice this time that each one of the histograms is compensated to the same degree; in other words, there is a smallest gap left over here on the right side of the red histogram, no gap left over here on the right side of the green histogram and a proportionally large gap left over here on the right side of the blue histogram. As a result, we have maintained the green, so we have a higher degree of contrast but we still have green highlights. So if your color cast was correct and you just need more contrast inside the image, then Auto Contrast is your guy, and notice also that we have stretched the entire composite histogram without affecting the overall color balance. So this is the Control layer right there. Notice that it's a squished histogram in this area but we've got three very distinct peaks of blue, red and green and this is now the Auto Contrast histogram which is stretched over the course of the entire width of the histogram now, but we still have distinct peaks at blue and red and green.
All right, now let's take a look at Auto Color, which is the most complicated of the gang, and by the way, the one that's likely to do you the best job for your standard everyday average image. So I'm going to bring up the Navigator, and I'm going to just move over here to the right a little bit so that we can see the lower right version of George. Hide Navigator, move Histogram over so that we can see him in all of his splendor. Watch the histograms once again. Now, I need to set things up a little bit this time. If you were to select this region, sort of look at the shadow region, you will see that we are seeing a little bit of the shadow region. Notice here at the far left side of this shadow region is showing up as Magenta, showing us that it's a combination of red and blue working together. So that might make you think our shadows are going to be reddish-blue. They are actually in fact green because the lightest color in the shadow is green.
So where the shadows are concerned, they are most bright where green is concerned, and then of course, where the highlights are concerned, they are most bright where green is concerned as well. Now, what Auto Color is going to do is it's going to analyze this highlight information and try to make it as neutral as it can, and then it's going to evaluate the shadow detail here. The shadow information, it may get as neutral as it can, and then it's also going to follow things up by trying to balance out the mid-tones and it does a great job of it. I will go up to Image and I'll choose Auto Color, and now we can see, this is the Auto Colored version of the image and it's neutral across the board. Check that out. So it's even more neutral than Auto Tone is, I'll go ahead and switch up to Auto Tone. Notice that Auto Tone over-corrected the image, it overcompensated by changing my shadows to reddish and it also made the highlights a little bit reddish as well, whereas Auto Color did a great job of just completely making those central highlights neutral, those central shadows neutral and those central mid-tones neutral as well, by which I mean anything that really has strong colors associated with it, like this green over here, that remains colorful. It's just the areas that Auto Color determines ought to be neutral that end up getting neutralized like these highlights right here.
So we end up having something of a gray- scale Dollar Bill and you can see now, this region of shadow pretty much is balanced between red, green and blue. So we are not seeing an awful lot of spikes going on that are either exclusively blue or green or red, and same with the highlights. They are also quite well-balanced. That's very interesting that that's what happens for money. So where money is concerned assuming that you had a scan like we started with, our best bet would be of course Auto Contrast that ends up delivering the most money like money, unless we wanted to get rid of the previous color balance.
Where Auto pools is concerned -- and by the way these are the corrected versions of the pool image from a couple of exercises ago, and I went ahead and named this image Auto pools.psd. Where Auto pools are concerned, it's a little different, it's a little more of a murky equation here because there is just more stuff going on, and so we have very shadowy group of reds going on -- a very light group of greens going on and a very sort of mid-tone group of blues going on. So when we end up switching to Auto Tone, of course, and this is the Auto Tone version of the image right there on the Auto Tone layer of course. I have gone ahead and stretched every single one of these histograms across the entire Histogram palette, across the entire width of the graph, whereas Auto Contrast of course, if I go ahead and turn that on, you can see that it is still imbalanced, the colors are still of the same balance they were in the first place, the entire histogram is stretched. So it's a composite view that gets stretched, and then, Auto Color, the most complicated version but the best correction of the bunch here and let's go ahead and take that Opacity value up to 100%, so we get the best representation of this modification here, and you can see what it's done.
In this case, I do have a lot of colorful spikes going on inside the shadows versus the highlights versus the mid- tones, but bear this in mind. This is what the original version of the image look like inside the Histogram. So predominantly red shadows, this region right here, extremely red, very little green and blue stuff going on whereas inside the highlights, extremely green, less blue and even less red going. We don't get to any red still about right there in the graph in the mid-tone region. So you take a look at the Auto Color and this region now is balanced, where the red, green and blue is concerned. So we have something of a gap over here on the shadow side of the reds, but that's because we have this big galumphing mountain of reds at this location. So it's really trying to balance those colors over this entire region, this is the shadow region that I'm highlighting here, and it is trying to balance the various channels over the entire highlight region as well, and then of course balance the mid-tones in order to come up with this beautifully compensated image right there.
I'll go ahead and move the Histogram palette off-screen so that we can take a look at that final correction that we have already seen of course in all fairness, but still it's just so good, Auto Color does such a great job. So here's how it works. When in doubt, Auto Color is going to do the best job for you. If Auto Color doesn't quite come through the way you wanted to and you have a very distinct color cast going on that you're trying to account for, undo Auto Color, you don't want to apply two of these commands on top of each other, that's not going to work for you. So undo Auto Color and then try Auto Tone instead. If the color balance was already good the way it was and all you wanted to do is increase the contrast, then Auto Contrast is your guy, and that's how those commands work.
In the next exercise, I'm going to show you the mother of those commands, Levels.
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