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Photoshop mastery can be elusive, but in Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Mastery, best-selling author and video trainer Deke McClelland teaches the most powerful, unconventional, and flexible features of the program. In this third and final installment of the popular and comprehensive series, Deke delves into the strongest features that Photoshop has to offer, including scalable vector graphics, Smart Objects, and Photomerge. Exercise files accompany the course.
Recommended prerequisites: Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals and Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced, both part of the lynda.com Online Training Library®.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.
All right gang, time to take our first look at the Pixel Bender here inside of Photoshop CS4. I've gone ahead and opened this image called Green frog.jpg that comes to us from photographer Emil Marinsek of iStockPhoto.com and it's available to you inside of the 29_new_ tech folder. We'll be using the frog as the basis for our various Pixel Bender manipulations here. Now, something I want you to note about the Pixel Bender before we go any farther. It goes ahead and loads up these PBK files right here. In all you'll see there are 12 of them. PBK stands for Pixel Bender Kernel, which are the files that you write for the Pixel Bender, load up inside the Pixel Bender Gallery.
Now the thing is though, if you take a hankering to this tool, it's pretty fun, actually. And you decide to go scouting for other Pixel Bender Kernel files out there or you decide to build some yourself, why then you need to know where to put them. That is exceedingly poorly documented. So, here's the deal. It's not in a completely abstruse place. It's just something you should know about. On the PC you go to the Program Files folder, which is presumably on your C drive unless you install it elsewhere. Then you go inside the Adobe folder, then Adobe Photoshop CS4, and then Pixel Bender files right there.
Now on the Mac, it'd be inside your Applications folder probably inside of a loose Adobe Photoshop CS4 folder, and then inside Pixel Bender Files. The reason I note this is because it's not in the same location as the Pixel Bender Gallery plug-in, which is in a different subfolder inside the same Adobe Photoshop CS4 folder. So it's just worth noting. Anyway, here's our 12. Now then, let's go back to Green frog.jpg and before you enter the Pixel Bender, just for safety's sake, I recommend you go ahead and convert your layer to a Smart Object. Pixel Bender does work with Smart Objects, which is totally awesome. So, I'm going to go to the Layers palette menu here and choose Convert to Smart Object or press Ctrl+Comma, Command+Comma on the Mac if you loaded Deke keys.
It turns it into a nice little Smart Object right there and I'll call it frogObject, obviously. Then let's go up to the Filter menu and choose Pixel Bender and choose Pixel Bender Gallery. You won't see those individual kernels listed there. You'll see the gallery listed instead. Then what you do is you go ahead and choose the desired kernel, which is what we think of as just being a filter, from this popup menu right here. And all 12 are represented. So, anything that you put in that filter is going to appear here the next time you start Photoshop.
Now you will see this Process on GPU checkbox. Leave that turned on because after all you want your video cards, GPU, Graphic Processor Unit, to be calculating these effects. That way they'll happen a lot more quickly. You have this gargantuan and very accurate image preview, which is something you don't have with Photoshop's distortion filters, for example. So, this rocks! I mean this is actually a great filtering environment. It's just that the filters themselves are sort of hit or miss frankly. But if they were all great filters, this would be an outstanding tool. You can zoom into 100% right here. Here is where things get a little rocky.
We're seeing the filters in alphabetical order, so CircleSplash is the first one that appears in the list. It's not one of the greatest filters, but here it is. It just appears to wipe out your image. Well, there is a center point right there. Most of the filters include some sort of center point that you can work from. This one happens to be located by default in the upper left-hand corner of the image. Notice that it says Center and then it says 0 and 1. Well, 0 is the horizontal coordinate of the center point and 1 is the vertical coordinate of the center point.
So, you might say, "What? Why in the world did they call it that? This is worse even than flip and flop. Why did they call them 0 and 1? That doesn't make any sense whatsoever." Well, bear in mind that Pixel Bender relies on a toolkit, and basically what they gave you was that you could name your overall options, but if you make sort of these little meta options inside of it, then they just get the tags 0, 1, 2, and so on. So, you don't have any control over the naming there. But these two options do measure the horizontal and vertical coordinates of the center point as measured from the upper left corner of the image. They only go as high as 1800. Now, between you and me, it's not really worth spending this time dwelling on this specific filter, because I don't know if you'll ever use CircleSplash. I'm just trying to give you a sense of how these filters work in general and this is a good test case because it doesn't have that many options. It only goes up to 1800 pixels and 1 only goes up to 1800 pixels as well.
Now this image is small enough so that's okay, but most images are much larger so 1800 pixels would only take you about a third of the way into the image. These are arbitrary limitations that are set up by whoever designed this kernel. So, they decided that you should only go 1800 pixels in and 1800 pixels down. I have no idea why. Now, you can't just drag the circle around. I wish you could. So, I could drag it to the frog's eye, but over time, I figured out that the frog's eye is located roughly at 1089 pixels over to the right and down about 522 pixels. So, there is the frog's eye right there. Of course, I determined that just through trial and error. Now I didn't enter those values. I used my Arrow keys to nudge the values up and down and you can also press Shift+Up Arrow and Shift+Down Arrow as well.
So, you do have a fair amount of decent control. Then you've got this Radius value that makes the center bigger or smaller. Notice what happens is it's basically finding colors around the parameter of that circle and then creating a radial gradient pattern around there. So anyway, I'm going to go ahead and take it out a little further so I can see the frog's face, like so. Obviously, there's nothing particularly useful I would do with this unless I'm trying to generate some sort of pattern. Then I would click OK in order to accept that filtered result. Then there's my Smart Filter and I could go ahead and double- click on the Blending Option, and then I could change that Blending Option to something ridiculous, like Linear Light.
Oh my gosh! Then let's take the Opacity value down to 50% or something and click OK. Of course, we do have that filtered head in front of the original head. So, we're really overdoing the colors inside of the face and we're getting rid of a lot of the shadow detail and so on. So I could just go ahead and grab my Brush tool and I could click inside of the mask and I could make my brush really large here, like so, and really soft. With a single click of black, foreground color is black right now, I could go ahead and reinstate that head. Isn't that nice? So, there's just one of ten bazillion things you can do with the Pixel Bender.
This is not the end of my discussion of the Pixel Bender, by the way. I consider actually CircleSplash to be pretty much the least of the kernels that are available to you. We're going to check out some more kernels, starting in the next exercise.
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