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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, I'd like you start things off by opening this image called Dive master.jpg. Don't worry about the others for now. I have just got them up in case I want to show where we're going. This is that just hideous image. If you can fix this image, you can fix the colors in anything, let me tell you. So that's the proposition I make to you. Now we are going to start things off by inventing a red channel. If you recall, that's our big problem we have no red channel. And come to speak of it, we don't really have a good green channel. We've got no shadows. Basically the darkest colors are light mid tones and I wouldn't even go so far as to say we have mid tones in the blue channel. We have some odd hot highlights sitting here. So nothing really about this image is in good shape.
Now there are ways to invent color and that's what we've got to do. I want to make this very clear. We are going to have to fake this image because the camera did not deliver us anything to work with in terms of reds or oranges or really yellows. The yellowish color we have is fairly chartreuse right here. We're missing an entire end of the spectrum. So we've got to make it up. Now there are good ways to make up color and there are bad ways to make up color. I want to show you a powerhouse function here that turns out to be not a really great way to make up color and that's the Lab mode and I point to the Lab mode because once you know a thing or two about lab it's tempting the user for things like this because it doesn't think in terms of red, green and blue.
The notion is that since it doesn't think that way you can invent red out of whole cloth. So here's how we're going to do it. First of all I want you to note something. This is just by way of an FYI. See that asterisk that's up there in the Title Bar. That asterisk can either appear inside the parenthesis or outside over here to the right of the parenthesis. If it's on the outside of the parenthesis then that means that you have unsaved changes, that you need to press Ctrl or Command S in order to update your image. If it's on the inside that means you're working in a color space other than the ones that you had established inside the Color Settings dialog box.
Whereas way back at the beginning of the fundamental series I advice you to go ahead and establish Adobe RGB as your default RGB environment. This image was shot in sRGB as is typical with Point and Shoot cameras. I just went ahead and left it that way. I didn't convert it. I mean their colors are in terrible shape. So it's really not going to help us out that much. So it might as well stick in sRGB and Photoshop is entirely capable of handling multiple colors bases at the same time. It doesn't break us right over it. And I also want you to know what happens when we go up to the Image menu, choose Mode and choose Lab Color. Why the asterisk switches places? It's now on the outside because we have unsaved changes because we just switched the color model and also it's not on the inside of the parenthesis because it can't be.
Unlike RGB which has different flavors and CMYK which has different flavors, there is one and only one lab inside Photoshop. So here we are, we're in the Lab mode now. Notice we've got a Lightness channel and an A and a B, and got information and there is A, there is B. They never look all that great. So the fact they are looking as ungreat as ever is not that troubling. And Lightness you know all we have is light mid tones and highlights. No surprise there. That's really all we had in the first place and here's our composite image.
All right, so since this is ostensibly a chapter about adjustment layers, let's go ahead and apply one. So we'll go to the Adjustments palette right here and let's just go ahead and a Levels layer. I'm just going to click the Levels dialog box and I could go ahead and click on Auto or something just to bring these guys tight to the ends of the histogram. So we've now darkened our shadows and we've lightened our highlights and I could back off for the darkening just a little bit maybe, but generally speaking everything is pretty good. Let's go ahead and up the Gamma value a little bit by pressing Shift+Up Arrow after clicking inside over there, and now we have a Gamma value of 1.1, fine.
All right, things are little more complex here inside the A and B channels. Now what I want you to know is here's the deal with a lab image. You always have a cone of luminance levels but if things were balanced, this guy would be centered right there on the gray triangle or nearly, very nearly centered on it. It would not be completely on the left side of the Gray slider triangle there. We should have some pinks. Notice we have no pinks whatsoever. Not a single pink. No surprise because in order to get pinks you've got to have red channel. So we've got nothing over there. It's all greens inside of this particular channel.
All right, so let's monkey with things. Let's go ahead and bring these guys over. You can't Auto inside this channel so you just have to drag these guys around and ooh look at that. Suddenly we do have an operational red inside of this photograph. Great! All right, so now let's switch over to B and this time we do have a few yellows because yellows after all, they also reside in the green channel, and then we've got not surprisingly lots and lots of blues. All right, so again let's just make just a change that we wouldn't dare make. I mean this is really over the top. Scooting these slider triangles in this bar. But to what degree do we want to make this image kind of yellowish? Notice that I'm getting quite the green flavor now out of the image. Let's go back to A and back off of the green and see what we end up getting. All right, that's entertaining if nothing else, now I'm not really too concerned about what exact values you apply right here. You can be playful. Have fun. The colors don't look particularly realistic at this point. But whatever.
Let's go ahead and hide the Adjustments palette just so that we can focus on the Layers palette for a moment here. Now I want to switch back to RGB just so that we can see what we brought. What kind of channels do we have now? So let's go up to the Image menu, choose Mode and choose RGB Color. That is going to want to flatten our adjustment layer right here. Notice that it's saying, hey! changing modes, and by modes it means color models in this case, will discard an adjustment layer. Change mode anyway? And so it's telling you, if you click OK it's going to throw the layer away. It's just going to throw in the trash. So don't click OK, click Flatten, this is what you want. The other option is Cancel, which of course is going to leave you in the Lab mode. So you want Flatten so you keep the results, your wonderful results of your modifications here.
So point there is adjustment layers do not survive color transformations. You cannot take adjustment layers from the RGB mode to the Lab mode to CMYK and so forth. You're going to have to dispose them when you do that. The reason is because think about it, what would that levels adjustment we just made in Lightness A and B, what would it even mean in RGB? How would that translation occur? It couldn't occur. There is no way we could even fake it as an adjustment layer inside of RGB. So of course it doesn't attempt to do so. It either throws it away or flattens.
All right, now let's go to Channels palette. Look at here. We've got a red channel, a completely respectable red channel. When I say respectable, it looks better than the green and blue channels, did just a moment ago. Meanwhile green looks pretty awesome. And the blue channel looks like the blue channel. I mean we've lost some highlights here and we've got some awfully dark shadows but it's kind of a gummy channel to begin with. But red, I'm just amazed by red. All right, let's go back to RGB and just for laughs, go up to the Image menu and choose Auto Color in order to just make the red channel even that much better. And now notice- look at that red channel. Oh! It's so good looking.
Where did it come from? And here's green. Looking pretty much the same and same with blue. Those channels didn't get modified too much. All right, so back to RGB. Wow! We invented a red channel out of whole cloth. From nothing we made a red channel. It's not the least but accurate. The effect doesn't look right at all. Not dark- green skin, and his flippers here and the rest of his -- the colors of his dive outfit were not bright pink. He is a brave man but I don't know if he's that brave and then finally he was not floating around the Emerald City.
So these colors are completely imaginary. As well they will be. We have to invent imaginary colors because we don't have the red colors to work with. But this is not the way to perform our big act of fakery. What we really want to do is stay in RGB, that's the mode for us, and use this wonderful function that we haven't seen so far called the Channel Mixer, and I'm going to show you how it works in the next exercise.
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