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Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Advanced, the second part of the popular and comprehensive series, updated for CS5, 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 CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
I have saved my changes as High Pass smoothery.psd. In this exercise, we are going to take that inverted High Pass layer that we created in the previous exercise and the Gaussian Blur layer that we created before that, and we are going to blend them together to create a kind of perfect cocktail of skin detail smoothing. So for starters here I have got the inverted HP layer turned on. It's set to Overlay, Opacity 50%. So it's fine as is. I am now going to click on my Gaussian Blur layer, turn it on as well, so you can see how these two layers merge together in order to create a very smooth image.
I will go ahead and zoom-in so that we can see that detail at 100%. So this is what the image looks like if I were to go ahead and turn off those two layers. This is what the image look like after I applied the Shadows Highlights filter. This is what the image looks like with the application of both an Inverted High Pass layer and the Gaussian Blur layer. So if anything we have gone a little bit too far, but it is amazing just how much smoothing you can keep on top of an image, and still be able to see the detail below. For example you can see every single hair that's coming off of her head right now.
You can see every single eyelash, you can still make out little bits of makeup in the pores; all kinds of detail that withstands these two layers, and so there's a lot of stuff going on and yet the detail survives. Problem is from my perspective that we are having some contrast issues. Again, we are losing our shadows, they are getting way too dark, and our highlights are awfully high key at this point. We are not actually losing too much in the way of highlights but they are awfully bright. An awful lot of contrast going on and our saturation levels are just way out of control.
So what I suggest we do is take the Contrast level down inside of this GBlur layer and here is how I'd like you to do that. I am going to go ahead and scoot her over and I am going to bring up my Adjustments panel like so, and then I am going to Alt+Click or Option+Click on the Brightness/Contrast icon, that very first icon in the first row, and I am going to call this contrast down because that's going to be the purpose of the layer and I am going to say use previous layer to create clipping mask. We don't want to reduce the contrast of the entire composite image; we just want to reduce the contrast of the GBlur layer before we apply Overlay to it in order to achieve the smoothing effect. All right! So I am going to click OK after I have done that, and so we have a clipped adjustment layer on top of the GBlur layer right there and I am going to reduce the Opacity all the way down to its minimum which is 50%.
Really doesn't go all that far, notice that. So this is what the image look like before we applied that Brightness/Contrast layer, this is what it looks like now. So we have restored some of the shadow detail a little bit, and we have beaten down those saturation levels a little as well, but not nearly enough, which is why I'd suggest you turn on this Use Legacy check box. I want you to see the difference here. I am going to change Blend mode assigned to this Gaussian Blur layer. So I will click on that Gaussian Blur layer and change its Blend mode back to Normal, and then I will click on the contrast down layer again, and you can see now what kind of contribution its making.
This is before without the adjustment, this is with the adjustment. But if I turn Use Legacy on, and this is one of the safer things you can do with the Use Legacy check box on. You won't want to change the brightness because that would really mess up the image and you don't want to increase the Contrast too much because you are going to start clipping colors right away. Notice we have clipped highlights, and clipped shadows pretty much right out of the gate, but if you reduce the contrast, then this serves our purposes actually perfectly, and you can take the Contrast all the way down to nothing; down to -100, which turns the image completely gray as we are seeing it here, and of course we are just changing the GBlur layer.
Then if we were to click on that layer and change it to Overlay, why, now it has no contribution whatsoever. Notice if I turn it off, and then I turn it back on, we are not seeing any difference because it is now functionally gray, and Overlay treats gray as transparent. Anyway, let's see what we are doing again. I will return to the Normal Blend mode, click on contrast down, and I am going to raise that Contrast value to -50 which is the exact same value we had before we turned on Use Legacy, and notice it's a very different effect.
This is Use Legacy with -50 and there is still a heck of a lot of contrast left and we still have blacks inside of the image as well as whites. So there are some black-and-white pixels left over. Whereas, if I turn on Use Legacy which makes the Brightness/Contrast function behave like it used to in Photoshop CS2 and earlier, and I take the Contrast level down to anything, basically we are starting to lose our blacks and our whites. So we are moving the entire histogram inward inside the graph, we are not stretching it, and once I take it down to -50, we have done quite a bit of damage to the contrast of the image.
Well, again because this is just an intermediate image that we are applying a Blend mode to, that works out just fine. So I will hide the Adjustments panel. The thing you need to remember is it's very possible the next time you make a Brightness/Contrast layer, it's going to have Use Legacy turned on. You want to make sure to turn it off in the future but you can't turn it off for this one, because you will change its behavior, so leave it on here. All right! So go ahead and hide that panel, switch back to Gaussian Blur, and switch the mode to Overlay like so, and we end up getting this effect right here.
I think that's actually a very nice blend. So we are bringing back some of those greenish hairs, but we are going to have to unless we want to absolutely overwhelm the saturation levels inside this image, and I don't think we do. So in any case, I like this effect better. Let's go ahead and see some befores and afters here. This is the original image; if I Alt+Click or Option+Click, and I will go ahead and zoom-in on the image, so we can see it at 100%, this is that contribution made by the Shadows/Highlights command, and then here is the inverted HP layer.
It goes ahead and smoothes over some of those skin imperfections. But you should note that it also may result in some weird color transitions, and the reason that's happening by the way that we are seeing these little areas of highly saturated colors next to these neutral colors here, they were already there before; if I turn that layer off, you can see we had those same different colors to work inside of the Background, Shadows/Highlights layer, the S/H layer there. Problem is once you apply the inverted HP function, you are basically eliminating the luminance differences in that region.
So all you have now are these weird color modifications. So I suppose you could try to attack that if you wanted to by getting rid of the color noise in the image using Reduce Noise. So that's a way to work as well. But what I chose to do instead was throw on this Gaussian Blur layer which went too far and so then I back down the contrast, and we end up getting this effect here. So once again let's just see the before and after; the big before and after. This is the image we originally opened, this is the image we created in Shadows/Highlights, and this is our final effect.
Thanks to the smoothing contributions of an inverted High Pass layer and a low contrast Gaussian Blur (GBlur) layer here inside Photoshop.
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