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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.
In this exercise, we're going to take this image right here and we're going to give it some shadows, because some shadows would be nice. And I've gone ahead and saved my changes for far as Mixed channels.psd and we're going to add another adjustment layer. This is going to be a Levels adjustment layer and I just want to give you a little bit of advice and give you a sense that we're building things in the right order. So even though you're working with adjustment layer, and sometimes adjustment layers are portrayed as if you can do anything you want. It's all non-destructive, it's a free-for-all, any order is fine and that's just not true.
So even though they're non-destructive in a sense that you can turn them off and you can turn it back on and the underlying has it really been changed and you can change your settings any time you like without harming the image or any penalty whatsoever. Here's the thing though; when you start heaping adjustment layers on top of each other, then, you are actually sometimes applying color modifications that don't really get along with each other, sometimes they duplicate each other's functions. There hasn't been given a lot of thought inside of Photoshop over the years in terms of how the various color adjustments are trotting on each other and which one should be used together and which one shouldn't.
So you want to approach things in a very deliberate order is what it comes down to and the order is to make your biggest changes first and then build towards smaller and smaller changes and also by the way, to use as few adjustment layers as you can get away with when you're doing this kind of work. Now, we have started with a right command. Even though, it seems like is the fairly small modification, we went from this to this and we haven't bolstered the contrast, for example, the contrast remains very weak. Well, we had to first invent a red channel before we can do anything with that red channel. So what was essential that we get that red channel in play first and foremost.
All right, so now we can improve the quality of those channels; all three of them, and we're going to do that with levels. So here inside the Adjustments palette, I'm going to click on the left -pointing arrowhead in order to return to the list and I'm going to go up here to this guy Levels and I'm going to Alt+Click or Option+Click on that icon so that I can go ahead and name it contrast or something along those lines and you might think well, gosh, why change its name from Levels, after all, at least if you leave at Levels, even if it's Levels 1, Levels 2, that kind of thing, at least you know it's a Levels Adjustment.
Well, you know it's a Levels Adjustment in a couple of other different ways. So it's completely, entirely okay to name it after what you're trying to do with it. I think. That's the way I work and let me show you my rationale. I'll click okay in order to create that new layer. Notice that you are seeing an icon associated with each one of these adjustment layers and the icon matches the icon inside the List panel there inside the Adjustments palette. So that's the Channel Mixer icon, you'll come to recognize in a time if you don't already. That's obviously the Levels icon right there because it has a Histogram. You'll see, as long as you have big layer thumbnail selected, then you will see these icons. If you've got tiny, little thumbnails you won't see him.
But anyway, you could also just click on a layer and see what it's all about here inside the Adjustments palette. So if you click on a Levels adjustment layer, it's going to show you levels and it's going to show you the settings you have applied, if you go down here, to Channel Mixer, it's going to show you Channel Mixer and show you the settings you have applied. So it's pretty easy to track. Anyway, I'm going to switch back to contrast, we haven't done a darning thing so far and notice this little icon right there, it's telling us that we need to calculate an accurate histogram if we want to. So if you want to see a more accurate histogram, just click on a button and then it will calculate the precise histogram not that different actually, but there it is.
All right. I'm just going to go ahead and click on Auto, as a starter here, just to sort of see what it comes up with. It comes up with something very similar to what we've got and we were working with lab, which is to say it suddenly turned green, he is more of a forest glade. Now he's not really in the Emerald city but he did decide to throw on some purple fins, this time around. So they're are pink, we're getting closer. That's good. But we can get closer still if we seize the rains of control here inside of the Levels dialog box. So let's switch over to the independent channels. I'm going to press Alt+3 for the red channel for starters, and after playing around inside of the dialog box, here are the settings I came up with. So I just eased off of the shadows inside of the red channel. What I'm doing is I'm looking at the shadow detail and saying how balanced is that. We need to have some brown shadows in it. Do we have brown shadows? It's hard to tell sometimes, especially when everything is so catawampus inside of the image, so you don't have the way to ground yourself, so you do have to play around.
But if before, for example, they were looking like they weren't red enough, then that means I was too tight to the shadows with the black point value, and if I back off that black point value, I'm going to introduce a little bit of rosiness right there on this side of the histogram, because I've lightened up the shadows in the red channel and that will introduce red into the shadows. All right, so then I'm going to click over here in the white point value. I'm not going to do anything with the gamma, so we'll just ignore that for now and press Shift+Up Arrow a few times and then Down Arrow, I just want to change that value to 235. Now that might now look right so far but that's because we need to adjust the colors inside the other channels as well.
Now, I'll tell you something about what I'm doing. I didn't really do it in this linear fashion. And instead here go to these will be the precise values I'll use in the red channel. Now I'll go up to the green channel and place more precise value. It didn't work that way. I had to go back and forth, back and forth. I'm sparing you the back and forth. When you approach images on your own, guess what? I won't be there to spare you, so you'll go back and forth, back and forth. So anyway, Alt+4, Option+4 to switch to the Green Channel, same values turned out to work really nicely. 105 and when I see really nicely, I mean, okey-dokey, because that thing works really nicely for this image. Everything is in incremental step toward better.
But 105, 235, once again with the values I came up with, again, a lot of back and forth, but if I do Alt+3 and then Alt+4, you'll see that we have some similar histograms, not too surprising because we use 60% of green to make the red histogram in the first place. So we're just kind remaining true to that. All right. Alt+5 or Option+5 to move over to the blue channel and I'm just going to ease off this black point I'm going to take it down to 135, leave the white point to 255, we're not changing gammas and so just to give you a sense of how far we've come here, this is before, without that contrast layer, and this is after our adjustment.
Now, are we all the way there? Not even, we still have some awfully greenish legs right here and the coral around them is just kind of really grim looking, it doesn't look like the kind of place we'd want to go, it looks like he's just floating above a dead planet earth; let's hope not. And then he's got some fins that are again, far too purple. So we need to do more work is what it comes down to. In the next exercise, we're going to apply a couple of more adjustment layers, bearing in mind that we're working towards smaller and smaller incremental changes here, we are going to add a little bit of a color balance and then we're going to take on the fins, which ought to be blue, and you'll make them blue, you will, if you join me in the next exercise.
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