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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, so ultimately our goal is to convert this composition right here into a kind of clock face and we are going to do that using this Clock parts.tif image right here. So I want you to turn your attention to this image for a moment and what we are going to need to do is separate out the clock face from its background and also to separate out these hands here. So this guy Nicholas Belton has done a terrific job of dismantling a clock and giving us the pieces we need in order to construct our own clock and set it to whatever time we want. But he gave us no mechanism for selecting these pieces.
So we are going to have to make our own mask. Well, because the clock is set against the white background, the mask is pretty easy to make. Now we haven't talked about masking at all in this series. We'll in the future chapter when we get to the mastery level stuff in a final portion of this mega series here, this one-on-one series. But consider this a little preview. Do not go looking for either the Quick Selection tool or the Magic Wand tool. Boo to both of those. They are not going to do us a lick of good or I should say they are not going to do us the kind of good we want to be doing here.
They not only don't deliver the results we need, but we can get the results we need much more easily. So here is what you do and this is just masking one-on-one. When you create a mask, you want the area that you are going to select to be white and the area that you don't want to select to be black just as we see it here. So white means selection, black means deselection. Bear that in mind. Now when you are working with channels in the Channel palette, if you are working with an RGB image which is very typical, then you have three channels to work with, right? You got the Red channel, you got the Green channel and you got the Blue channel. Well, who has got the most contrast? Red doesn't have much contrast to start with. Imagine, that we are trying to take one of these channels and convert it, make it into a mask.
Well, Red is not a good place to start because we have very, very little contrast between the clock face, which is very warm, and background, which is white. Whereas, just skipping forward here to Blue, we've got a fair amount of contrast between the clock face and the background and we have got as much contrast as we are going to get and we will go over this in more detail when we get to masking though, flow things down a little bit. But go to that Blue channel, drag it on to the Page icon down here at the bottom of the palette in order to duplicate that channel and there you go. Now you got to duplicate. This is a so- called Alpha channel meaning for our purposes that it's not a color-bearing channel. It doesn't contribute color to the composite image. It's just an extra channel that we can use to create a mask. I'm going to go ahead and call this new channel clock parts or something along those lines, because after all it does represent the clock parts here inside the Clock parts.tif image.
Now if we want the areas that we are going to select to be white and the areas that we don't want to select to be black, then we want the opposite effect that we are seeing on screen right now. So you will press Ctrl+I or Command+I on the Mac to invert the image. Now the background is black, because we are not going to select it and everything else is either white or light and we can make it even lighter by pressing Ctrl+L or Command+L on the Mac to bring up the Levels dialog box and then notice there is big hump right there. That represents these dark colors here inside the clock face and then these guys right there, those are the very light colors that we are seeing in the clock parts like the hands of the clock and inside the numbers and so on.
And then this spike over here on the left-hand side represents the black in the background. So we want to make the blacks a little bit darker. I'm just going to take that up to 3, that black point value and then I'm going to take this white point value all the way down to the other set of the big hump and even farther just to make sure we are getting rid of every little dust and scratch, every little snivel here inside the clock face so that the clock face is completely white. So 3 for the black point value, 12 for the white point value. So we are turning it just a ton of this image white and then we will leave the gamma value alone, Click OK.
All right, that makes the contrast too high. So if you zoom in here, you will see that we have got some wicked jagged edges going. We don't want those. So we are going to soften things a little bit using Gaussian Blur and then we are going to follow up with Levels in order to cheat the edges inward a little bit so that we select to little instead of too much. So go up to the Filter menu and choose Blur and Gaussian Blur and I'm going to enter a value of 1. That just gives us a little wiggle over. Notice that what it's doing is it's creating some grayness around the edges and we can use that grayness to move the edges back and forth. So I'll Click OK after entering a value of 1 where we formally -- this is very important. I'm going to zoom in here. Where we formally had essentially black pixels against white pixels with just the occasional gray pixel in between.
Now we have, if I press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z to redo the filter, we have black pixels separated from white pixels by a handful of gray pixels and why that's important is because I can follow it up now with another application of the Levels command by pressing Ctrl+L or Command+L on the Mac and I can actually choke this edge inward which is what I want to do by raising the black values. So notice that's moving that edge inward as I raise the black value and I'm going to raise the black value to 200 like so and we now have -- also by the way we have softer edges, more gentle smooth edges. We are also rounding off the occasional corner; I'm not too concerned with that. Then Click OK in order to accept that modification, and that's how we ended up getting the mask.
So that's how you too can go ahead and mask objects away from light background. So it's a really great technique. All right, so I'm going to go back to the RGB image, to tell you what, in the next exercise we are going to actually put all this stuff to work. We are going to use the mask to select the clock face and we are going to move the clock face into Cardinal i Tondo transformed it into place you will see, it's a wonder to behold.
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