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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.
All right, so the Refine Edge command or Refine Mask, whatever you call it, it's a terrific feature. But all the automation in the world isn't going to necessarily deliver perfect results. That is definitely the case where our layer mask is concerned. So in this exercise, I'm going to show you how to apply the last required manual adjustments. I've gone ahead saved my progress as Refine Mask results.psd. Notice that I have this layer that I've called refinement, which is combined currently with a layer of white.
The white layer is just there so I can see what's right and what's wrong about my composition. I'm going to go ahead and zoom in on this area inside the fingers, because that's the most troublesome regions so far, at least when I'm saying this layer of white in a background. However, as soon as I turn that layer of white off, I can see that we've got halos around not only the insides of the fingers, but around the outside of the knuckles as well. So, what do we do about all these details? Well, what I want to do is I want to select a specific region of the mask.
So I'm going to get my Lasso tool. I'm going to make sure the mask is active, which it isn't over here in the Layers panel. So I'm going to go ahead and click on this layer mask thumbnail there. Then I'm going to basically drag around this region right there which needs adjustment, because notice that we've got some bright corners showing up, and we also have some halos all the way around. Now I'd like to modify this selected region of the layer mask using the Refine Mask command. But I can't, because if I go up to the Select menu, I can see that I have the Refine Edge command which tells me that I'm going to affect the selection outline edges true, which I don't need to adjust.
I need to adjust the area inside the selection. But sure enough, if I choose Refine Edge, why then, there I am adjusting that selection outline, which isn't going to do me any good. So from this point on, I've got to take advantage of other features inside of Photoshop, which is fine, because there is a lot to choose from. For example, let's go and Alt+Click or Option+Click on this layer mask thumbnail. So we can see what we need to do here in order to get rid of those halos is we need to expand this region of black outward in order to fill in those details there.
If you want to make a black area larger inside of a mask, then you go up to the Filter menu and you go down to Other. You choose this command right there Minimum. Now I know this is hard to keep track of, but basically what's going on with these two fairly wacky demands here, Maximum and Minimum. Minimum is expanding the area consumed by the minimum luminance level, which is black. So you're making the dark regions bigger. Maximum is expanding the areas of maximum luminance level, which is white. So you'd be making the white areas bigger.
So if you wanted to make the black area smaller, you would choose Maximum. If you want to make the black area bigger, you will choose Minimum. So that's what I'm going to choose here. I've also given you a keyboard shortcut, because it's such a useful command where masking is concerned. So if you loaded dekeKeys, that's Shift+F11 for Maximum, and Shift+F12 for Minimum. Notice if I apply a Radius value of 1 that expands that area outward. Well, that's good to know. So keep it in your mind, but we can't tell what's going on inside the composite image when we are viewing the mask by itself.
So I'll cancel out of here for a moment. I'll Alt+Click or Option+Click once again on this layer mask thumbnail, so I can see the composite image. Now I'll go back to the Filter menu, choose Other > Minimum once again. Notice just a single pixel of Radius ends up expanding that mask outward. Now you could take it up to a Radius value of 2 pixels, but then we'll start blurring too far outward as you can see. So 1 is fine for this specific area. Then click OK. Our other problem is that this area is a little bit of too soft, and we need to firm it up.
So again, I'll Alt+Click or Option+Click on the layer mask thumbnail. We can see that this area is soft inside the mask. To firm up something that's soft inside of Photoshop, you apply sharpening. That's what we're going to do in this case. We'll just use Unsharp Mask, because it's the simplest of the sharpening solutions. So I'll Alt+Click or Option+Click once again on that layer mask thumbnail to revisit the composite image. Make sure the layer mask thumbnail remains selected, because we wouldn't want to be applying any these commands to the image pixels.
That would ruin the image. Now I'll go up to the Filter menu. I'll choose Sharpen. I'll choose Unsharp Mask, or I could press Shift+F5, because I have dekeKeys loaded. These are the settings I want you to apply. An Amount value 200%, a Radius of 2 pixels, because we have a pretty gooey edge going on here. We are not the least bit concerned by the way about whether we're commercially reproducing this image, or sending an outdoor inkjet printer, or preparing the image for the web, or any of that junk. We're just trying to accommodate for this soft mask.
The softness of the mask was about 2 pixels in looking at it. So I went ahead and matched that Radius value here to with the softness. Then I increased the Amount value to 200%. I could've gone farther if I wanted to. There is 500%. It gives me an ultra-sharp edge. However, I'll take it up to 200%. Now you may say to me Deke, you're telling us back in the sharpening section that Unsharp Mask, and these functions are not about sharpening focus. They're about sharpening detail. Yes, that's true. So we're not making up any new details inside the image.
We're just basically taking the details that were either black, or white, or shades of gray in between, and we're exaggerating their contrast right along those edges. So we're firming up that detail right there. As a result, we're creating a sharper edge to our mask. It happens to work out brilliantly. Click OK in order to accept that modification. You could see we have much better results inside of this detail than we had before. Finally, what I'm going to do is I'm going to go ahead and select my Smudge tool right here from this Blur tool flyout menu.
I've reduced the Size of my cursor to 10 pixels. So it's a wee little brush at this point. I'll right-click to show you. 10 pixels for Size, Hardness 0%. That's very important. You want a Hardness of 0%. So you don't end up smearing too many pixels at a time. Go ahead and escape out of there. I'm still working inside my layer mask. Again, very important, that I'm just going to squish in to those little corners there to fill them in, like so. That's it for this little detail. So those kinds of manual adjustments can sometimes very much be your friends.
To get a sense of what kind of progress I've made here, I'll go up to the Window menu, and choose the History command to bring up the History panel here. I'll click back on that Lasso item. That's when I first drew the lassos as you may recall. So this is the original halo that surrounded those fingertips and the back of the finger as well. This is the appearance of the mask now. Thanks to the changes we implemented using the Minimum Filter, UnSharp Mask, and two applications of the Smudge tool. Old-school masking techniques that's still work quite well indeed here inside Photoshop.
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