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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 I'm going to introduce you to the contrast modes which are these bunch right here. Everything through and including Overlay and Hard Mix. And basically when you are applying a contrast mode you are lightening the lightest pixels and darkening the darkest pixels using a combination of lightening and darkening modes right here. So for example, Overlay and Soft Light and Hard Light are all employing combinations of Screen for the light pixels and Multiply for the dark pixels.
Vivid Light is employing Color Dodge for the light pixels and Color Burn for the dark ones. Linear Light and Hard Mix to an extent are employing Linear Dodge for the bright pixels and Linear Burn for the dark ones. And then finally, Pin Light is using lighten and darken. All right, so let's see how things work here. I'm going to go ahead and escape out of the Blend Mode menu for a moment and I'm going to tell you that I have gone ahead and saved our changes as Bright gradient.psd. Now click on the Texture layer to make it active and turn it on like so, so that we can see this wonderful texture. Ain't it beautiful? No, it's not. But it's going to blend very nicely I think.
Now I'm going to choose the when in doubt contrast mode, the best of them all, which is Overlay. So if you are not sure which contrast mode you want to work with, you do know you want to expand the contrast but you are not sure to what extent or how you want to accomplish it, this is where you start. And memorize its keyboard shortcut, Shift+Alt+O, it's one of the biggies. Apply that, and by the way that's Shift+ Option+O on the Mac of course. And you are going to see that we have screened in the lightest colors here in the texture and we have multiplied in the darkest colors. Now you may say, well that's not exactly true, Deke. After all if I switch to the Multiply mode by pressing Shift+Alt+M or Shift+Option+M on the Mac, I would see black, not see through as with the Overlay mode right there. And if I apply the Screen mode that would be a brighter white than it is and I did that by the way by pressing Shift+Alt+S or Shift+Option+S on the Mac.
If I switch back to Overlay now you can see that the white declines a little bit and really what's happening and I don't know if this is going to help you or not if you can wrap your brain around it. But Overlay uses a half strength Screen mode and a half strength Multiply mode; both of which decline more quickly and the mid tones completely disappear. And so these blacks are too near to mid tones and they are ending up disappearing against this background right here, although they are showing up little bit, I guess the statue face because it's darker.
Now the thing to note about Overlay is that it's the contrast mode that favors the background image. So it's favoring statue gradient and background over the Texture layer. If you want to do exactly the opposite, exactly the same math by the way but instead of favoring the background image, you favor the active layer, then you switch from Overlay to Hard Light and that's going to give you a more intense effect and we are going to bring back some of those blacks and we are going to back some of those whites but it's still a half strength Screen and a half strength Multiply. If you were to look at the math, that's the way it works. Just so as you know.
And of course the mid tones are going transparent on this as they always do but there is a nice natural sloping there, nice natural fade off to those transparent mid tones. All right, so Hard Light you have raven up the effect compared with Overlay anyway. If you want to back off the effect a little bit then you go ahead and press Shift+Plus from Overlay. That is in order to switch to the Soft Light blend mode. Now unless you are thinking wow, this looks like just like lower opacity version of Overlay, it isn't. It's actually a completely different effect, different math involved here. However, it does end up producing the effect of see through highlights and see through shadows. So it's more tepid effect but it can also be a more organic effect when you are combining images together.
All right, so if you want to amp it up though, if Hard Light just isn't strong enough for you, you can switch over to Vivid Light, like so, that's Vivid Light. As I was saying that's a half strength once again combination of Color Dodge and Color Burn. And then I'm going to press Shift+Plus to move to Linear Light, which is a half strength combination of Linear Dodge and Linear Burn. And then next in our list of contrast blend modes is this guy, all of a sudden the floor just drops out of the effect when we move to Pin Light. Now what Pin Light is doing is its running a lighten equation on the bright pixels and a darken equation on the dark ones.
So if the dark ones are darker than the background, we see them. If the light ones are lighten than the background, we'll see them. Anywhere where it's neither lighter nor darker, then the pixels just drop away and we can end up getting jagged effects even though Pin Light is applied independently on the channel by channel basis. But that's really good for adding this kind of junk to an image for sort of noising up an image if you want to or adding specific bright and dark values and just completely getting rid of mid tones. But I have to say it's not one of my favorite effects. And then if you want an unfavored effect you are just going to go on the second here. Shift++ for Hard Mix.
What it is? Just so you know, it's Linear Light set to a threshold so basically on a channel by channel basis, all of the pixels are changed to either black or white. So watch this. I'll go ahead and escape out of that value there so that Hard Mix is no longer active here on Windows. This is Ctrl+3 or Command+3 on the Mac for the red channel, every pixel is either black or white. This is Ctrl+4 or Command+4 for the green channel, every pixel is either black or white. This is Ctrl+5 or Command+5 for the blue channel, every single pixel is either black or white.
So when you press Ctrl+2 or Command+2 on the Mac for the RGB image, the various blacks and whites interact with each other in order to create a total of 8 colors, potentially 8 colors, we are not really seeing all of them here. But the potential 8 are black and white and then red, green and blue and then of course cyan, magenta, and yellow. In the case of our image where we are mostly just seeing black, white, yellow, and red. But even though this is such a wildly ugly effect, three of these contrast modes, the three that are absolutely the most over the top, right, which include Vivid Light, Linear Light and Hard Mix, all of them react differently to the Fill value than they do to the Opacity value. And you can really rescue one of these effects by playing around with Fill. And you will see how, not only how to do this in the next exercise but I have got a eureka moment, I figured out why Fill behaves differently than Opacity for these effects and I'm just dying to share this with you. Stay tuned.
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