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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 you see me playing me with this pachyderm here and the name of the image is High-contrast elephant.jpg, and I have gone ahead and chosen the Curves command. I went to the Image menu, chose Adjustments, and then chose the Curves command, or I could press Ctrl+M, Command+M on the Mac in order to bring up the Curves dialog box, which allows me to apply a static luminance modification. Now, I stress that because I'm about to show you a bunch of different wonderful hidden tricks for working inside the Curves dialog box. They work, as I'm about to show you, when you're applying a static modification. If you're working with an adjustment layer, things work a little differently. The secret hidden tricks are slightly different as you'll see. I say "as you'll see" because you're going to see that in the next exercise.
So let me show them to you here, inside the dialog box first, where they make a little more sense, and then we'll see them in the Adjustment palette in just a moment. I've already made an adjustment to my curve, and I've sort of drawn attention to this unspeakable mask back here in the shadowy background. Although this is an interesting modification, I'm not sure it's exactly what I'm looking for. So I'm going to reset my curve, my luminous curve back to a straight diagonal line, by pressing and holding; notice this Cancel button right here, if I press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, it changes to Reset. Then with Alt or Option down, I'll click on that Reset button and I restore the original elephant, which is in very bad shape of course.
Now notice, as I gesture at this elephant, what am I gesturing with, an Eyedropper. So as soon as I move my cursor out of the dialog box, assuming this tool right here is selected by the way. You want to make sure the Point tool is selected, not the Pencil tool. Then when you move your cursor out of the dialog box, you get an Eyedropper, and if you drag with that cursor, watch in the graph; I want you to watch this area as I drag inside of the image, you'll see a little bouncing ball that's jumping up and down all over the place there. It's showing you the location of the Luminance Level that you're dragging over.
So in other words, what is the luminance of the pixel that's directly under your cursor there. In my case, I happened to have found the dead center color. But what's more useful is to say, well, gosh, it's this area right here on the animal's forehead; whether it's a girl or a boy elephant, I think this is a lady, but right here on her forehead, let's say, is the area that I want to modify. Well, I can see with the bouncing ball that that's kind to be in the upper sort of quadrant or upper eighth really or sixteenth I guess it is of that graph. You can see where the ball is bouncing around, so in the upper right corner of the graph there.
Now, that's very interesting. That would mean that you'd have to sort of click around and then go back to the graph in order to set a point to that location. What if you just want to lift a point by clicking some place inside of the elephant? Well, what you do is you press and hold the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac and then click at that point. Notice what happens when you Ctrl+Click or Command+click with this Eyedropper, you just go ahead and add the point automatically. So you don't have to worry about the bouncing ball, you can see where that point is going to land. Then you know, okay, if I drag this down, I'm going to make these colors, those Luminance Levels, on that brow darker, along of course with a bunch of other colors that are getting dragged down along with it. So that's another way to work.
Now, this point is selected so I can get rid of it by pressing the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac. You can tell when a point is selected because it's black; see that, and the deselected points are hollow. I'll go ahead and Backspace that away once again. What if you want to add the Luminance Levels that are associated with a pixel on a Channel by Channel basis? So you want to add the component Luminance Levels. Then what you do is you press Ctrl and Shift at the same time, that would be Command and Shift on the Mac, and you click. Now, what you're going to notice is nothing happened here inside of the composite graph. That's because I have to go to the individual channels to see these new points.
So notice, I have the exact same keyboard shortcuts that I have with levels. So I've got Alt or Option+2 for the RGB composite. Then I've Alt or Option+3 for Red, Alt or Option+4 for Green, and Alt or Option+5 for Blue. I was telling you that Ctrl or Command work as well when you're inside this dialog box. Anyway, I'm going to move to Red. Notice right there, there is the point that I just added. If I press Alt+4 for Green, there's the point in the Green Channel. Alt or Option+5 for Blue shows me the point here inside of the blue graph.
So I'll go ahead and press Alt or Option+2 to move back to the RGB composite graph right here. Another thing that you can do. If you set a bunch of points here, let's say, I go ahead and set many points in this graph, like so, and move them around a little bit and so on. You can move from one point to another by clicking on that point, but if you click on a point to select it, you run the risk of slightly moving it. Sometimes you have things exactly where you want them to be, and you don't want to go goofing up your points and sort of messing up their locations ever so slightly.
So if you want to switch from one point to another from the keyboard, in the old days you would press Ctrl+Tab to move forward to the points or Ctrl+Shift+Tab to backup. That still works by the way, and that's Ctrl+Tab on either the PC or the Mac, but it only works when you're inside this dialog box. When you're outside the dialog box, over here in the Adjustments palette, that doesn't work anymore, because that's going to switch you between windows on the PC anyway. So I urge you to get in the habit of using a different keyboard shortcut if you had been in the habit of using Ctrl+ Tab in the past. This is much easier. You press the + key, which is the equals key of course, so you just press + in order to move forward from one point to the next, like I'm doing here. You press - to backup.
You can cycle all the way by the way. If I press - to go back to the black point here and then I press - again, I'll go to the white point and then cycle back around the graph. So that's just a way to advance from one point to another. Plus or minus are available to you. Then you can either drag that point to a different location or you can nudge it from the keyboard. Now, I want you to see what happens when you nudge from the keyboard. Notice we have an Input Level and an Output Level. So currently for me, this point is set to an Input of 169 and an Output of 162. Meaning, I'm changing everything that has a Brightness value, a Luminance Level of 169 and I'm changing it to 162. So I'm darkening up those Luminance Levels slightly.
Let me switch to a different point here so that option is no longer active, and then I'll press the + key to comeback to that point. I just want to make sure the numerical value is not active for this technique to work. Notice if I press the Right Arrow key, I'm increasing the Input Level value, and if I press the Left Arrow key I'm decreasing the Input Level value. Now, you might say, well, how in the world are you going to remember right and left for Input? Well, because it's moving the point back and forth, notice that. If I press the Right Arrow key, watch the point go to the right. If I press Left Arrow key, you can see the point go to the left. So that makes sense and that's all that's happening when you're increasing or decreasing the Input value.
If you press the Up or Down Arrow key, that's going to move the point up, in this case of the Up Arrow key and Down in the case of the Down Arrow key, and that's going to either increase with Up Arrow or decrease the Output Level value. So it's just something to bear in mind if you want to be able to move these points from the keyboard. If you want to move them more quickly in increments of ten, then you press Shift+Up Arrow or Shift+Down Arrow or Shift+Right Arrow or Shift+Left Arrow, also available to you. So there you have it, I think that's basically everything she wrote there in terms of, wonderful keyboard hidden techniques that are available to you here inside the Curves dialog box.
Things don't work quite that way once we switch over to the Adjustments palette, and work with an adjustment layer. So why don't we go ahead and do that. I'm going to go ahead and click the Cancel button to cancel out of the big old Curves dialog box, and then if you join me in the next exercise, I'm going to show you how things work when we apply a Curves adjustment layer.
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