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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, in this exercise I'm going to show you a three-part diffuse focus technique that involves a combination of Median, Unsharp Mask and Gaussian Blur in that order and you can apply them in the order of Median, Gaussian Blur and Unsharp Mask. So in other words you change the order of the last two filters. But it's more helpful to see it unfold before you, if we go in the order that I just told you. So I have gone ahead and saved my progress so far as the file called Hooray for Horatio.psd and I have selected the diffusion layer right here. So we have got a Contrast Reducer right there in form of old school Brightness Contrast layer.
We have got diffusion, which is just a copy of the background layer set to Overlay, and we are ready to begin our diffusion process. So I'm going to start with the real porcelain command, the one that does the best smoothing, the best detailed pounding of any command out there and this is for when you need that extra layer of diffusion and what you do is you go to Noise and you choose the Median function. Shift+F8, if you have installed Deke Keys. So, and the reason we are going Median is because we don't need any form of threshold which is what we would get out of dust and scratches. We really want to pound away that detail and it just does the best job.
It's merciless. So I'll go ahead and choose the Median command and then you just go ahead and raise this value and see what you see on screen and watch the bad stuff go away as well as the good stuff, of course it's just going to get rid of all kinds of details inside of this image. Now you don't' want to go too far with it because if you take it too high you are going to start losing the effect of the filter and it's going to turn into more of a brightness bounce and so you can start losing some of your shadow detail and possibly filling in your highlights as well. So keeping it below 20, I find it works pretty nicely and I'm going to take mine to about 16 and when I say mine I mean the Radius value.
This is what the eye looks like, if this layer were set to the Normal blend mode, but this is what it looks like when we are merging the effect using the Overlay mode. So it looks pretty nice and this is before, I'll go ahead and turn off the Preview check box and this is after. So I'll click OK and the next thing that I want to do is I want to bring back some of the details fortify the details using Unsharp Mask and I'm using Unsharp Mask as opposed to Smart Sharpen for a kind of arcane reason but it works for me. I only use Smart Sharpen when I want to take advantage of the removal of either Lens Blur or Motion Blur.
So if I'm removing Gaussian Blur and I'm trying to account for example, Bicubic Interpolation because I have resized the image or skin softening or something along those lines or the fact that I just got done applying the Median filter then I want to work with Unsharp Mask instead because that way I don't have to monkey with the remove setting. This is Shift+F5 of course if you load a Deke Keys and I'll go ahead and choose the command to the load up the Unsharp Mask dialog box. Now you have to either match or exceed the Radius value you have applied for a Median to get much of anything done.
So I'm going to suggest we kind of match our Radius values across the board. So decide on a value that works for you with Median and then carry it through to the other commands. So I'm going with the Radius of 16 pixels, we'll click on his eye here and you can see how that really sort of reestablishes things. Here is the Median version of the eye and it doesn't look like an eye anymore but it fills in quite nicely when it's set to the Overlay mode. It does a nice job of smoothing over these details here and then I'm going to take this value, this Amount value, you can take it really high if you want to, you can go through the roof with that and you will get this horribly modeled effect that is not something you want. What I love about this, I have to say I actually really love this, is that it looks like we have wrapped this man in plastic for the ages, so he won't spoil.
It's really kind of a cool, glowy, nifty effect but it is an effect. It's obviously not photographic at this point. So I would have to back it off and I'm going to take it down to 250% and you might say well it's still not photographic and good Lord the things we are doing to this layer are just tedious at this point but it's all working for us. Leave Threshold set to 0. Do not mess with the Threshold option for this function. And now having gone too far quite obviously with this effect we are going to back it off using Gaussian Blur. Now the thing to bear in mind there is that and this will become especially obvious if I were to change the blend mode to Normal for just a moment so that we can see this. Median is notorious not for creating softness inside of an image, it does smooth the contours by rounding corners but it's basically generating new details. So it's just displacing corners and edges inside of an image, as it's done for this man here.
So he is not any softer than he was before. He is just sort of glumpier. It's more like he is rendered in wax or something along those lines. In order to get rid of the new edges, which are basically not correct edges inside of the image at this point, in order to smooth those off, we need to then follow up with Gaussian Blur. So I'm going to change the blend mode back to Overlay of course, press the Escape key here on the PC in order to deactivate that option. Not necessary in the Mac, all right. Then I'll go back up to the Filter menu, I'll choose Blur and I'll choose Gaussian Blur, Shift+F7 if you load Deke Keys and match the same Radius value.
Once again it needs to be same or bigger if you are going to get much of an effect out of the filter. Now look at the eye it's no longer that weird disturbing slit that it was before. It is now just soft. So to see the effect of Gaussian Blur I'll turn off Preview and then I'll turn it back on. So it goes from being plastic wrapped to just nicely diffused and then click OK in order to accept that effect. Now this may seem a weird way to work. First we apply Median to make things sort of waxy and goopy and then we follow it up with Unsharp Mask with a blurring filter with the exact opposite really which is Gaussian Blur but it's a great way to go.
And just think of it this way, this is very popular route actually to both soften and blur, you are not really changing the focus. These are all parlor tricks inside of Photoshop, you are moving details around and gumming things up and smoothing things over and then fortifying new edges and that kind of thing. So it's all incremental. Anyway it all makes an enormous difference to this image. Check it out, if I turn off the diffusion layer now, this is what the image looked like to begin with and so I'll turn diffusion back on and now it looks awesomely gorgeous.
One other thing I would do just because he is tending to look a little too yellow at this point because we have bolstered the color saturation by increasing the contrast. So the colors are becoming increasingly obviously orange inside of this image. So I would just go ahead and click on that contrast reducer layer, top layer in the stack, go back to Adjustments, click on this green arrow in order to return to the adjustments list and I'm going to add a Vibrance layer, like so. And this layer does not want to be clipped. It just wants to be loose like it is and I'm going to reduce not the Vibrance because you don't want less Vibrance inside this image, notice that he looks pallid and horrible. So let's keep the Vibrance what it was.
Instead what we want to do is we want to take the Saturation value down to -10%, that's as far as I would take it. I won't go down to -20% because then he starts getting too pink and I don't really like that look very much. You can split the difference if you want to. I'm not going to. I'm going to go with -10% and I'm thinking that's great. So now where you can get a sense if I Alt+Click or Option+Click on the eyeball in front of the background layer this is before, this is after; thanks to this wonderful multi gender, multi step diffuse focus technique here inside of Photoshop.
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