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Photoshop has become an indispensible tool for photographers, designers, and all other creative professionals, as well as students. Photoshop CS4 Essential Training teaches a broad spectrum of core skills that are common to many creative fields: working with layers and selections; adjusting, manipulating, and retouching photos; painting; adding text; automating; preparing files for output; and more. Instructor Jan Kabili demonstrates established techniques as well as those made possible by some of the new features unique to Photoshop CS4. This course is indispensable to those who are new to the application, just learning this version, or expanding their skills. Example files accompany the course.
When you're combining images on two different layers, there are some controls in the Layers panel that come in real handy, and those are up here, the Layer Blend Mode menu and Layer Opacity, and the new Masks panel also has some useful controls when you are creating a composite image like the one I am about to show you. I am starting here with two images that in themselves aren't very exciting. On the top layer is this old overexposed photograph of a tent, and on the layer beneath is a scan that I made of a map that had been sitting in the garage and got some water damage and some wrinkled areas.
The first thing I'm going to do is to soften the edges of the tent photo. I will get the Rectangular Marquee tool here, and I am going to come in and click and drag close to the edges of the photo, and then I'm going to add a layer mask to that layer by going to the bottom of the Layers panel and clicking the layer mask icon. When the mask comes in, the areas that were not selected are black and the areas that were selected are white. With the Mask icon selected on the tent layer, I'm going to go up to the new Masks panel. Here there are two controls for changing the appearance of the mask.
Be it a layer mask like this one, or a vector mask like the mask that you have on shape layer. The Density control here makes the layer mask more or less opaque. So as I move density down, I can see through the black portions of the mask. I think I'm going to leave that all the way at 100% for this image, but I am going to use the next control, which will blur the edges between the black portions of the mask and the white portions of the mask. I really like the Feather control, because it lets me see right on the image the effect that the control is having. So I'll leave it somewhere around there.
And if you'd like to see this mask, I'll hold down the Option key on my Mac, that's the Alt key on a PC, and click right on the mask in the Layers panel. and you can see that there now is black, which is hiding part of the tent image, white which is revealing part of the tent image, and where I added that feather to blur this edge, there are grey pixels which gradually hide or show that area. In other words they partially let the photo show through. I'm going to Option or Alt+Click back on the layer mask icon to bring the image back. Now I'm going to show you how to use the blend modes.
I have clicked back on the tent layer to select the image thumbnail there rather than the mask thumbnail. Then I am going to open up the Layer Blend Mode menu for you to see. In this menu there are a number of different blend modes, each of which represents a different formula for blending the colors and tones on the active tent layer with the colors and tones in the layer below. I think the best way to deal with this menu is not to try to memorize what each one of these does, but rather to approach them in groups. This second group here, Darken and Multiply and Color Burn and so on down to this line, in general darken a blended image.
The next group lightens a blended image. The next group works with the contrast of the blended image, making some areas lighter and some areas darker than the originals. And those in this group have an extreme, almost reversing effect on color and those down at the bottom work on the properties of color. Even knowing that much, it's hard to choose a blend mode. So here is how I suggest that you approach this feature. I am going to close the menu and I am going to go over to the toolbox and select the Move tool. With that selected, I can press a keyboard shortcut that is going to cycle through all of these blend modes.
So keep your eye here on the Blend Mode menu, as I hold down the Shift key and then click repeatedly on the Plus key on my keyboard. The first time I click the Plus key, you can see how the Dissolve blend mode looks on this image. I click again and I can see the Darken blend mode and so on. I will just go through the blend modes until I find one that I think looks good. I kind of like that effect, Color Burn, so I will try to remember that one as I go down through the others, and you can see that with some of these you can really see through to the map layer below. With others you get a more subtle effect of the map showing through.
I think this is nice too, the Liner Light, and these behave differently depending on which image is you working on. So I think I'm going to go with Color Burn. I'll just come in and I'll select Color Burn. I like this effect, but I think the color is a little too strong. So I'm going to make it less intense by lowering the opacity of this layer. I go over to the Opacity field here, and there are several ways to deal with it. I could click on the arrow to the right of the Opacity field and drag this slider down or-- I'll click in this blank area to close the slider.
I could just move my mouse over the word Opacity. When my mouse changes to a double pointed arrow, I'll just scrub to the left and as I do that, Opacity is being reduced. You'll find these kinds of scrub sliders on many controls in Photoshop and I find them very efficient. Another way to handle Opacity is this. I am going to put it all the way back up to 100. As long as I have the Move tool selected, I can just press single digit numbers on my keyboard to change the amount of Opacity. Say for example, if I press the number 2, Opacity changes to 20%, 3 gives it 30%, 40%, 50%, I've pressed six and it's at 60%, and I kind of like that look because I can see the pathways of the map through the rather antique looking image on top of it.
So that's how you can use layer masks with the new Masks panel along with layer blending modes and layer opacity to take some rather ordinary looking images and change them into something, if not extraordinary, at least unusual.
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