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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, time for a brief recap. Here I am inside Slippery when wet.psd. If I go over to the droplets layer, right-click on it and choose Clear layer Style, then I dump away all those layer Effects, and I'm left with this kind of black tar pattern, and that's what we're trying to achieve over these first few exercises. We want to create these random blobs that are sort of glued together, black against transparency, so that we can see through to the underlying layers. And then it's ultimately the layer Effects that convert all that blackness into liquid.
And it can be a variety of different kinds of liquid, as we'll see. I am going to go ahead and switch over to my work in progress here, which I've called Noise + GBlur.psd. And although it's very difficult to see here, we have some marginally dark gray blobs against a marginally lighter gray background. What we need to do is increase the contrast between the blobs in the background using an Adjustment layer known as Threshold. The idea is Threshold draws a line in the sand and says, all you guys that are darker than this line, you become black, everybody else becomes white, and that creates the ultimate contrast, just at a single line the contrast is drawn.
All right, to see how that works, I want you to bring up the Adjustments panel, and you can get to it if you loaded dekeKeys by pressing the F10 key. And then notice this middle icon in the third row, Threshold. I want you to Alt+Click on it here on the PC or Option+Click on the Mac, and we're going to call this guy, dropmaker. And I want you to turn on Use Previous layer to Create Clipping Mask. Then click OK, and right away you should see a bunch of blobs form inside your image. Now, notice the Threshold Level by default is 128.
So it's saying everybody that's darker than 128 become black and 255 is white, so 128 is right there in the middle. You can see what a tiny histogram we have to work with here. So we don't have anything resembling Shadows or Highlights. We've just got the slimmest number of Midtones in between, and that's what we are drawing out to create what appears to be cow spots at this point. It looks like one of those old Gateway computer boxes. All right, so I'm going to go ahead and close the Adjustments panel, because 128 is what we want to use. If I were to bring it open, I could show you.
If you want more blackness, you'd increase the Threshold value. If you want more whiteness, you decrease the Threshold value, but 128 is pretty much going to be your bet there. Now, if you like what you see, then you're ready for the next step. If you don't like what you see, bear in mind that Black represents the water at this point and white represents the area behind the water. I'm pretty happy with some of the patterning I'm seeing and the distribution of some of the dots, and so on. But we've got much more water on the left- hand side of the image than we do on the right. So it would be nice to see a more even distribution.
If you want to try it again, then you've got to try those previous three steps that you saw in the last exercise. I'll go ahead and reperform it for you, because you'll see, we'll get a totally different result this time around. You click on the noise layer to select it, and then you go ahead and press Shift+Backspace or Shift+Delete on the Mac. You'll get the Fill dialog box. It's set to Use 50% Gray. You click OK. So you don't have to do anything in these dialog boxes. You just click OK when they come up. You'll see a field of white there in the background; don't worry about that. Next, go up to the Filter menu, choose Noise, and choose Add Noise.
Again, it shows you your last applied settings, so just click OK. You might say at this point, hey Deke, if we just keep doing the same darn thing every time, aren't we going to get the same results? No, because Add Noise, this one filter here, does something different automatically each and every time. It's a random noise distribution, so its contribution changes. It fluctuates from one application to the next. Click OK, and then go up to the Filter menu, choose Blur, and choose Gaussian Blur, or If you loaded dekeKeys, press Shift+F7.
Then oh my goodness, I didn't like the last droplet distribution. I really don't like this one very much, all I have is this one drop to work with right here. That's where it is, someplace in the grayness, but that's all we've got. Now, you might think, well, let's increase the Radius value. Let's take it up to 30. Well, that's not going to do anything, and let's take it down to 26, let's say. Well, we got sort of a blobbier blob going right there. But that's it. We really aren't going to get anywhere with changing the Gaussian Blur value.
What might work for us, I'll go ahead and click OK, at this point we might have some luck changing the Threshold value. So I'll double-click on this Threshold thumbnail, and let's try to increase the Threshold value. And wow, I can increase it to 131 this time, which is actually pretty darn high in order to bring in some droplets. That's interesting! All right, you know what? I'm going to Escape out of this though. I'm not going to make any modification. I'm going to leave it set to 128 right there. Even though it's still showing me the 131 preview. Let's go ahead and reduce that value and then increase it.
All right, so that's 128. Let me try another stab at the noise layer; I am going to press Shift+Backspace or Shift+Delete on the Mac in order to bring up the Fill dialog box. Hue is set to 50% Gray, click OK, and that gives me grayness. Now, I can't see it because it's being thresholded over to white. Now, let's go over to the Filter menu, choose Noise, choose Add Noise. Let these value stand, click OK. We're seeing noise, albeit, it's being transformed to exclusively black-and-white noise by the dropmaker layer. And then I'll go up to the Filter menu, and I'll choose Blur, and I'll choose Gaussian Blur.
Now I get this distribution of dots right there, and I'll click OK. So we're seeing more than we saw before. What happens if I once again double- click on this thumbnail, and I'm going to increase the Threshold value, like so, and that gives me yet another new result. So the thing is, when you're working with a random filter like Add Noise in order to achieve a random effect, then it may take a few swings at the effect in order to get it exactly right. So I just want you to know that, because your results are totally going to vary from mine.
There is no way for me to anticipate exactly what you're going to get. All right, I'm going to go ahead and close the Adjustments panel. So whatever Threshold value it takes, apparently you can raise or lower that value to get very different results, depending on how the other filters behave there. At some point you're going to get a reasonable distribution of black inside of white. The problem is, let's go ahead and Zoom in on this effect here. I'll Zoom in past 100%, so that you can see; this is the 200% Zoom Ratio by the way, so you can see that we have very harsh transitions, because of the way that Threshold works, either the pixels are being changed to black, or they're being changed to white.
There is no anti-aliasing or transitioning in between. We just have jagged edges. We need to clean up those jagged edges using a combination of another application of Gaussian Blur, plus the Levels command, and I'll show you how that works in the next exercise.
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