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Photoshop is the tool of choice for most creative professionals and has quickly become household name synonymous with computer art and image manipulation. In Photoshop CS3 One-on-One: Beyond the Basics, internationally renowned Photoshop guru Deke McClelland teaches such digital-age wonders as masking, filters, layers, blend modes, Liquify, Vanishing Point, and vector-based type. Along the way, Deke also teaches tried-and-true methods for sharpening details, smoothing over wrinkles and imperfections, trimming away jowls and fat, and wrapping one image around the surface of another. Plus, the training teaches how to construct and organize the elements in a composition so you can edit them easily in the future. Exercise files accompany the tutorial.
Ready for more Photoshop CS3 training with Deke? Check out Photoshop CS3 One-on-One: Advanced Techniques.
Note: Photoshop CS3 One-on-One: The Essentials is a recommended prerequisite to Photoshop CS3 One-on-One: Beyond the Basics.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.
Alright so here is how things are going to go down. In the first portion of this chapter I am going to introduce you to what I consider to be a few of the best of the blurring and averaging functions inside of Photoshop and we are going to approach the commands on an analytical level so we can figure out how they work. And then in the second portion of the chapter I will show you the fun, creative and very practical applications of these filters. Yes they are all filters because they are edge detection functions after all. I am working inside this analytical illustration here rectangles.psd inside the 12 Blur Average Folder.
Pretty simple little diagrams to start with, just these rectangles at again sort of a textured background and altogether there is four of them two side by side at the top and two side by side below so a pair up and a pair down. And of course I have sized my window on screen here so that I can use the Home and End keys to bounce back and forth. Look at that scroll bar, Home and the images exactly aligned with each other for comparative purposes don't you know. Alright let's start with the upper left hand image.
It should be selected by default but let's just check. I will bring up the Layers palette. Sure enough there it is it's 1TL meaning top left. We also have two top right, three bottom left and four bottom right. So go ahead and make sure 1TL is active. I am going to press the F7 key to make that palette go away now because I have tucked my palettes away into these tiny little icons. I tell you what I am falling in love with that feature. It did take a little bit of time actually I have to tell you but now me and it I see marriage, baby carriage the whole thing.
Alright anyway and we got the top left image selected. I want you to go up to the filter menu now, choose blur and choose the boss of all the blurs this guy right here Gaussian Blur and it's not going to seem like much. This is a very simple filter as it turns out. All you have got is a radius value and it just blurs things. Big deal, big whoop but how it works is sort of key to understanding what's going on with filtering in general inside Photoshop. I did allude to it back when I was talking about unsharp mask and smart sharp in the Gaussian Blur function you might recall back in the previous chapter.
Anyway let's see what's going on with it. Go ahead and choose the command or if you loaded my Deke keys you can press Shift F7 in order to bring it up, that works too and I will go ahead and drag the preview over inside this little preview box. It's not all that necessary because we can see it out here as well. I am going to change the radius value it starts at 1.0. I mean it's the default setting, refractory default setting. It might appear something else for you, doesn't really matter. Notice that of course I mean this is not unexpected at all for you and lower values, you are going to do just a little bit of blurring so if you just want a slight panache of blurring then you can enter a very low radius value such as 0.3 that's about as low as I go.
When you drop to 0.2 and 0.1 you start to lose these radius effects it's basically what's going on. Now I am going to take it up and just sort of keep an eye on this. I am just pressing the Up arrow key to raise that value in 0.1 increments and now I am going to press Shift Up arrow to raise it in whole number increments until I get up to about here 20 pixels worth of radius and notice how blurry things are now. There are two things I want to point out about the Gaussian Blur. Why in the world is it called Gaussian Blur in the first place? Well it's named after this fellow this mathematician named Frederick Gauss in case you are curious and it's named after this thing he came up with which is the Gaussian bell shaped curves so the idea, notice I am kind of drawing half of a bell here.
Imagine this is the top of the bell and then I am dragging down like this and here is the bottom edge of the bell and then it goes over like this and then I drag back up. I just drew a bell. Do you see that? Think of the liberty bell there. So anyway the bell shaped curve just is one half, just that one edge of the bell like this and the idea is this the slope of the curve starts, the slope of the blur that is imagine that this blur right here is a slope. So when we are seeing the dark color, we are at the top of the slope, we are at the top of the bell and when we are seeing the light color we are at the bottom of the bell.
And so you start very slowly, the blur starts very slowly at the top of the bell here and then it goes quickly down the side of the bell at this point and then I accidentally click so that was why that changed that in that area and then it goes slowly at the end as well and that slowness at the end is the key factor. Notice what's happening inside of the dialog box here. You can see the edge of this layer blurring into this checker board and the checker board represents transparency. So it's actually blurring the layer into nothingness and in here we are seeing white in the background so it's blurring into the whiteness and you can't really see the edge, can you, that's because of this Gaussian bell shaped curve.
I will show you what it looks like if we didn't have that curve in the next exercise but just take my word for it for now. That Gaussian equation there is one of the things that makes Photoshop so great because there is applications out there that aren't capable of Gaussian equations and this means that we have very soft drop offs on screen and print and so on, so wonderful softness at the end of our blur. Go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification. Now not only did we blur the contents of the layer, we also blurred the transparency mask that is to say we blurred the edges of the layer.
So if I went over here to Layers palette and I am going to go all the way down and click on the background layer and I am going to fill it with black, black is my foreground color right now you can see that at the bottom of the toolbox. So I am going to press Alt Backspace or Option Delete to fill the background with black so that you can see no matter what it's still blurring very softly into the background. No matter what I change the background to, this layer this top left layer 1TL is always going to blur very softly into it because the edges of the layer are actually blurred. Isn't that amazing? Alright I am going to undo that modification now if you don't want to work that way.
I will go ahead and back up and undo the application of the Gaussian Blur command to this TL layer as well and that automatically selects it. If you just want to blur the contents of the layer and not the edges of the layer, you want to keep them nice and crisp for whatever reason then you would go to this little Lock icon in the top left corner of the Layers palette here, this little checker board lock and click on it so that first icon to the right of the word Lock. Click on it, makes a little lock. That locks the transparency so it can't be modified.
Now let's just repeat the application, the Gaussian Blur filter by choosing it from the filter menu and notice this time it just blurs the contents of this layer and not the edges. Alright it turns out I don't want to do that, I want to go ahead and blur the edges too so I am going to undo that modification and check this out. There is a keyboard shortcut for accessing that transparency function right there and it happens to be the slash key. I just pressed the slash key, I didn't click on it. I just pressed the slash key the one under the question mark so slash turns it on, slash turns it back off. In case you need another keyboard shortcut smashed in your head there.
Alright so let's go ahead and reapply that Gaussian Blur filter to the layer and we get a nice soft drop off that is the amazing world of Gaussian Blur inside Photoshop. In the next exercise you will see what a world without Frederick Gauss would look like.
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