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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, gang, tell you what. What we are going to do. This is how this chapter is going to be divided up here. The first portion of the chapter I'm going to walk you through how the various Blur filters work, the Blur and Average filters because there's actually quite a few of them, many more than there are for sharpening. And so I'll just show you how they work using this sort of diagram file right here, Angry blocks. And then in the second-half of the chapter we'll get to some actual creative applications of these filters. So I have got the very first layer 1 TL selected and I have sized my Window so that we can compare the top couple of cyborgs here to the bottom ones, so if I press the End key notice my scroll bar moves to the bottom and if I press the Home key it moves to the top. And so I've got everybody perfectly aligned, and now we are seeing the bottom two, we are seeing 3 BL and 4 BR, and then when I go up we're seeing the top two, 1 TL and 2 TR. They just happened to be exactly aligned with each other.
All right, so 1 TL is active. I'm going to go on to the Filter menu. I'm going to choose Blur, and I'm going to choose this guy, this is the foremost of the Blur filters. If there was only one Blur filter inside of Photoshop, it would be this one. Gaussian Blur. And I've gone ahead and given it a keyboard shortcut of Shift+F7, if you loaded my Deke Keys, and it's a very, very simple function. It's as simple as High Pass that we just saw a moment ago in that it only has one value here, just the Radius value. But it's even simpler to understand because it's just going through and blurring neighboring pixels to the tune of that Radius value. So if I lower the Radius value and I'm pressing the Down Arrow key to do this. Then I would get a reduced Blur effect. That pretty much starts to disappear at something like 0.1, 0.2 and then starts to appear at 0.3.
And then if I raise the value, obviously I'm going to get a bigger Blur effect. Now I'm going to go ahead and take this value a pretty high, notice we're losing the face detail pretty well at this point. And they were creating a thoroughly blurry effect. I'm going to take it all the way to 20 pixels, just for the sake of comparison because we'll be applying a few other effects at 20 pixels. Actually, you know what, I think, I'll try 16, because there's another effect that's coming up pretty soon, it works better at 16. So we'll try 16 pixels here, and then I'll click OK in order to accept that effect.
Now the thing I want you to know is, in case you are wondering, hey, why isn't it just called Blur, why is it called Gaussian Blur of all things? Well, it's named after this Mathematician, Carl Friedrich Gauss. And the idea is we are taking advantage of a bell-shaped Gaussian curve in order to distribute the blurry effect here, which means we get a thorough amount of softening. Now imagine that we are blurring from Black to White. At first when we are blurring the black part there it will change very slowly, when we start getting into the middle portion we'll blur very quickly, we'd ramp very quickly through the grays and then we'd soften and then we blur very slowly again when we go into the whites.
So if you think about that, that's black blurring very slowly at first, very gradually. Then tapering quickly through the grays and then again very slowly through the whites, and so that's why we've got that Gaussian bell-shaped curve. I'm sort of tracing half a bell here, if you will, the right half of the bell with my cursor. And that's what's going on with the Gaussian Blur. Now why is that important? Well, it's important because it means that we have no perceptible edges. So in other words the image just appears to blur into nothingness, it blurs very evenly into its white background, making a perfect for things like Drop Shadows so that we don't have any discernible edges. If this was a so-called Linear Blur which we'll see in the next exercise, you would have edges and that is going to look quite unnatural in most circumstances. So Gaussian distribution of the Blur function in Photoshop was one of those first wonderful functions that put it over the top that made it The Image Editor of Choice for most professional artists.
Notice also in addition to blurring the layer, we have blurred the transparency mask, which is the transparency information associated with the layer. So if I was to go to the Background layer right here and I was to press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete to fill it with black, you could see that the layer is still very softly blending into the new background color. So that's because we have a blurry transparency mask right here as well. All right, so I'll go ahead and undo that modification. Actually I'm going a back step to the original angry layer right there, Ctrl+Alt+Z or Command+Option+Z of course.
Now what if you don't want to blur the transparency mask? What would you do about that? Well, you could lock down the transparency right there at the top of the Layer palette, notice that guy, if you click on him you will lock the transparency, you get a lock icon, and now if I were to go back up to the Filter menu, choose Gaussian Blur right there, press Ctrl+F, Command+F on the Mac to re-apply those same settings, notice that I go ahead and blur the interior of the layer but the transparency of the layer remains exactly as it was before. In other words an opaque rectangle transparency around it.
Now I'll go ahead and undo that modification. I want you to see you also have a keyboard shortcut for this function, which is the slash key. So if I press the / key just watch the little icon right there. If I press the / key it unlocks. Press / again, it locks. So that's a regular / key there with the question mark, right. Down in the lower right corner of your keyboard, on an American keyboard anyway. All right, so I'm going to unlock it, reapply the filter by pressing Ctrl+F or Command+F on the Mac, that's 16 pixels worth of Gaussian Blur goodness there.
In the next exercise we are going to compare Gaussian Blur to a Linear Blur. Coming right up!
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