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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.
I'm still working inside Levels set to Auto.psd, and I am going to clear out my Level settings by clicking on the Reset icon in the bottom right corner of the Adjustments panel. By the way, if you are working along with me, make sure that the Opacity value for this Adjustment layer is set to 100%. In this exercise, I am going to show you how to use this group of three eyedroppers in the upper left portion of the Adjustments panel. What they allow you to do is set the black point, gray point and white point here inside the Levels panel just by clicking on a pixel inside the image.
So for example, I am going to grab that black eyedropper. Let's try clicking underneath her chin right there and that dark jaw line. That will go ahead and change the pixel on which I clicked to black. It will stretch out the rest of the histogram as well. In fact, you can now see the after view of the histogram here inside the Levels panel. Also notice that none of my settings have changed at all. So what in the world is going on there? That seems like it would limit your ability to customize the effect. Well, once happened whenever you see something like this occur, it means that all the changes have been applied on a channel by channel basis.
So you would switch your channel option to something other than RGB. I'm going to switch over to Red. You'll now see that in my case, the black point value is 82. So I have raised the heck out of that black point value and as a result I must be clipping all kinds of stuff inside this image to see what kind of clipping is occurring. I could either go back to RGB, and I could Alt+Drag that Black slider triangle right there. You can Alt+Drag or Option+Drag the Black or White sliders inside of the various channel views as well.
Anyway, in my case I am seeing that everything that's not white is clipping the black. But an even better way to preview the clipping is to press the Alt or Option key while you're using the black eyedropper. So as long as the black eyedropper is selected, all I have to do is press Alt or Option, and I can see the clipping inside the image window. If I release the Alt or Option key and then click in some other portion of the image like I will click on the pixel right there, then I press Alt or Option, and I will see a lot more clipping occurring. All right! So the big problem with this eyedropper in my opinion is that it tends to clip too much detail.
If you can actually find an obvious black pixel inside the image and click on it, then very likely there is some other even darker pixels that are going to go to black as well. I am going to click as near as I can tell in her pupil and see how that works. Apparently I missed and clicked in her iris. Let's try again, there we go. So I clicked inside of the pupil and now I will press and hold the Alt or Option key, and I can see that very little of my image is clipping. So that's a much more satisfactory modification. Notice that as soon as I move my cursor into the panel, I still have Alt or Option down; the clipping preview goes away.
I have to have my cursor out there in the image window; kind of weird, but that's the way it works. All right! The white eyedropper, same diff; I would click somewhere inside the image. Let's say on her cheek, on the dark part of her cheek so that we make a huge modification. We get this wild, high key image as a result. Pretty darn cool looking actually. If I press and hold the Alt or Option key, I can see where the clipping is occurring on the fly so long as I keep my cursor inside the image window. All right! So I release the Alt or Option key. Let's say for the moment that I kind of like that effect.
Now then I need to adjust the Gamma value and you can do that using this gray eyedropper. Notice its tip doesn't say anything about holding Alt or Option by the way. That's because you can't clip using the Gamma value inside Photoshop. All right! So when you are using the gray eyedropper, you want to click on a color that ought to be neutral inside the image. So let's say I decide I want her irises to be nice and gray. Then I would click on them and that's going to change the other colors accordingly. Again, all these changes are happening on a channel by channel basis.
Our histogram has been laid waste to here inside of the Composite view. But if I switch over to Red once again, you can see that we have made some pretty significant modifications. We have got a black point value of 54 now, white point 160, that's an awful lot of clipping going on, and then a very bright Gamma value of 1.41 because we neutralized something that was greenish blue in the first place. So we subtracted a lot of green, we subtracted a lot of blue, and we had to add a lot of red and that's what's happened here.
If you switch over to the Green channel, you will see that yes indeed we've dropped the Gamma value there, and then inside the Blue channel I have dropped the Gamma value even more. All right! So those are the eyedroppers. Now, the big reason this gray eyedropper exists I should tell you is for neutralizing a gray card. So in other words, you shot a gray card or a Macbeth chart or something along those lines along with the image which is fairly standard for studio photographers. However, when you are on the road, it's less likely that you are going to use a gray card, and of course if you are not a photographer, you may not own a gray card at all.
So what do you do? How do you actually find a color that should be gray inside the image? I am going to show you a little trick that sometimes work sometimes doesn't in the next exercise.
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