Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video Target colors and clipping, part of Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced.
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We are still working inside Max at computer.jpg but this time we are going to be applying the Levels command as an adjustment layer and we are still going to stick with the Auto features but we are going to mitigate their behavior using the clipping functions, which is going to go a long way, not all the way, but a long way towards correcting this image the way I want it corrected anyway. And then because we are working with an adjustment layer we can come back and change our mind and make some modifications and get everything exactly right. So as I say I'm working inside Max at computer, already told you that. So here we go over to the Adjustments palette, and so make sure you are seeing your Layers palette as well, and Adjustments palette. Then I want you to click on this little guy, the second guy in Level. So notice the order here, it goes right in this contrast, we saw that way back in Chapter 05, it's a good command, it's not good enough for this image because it just doesn't give us the degree of control we need. I'll go ahead and show you, I could expand the contrast here and I could brighten the image up. But it's not a good correction, right? So let's go ahead and get rid of this layer just by pressing the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac, how easy is that here inside Photoshop CS4. I love that keyboard shortcut. Once again Photoshop is telling you what to do here, it's saying, okay, try and brighten this contrast first, if it that doesn't work for your luminance changes, your luminance modifications then try Levels, and if that doesn't work then try Curves. And then Photoshop loses its mind and says then try Exposure. Actually never try Exposure is my recommendation to you.
So let's go back to the same command, these guys right here, Brightness/Contrast, Levels, and Curves. And I'm going to try out Levels but of course. So go ahead and click on that puppy right there in order to bring up the Levels functions inside the Adjustments palette. You may recall that I have set things up so we don't have an extra layer mask down here that gets added automatically and if you forget how that's done, let me just show you right here. From the Adjustments palette you go to the little menu icon there, you click on it and you turn off and it's missing right now. I always forget about this, you have to go back. I have to click on this little green arrow here to go back to my adjustment list and then click on this menu icon and then turn off this command which is otherwise not available to me, which I would classify as irritating.
But anyway, there it is, Add Mask by Default. You want that off is my recommendation to you because if you don't need layer masks then its better that you don't see them inside the Layers palette otherwise it just clutter things up. But there is another function that I want you to turn on and that's this guy Expanded View, you want to see the expanded view of the Adjustments palette if you have enough room on screen. And I do, because I'm working in this wide-screen now, lovely! So it doesn't really add any benefit to looking at the adjustment list here. But if I now click on the blue right pointing arrowhead then I go back to my Levels Adjustment because Levels is active down here, Levels 1. And I'll see my Levels dialog box essentially here inside of a palette in all of its all blender and the width of the histogram is 256 pixels which is what I need to represent the 256 different luminance levels per channel that are available to me in a standard 8 bit per channel RGB image which is what this is.
Now then I go over here to Auto and click on it in order to apply Auto Tone. Now you are seeing that tip right there, right? I'll go ahead and apply Auto Tone there by clicking on Auto. But notice that tip because we are missing that Options button while you use Alt for Options here on the PC or Option for Options on the Mac, which makes a heck of a lot of sense I think. So I'm going to go ahead and Alt+Click or Option+ Click on that Auto button in here, are my auto correction features, very, very useful bunch by the way.
So let's go to Find Dark & Light Colors, which is what I want. And the Snap Neutral Midtones I don't think really does much for this specific image, doesn't really appear to be doing anything at this point. But I'll go ahead and turn it off for now. We will see what happens. Now notice down here that we have Target Colors & Clipping. Now the Target Colors allow you to define what the color of a shadow is and what the color of a highlight is. So what's the color of black essentially, what's the color of white, and what's the color of medium gray. So that means you can essentially colorize if you want to, your shadows, your highlights, your midtones or you can compensate for your printing environment. But just to give you a sense of what this looks like if you are trying to achieve an effect, you would click on Shadows let's say. And you would set it to a bright red, for example. If that's the effect you want and then the darkest color inside the image becomes that red. Get the idea.
So again it's useful for effects, we could take that money for example, the George Washington money, the dollar bill and we could have made the blacks inside the money like red or some other color if we wanted to. But typically where this comes in handy is the folks will dial-in a specific CMYK value that's been given to them by their commercial printer, that is the darkest color that they can render. And I'm going to cancel out of here, and then for Highlights they would give you a value like they'd say, you know the lightest color we can really hold on our press is 3% Cyan, and 2% Magenta, and 3% Yellow, and 3% Black or something along those lines. Some arbitrary values that they know work, and then you would say, okay, and even though that looks a little bit dark. So we are darkening up the highlights, darkening up the whites, that's the lightest color that's going to survive on this specific press.
Anyway, cancel out of there, that's not what I want to do for this image. What I want to do because I'm just trying to apply an RGB perceptual modification here maybe I'm sending it to my inkjet- printer or just emailing it or posting in on the website, what have you, I want to work with these clip values. Now the clip values allow you to clip more of these highlights than we are currently clipping them. By clipping I mean just shave them off, just get rid of those highlights and send them to white and just get rid of some of the shadows and send them to black. Right now we are just clipping away 0.1% of the luminance levels inside this image, so it's being very cautious about how many luminance levels of clips.
Now if I didn't have this spike of white, it would dig deeper into this area here and would start clipping the colors it finds. But it's finding colors of the very, very apex of this histogram, and so it's not changing anything really much at all. If we raise this value and I want you to watch the histogram, watch the image, watch the value as well if you have three eyes that move dependently of each other. I'm going to click inside this value to make it active then I'm going to press Shift+Up Arrow and that's going to take that value up by 0.1%. So it's a very small modification but if I were to just press the Up Arrow to raise it by a hundredth of a percent which isn't enough to get anything done. So that's why I'm going to press Shift+Up Arrow a few times in a row and watch what's happening to the image and the histogram keep going back and forth between the two if you will. Notice the image is of course brightening up and I'm shaving off the edge of the histogram to a more reasonable level. I'm actually getting some work done now by clipping 1.6% of colors, which is a lot by the way.
I am going to take that down a little bit. I'm going to press Shift+Down Arrow for 1.5%, which is good enough for this image. Actually it does a brilliant job and then I could click inside the Shadow value right there and I could press Shift+Up Arrow to take it up, a click as well. And this is the effect I get of course. Now I can experiment with different algorithms right here, different Auto functions so I could try Enhance Per Channel Contrast. So that's no good, I could try Enhance Monochromatic Contrast. No, too yellow. I could go back to Find Dark & Light Colors, that's better. And then I could Snap the Neutral Midtones and see if that makes any difference, it still doesn't. And if you wanted to then you could adjust the color balance of your midtsones, instead of going for gray, instead of trying to clip those colors or snap those colors I should say, too gray to snap them to some other color.
For example, if I wanted to cool down this image, I could click on Midtones and I could select a cool color, which would be something in the blue range of course. And then I would go ahead and raise its saturation like so, and I'm not getting anything done, and the reason is if Photoshop were able to find some neutral midtones that we are snapping at this point, it would go ahead and snap them off to blue. But it's really not finding anything to work with. So that's why I'm not getting anything done, I'll just go ahead and turn it off. And this is good though. I dare say I like it. I'll go ahead and click OK in order to accept that effect.
Now it's going to ask me, hey, do you want to save what you just did as your new target colors? And no, I don't, I was just goofing off. So we'll say, no, I just want to apply these changes to this image and this image only. And just to give you a sense of what we were able to accomplish, this is the original version of the image. If I turn off this adjustment layer and this is the modified version of the image. Now I say it's modified because I would not go so far as to characterize it as corrected yet. It's still not what I want it to be but that's okay because I have applied this adjustment that's far as an adjustment layer, fully modifiable, I can edit it anytime I like so long as I save this image in the native PSD format which I'm going to do. And then I'm going to present it to you in the very next exercise. So stay tuned, we are going to make this image look perfect.
Recommended prerequisite: Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Photoshop under the download feature.
- Using blend modes, adjustment layers, and layer styles
- Organizing a layered composition so it is fluid and editable
- Creating and editing type in Photoshop
- Using blur effectively
- Using adjustment layers to add color
- Combining layers into a clipping mask
- Working with Camera Raw