Top 10 Tips from Photoshop Week on creativeLIVE

Didn’t have time to watch all of Photoshop Week?  Or maybe you watched it, but were overwhelmed by all the information crammed into one week.  I’ve seen semester-length college classes that don’t teach as much as what creativeLIVE did in one very-intensive week.  So whether you missed them, or just need a review, here is my list of top tips:

(I am not receiving any commission to endorse either Adobe nor creativeLIVE)

#10 – Use Adjustment Layers

This one is pretty basic so I didn’t rate it too high, but it is essential enough that if you are not doing it already -you need to learn about it.  This is essential for non-destructive editing.  Want to adjust the brightness/contrast/levels/colors/etc of your images?  Do it on an adjustment layer.  Want the effect to only affect part of the image?  Place a layer mask on your adjustment layer.  The original photo will remain in pristine condition.

  • Save files as PSD to preserve adjustment layers created

#9 – Auto Align Layers

Want to combine two images, but they weren’t shot on a tripod and therefore have slightly different perspectives?  No sweat – place them as two layers in the same document and the top layer can be automatically moved and/or warped to perfectly align with the bottom layer:

  • (select both layers) Edit > Auto-Align Layers…
  • customize settings (Auto does an excellent job on most projects)

#8 – Actions

If you do the same things to many photos, there is a way to program the actions you take in order to automate the process.  A similar method can be done in Lightroom/Adobe Camera Raw using presets instead of actions.

#7 -Blending options

Credit: Ben Willmore

Many people are familiar with brush modes and layer modes that change how layers interact with each other, which can change the colors and capacities of different parts of the image.  Fewer people know about the “blending options” which can be found under the “fx” button at the bottom of the layers panel.  Here one can change the opacity different parts of the selected layer based on brightness of either that layer, or the brightness of the layers underneath – in the gray, red, green and/or blue channels.  Alt+click on the sliders to break them into two pieces that can be positioned separately to allow for a more gradual blend.  This effect can be modified at any time, even without converting to a smart object first.

#6 – Warp an image around another as if it was printed there

Credit: Lindsay Adler

This one is rather complicated.

  • Save a separate black and white copy of the image to be the background (layer 1) as PDF file.  This is the texture file.  Leave this open as a separate tab!
  • In a new file, open the background image (layer 1) and the image to be superimposed (layer 2) as separate layers.
  • Image > Apply Image
  • Under “source” choose the name of the texture file (the list will only show other tabs that are open)
  • Under “layer” choose the name of layer 1
  • Chose a blend mode, (such as “overlay” or “difference”) and any other settings you want.

#5 – Work in Adobe RGB, not sRGB

Credit: Kevin Kubota

Photoshop default usually sets images to sRGB mode, which allows for fewer colors than other color management systems like RGB.  It can always be exported at a lower color setting like sRGB for photos being uploaded

  • Edit > Color Settings

#4 – Edit texture and color separately

Credit: Lindsay Adler

This is similar to tip #6, but with a few differences:

  • The background image (layer 1) and the superimposed image (layer 2) should be different copies of the same file
  • The settings in the dialogue box will be different depending on whether it is an 8-bit image or a 16-bit image:
    • For an 8-bit image, use the blending style “subtract” on a scale of 2 and an offset of 128
    • For a 16-bit image, use the blending style “add” on a scale of 2, an offset of 0, and check the box for “invert”

#3 – Paint realistically to create art based on your photos

Credit: Jack Davis

Jack Davis not only came up with an amazing and unexpected use of the pattern brush tool, but he gives away all of his custom brushes and actions (as well as a tutorial PDF) all for free to anyone who likes his facebook page.  The results are stunning, really look like actual paintings, and the steps to create them are simple and easy to understand.  In a word, “wow!”

#2 – Convert for Smart Filters

Credit: Dave Cross

Want the ultimate in non-destructive editing?  Use Smart Objects to continually adjust any filters or other adjustments made to the image.  No effects are finalized – come back and modify the settings any time.  Smart filters can also be nested inside other smart filters.

  • Filters > Convert for Smart FIlters
  • Save as PSD file to preserve layers and smart objects
  • Raw photos can be imported as smart objects using Adobe Camera Raw, enabling you to make changes in Camera Raw at any time

#1 – Retouch in Lightroom / Adobe Camera Raw

Credit: Jack Davis

You don’t even need to use Photoshop for many retouches – some things can be done quicker, easier, and with better results in Lightroom.  (Adobe Camera Raw, which comes with Photoshop, has the same features as Lightroom.)  It is very powerful, and can adjust settings that can’t be adjusted in Photoshop, including luminance and clarity.  Plus it includes many of the capabilities of Photoshop like global effects, targeted adjustments, and adjustment brushes.  Snapshots can be created of each version of an image, which is stored in the image metadata resulting in a very small increase in the file size of the original image, rather than multiple large separate images.

  • Photos don’t have to be shot in raw in order to edit them in Camera Raw
  • Photos can be set to open in Adobe Camera Raw automatically: Edit > Preferences > File Handling > Camera Raw Preferences > Automatically open all supported JPEGs / TIFFs

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections – Candlescape Reflections

This photo is part of WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

Candlescape Reflections by Seas Reflecting Starlight

Candlescape Reflections by Seas Reflecting Starlight

A vast landscape in miniature, this red candle has towering piles of brightly colored wax surrounding a still pool of molten wax with a very clear reflection. This photograph was taken at Daci Buddhist Monastery (大慈寺) in Chengdu, China, where eminent monk Xuanzang (玄奘, also known as Tripitaka) of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907) was initiated.

The reflection in the peaceful pool in the middle of the candle mirrors one common type of use of candles in monasteries and temples: meditation and inner reflection.  Just as the candle literally reflects the monastery’s sleepy little retreat away from the hustle of the streets of Chengdu, it can also reflect a search for that same kind of peace within the eye of the beholder.

I also created a tiled version of this photo,which reflects this week’s theme of reflection, in that each candle is a reflection of the others:

Candlescape Reflections tiles by Seas Reflecting Starlight

Candlescape Reflections tiles by Seas Reflecting Starlight

There are multiple ways to create such tiled effects using photo editing programs like GIMP.

  • To prepare the image:
    • Make sure that the image content is close to the center, and that there aren’t any important details around the outer rim of the image. Details not in the center may be lost or obscured.
    • Method 1 (used above): Using GIMP, go to Filters > Map > Make Seamless
    • Method 2 (does not work well for all images): Using GIMP, go to Filters > Blur > Tileable Blur – set the blur radius to something that is relatively large in comparison to the size of your image for the most seamless results.
  • After using either method, there are multiples ways to make copies of the image in a tiled pattern:/li>
    • Option 1: Using GIMP, go to Filters > Map > Tile – make sure the height and width are linked, set the units to “%”, and input multiples of 100 for best results
    • Option 2: Using GIMP, go to Filters > Map > Small Tiles – this will shrink the size of your tiles to fit within the boundaries of the current image, but includes the ability to flip alternating tiles

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Always more to learn

No matter how experienced people get with art programs, there is always more to learn.  After using MS Paint for at least 17 years (and other graphics programs before that), I thought I’d learned all that the very basic (but useful) program had to offer.  Then I stumbled upon a new trick the other day that I’d somehow missed.  I’d used the setting of foreground/background colors for the purposes of transparencies when copying and pasting, but I’d never tried using them for a simple recoloring with an eraser.

Design: Rainbow Etching Lotus

Rainbow Etching Lotus

Inspired by my Illuminating Lotus photo, this art piece also has a way of popping off the page with its colorful rainbow outline.

Although I created this piece digitally, the effect reminds me of a type of paper art that I’ve done before:

  • Get a piece of multicolored paper (works best with a stiff paper like card stock, and colors that are attached to the page in a way that won’t easily scratch off – dyed into the paper, printed, marker, colored pencil, etc.)
  • Lightly paint over the paper with a thin and EVEN coat of paint (works best with something that can easily be scratched off like acrylics; dark paints may cover underling color easier than light paints)
  • Let the paint dry
  • CAREFULLY (don’t cut yourself or the paper) use something with an edge to etch a design onto the page.  As you remove thin lines (and/or wider sections) of the paint, the colors underneath will shine through, and your design will have multicolored lines!
  • If these directions inspired you to create something, post a link to it in the comments!  (Even after this becomes an old post, I enjoy hearing from my readers, so don’t be shy!)

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Cool GIMP Tutorial on naturalistic skin and eye retouching

I stumbled upon a nice tutorial on YouTube by Billy Kerr that shows and explains one person’s process for retouching portrait photographs.  The end result, while pretty, seems a bit unnatural, particularly with how vivid and high gloss he made the eyes.  Still an interesting watch for anyone interested in the process of image editing, or wanting to pick up a few new tricks to try out on their own photos – or just fast-forward to the last few seconds to see the before and after shots.  Check it out!