How to Restore Pictures in Photoshop—Easy Fixes

Although the restore and cleanup business is not quite as much a boom thing as it was when Photoshop first came out, it still comes up pretty regularly. Even though detailed restorations take time, there are a few things you can do to get the most obvious problems solved without too much trouble.

The most common problems with most older photos have to do with age. Images yellow or fade with time, in which case doing a restore implies color correction or improving saturation. Others involve fading of contrast, or having areas too light or dark to see detail in. Recognizing the main problem(s) more or less on sight is often the key to the solution.

Restore color balance

One is correcting the white balance—getting rid of discoloration from time, or sodium lights, or greenish fluorescent light, so the parts that should be white, are white. You can start by adding a Curves adjustment layer and using the White Point sample tool, sometimes known as the White Balance tool. This lets you tell the program what parts of the picture should be white, and has the rest of the picture recolor accordingly.

Restore contrast

You can also add a Levels adjustment layer, to restore or bring back contrast. If the histogram in it shows blank spaces at either end, move the white and black threshold markers inward till they reach the beginning of the non-blank space, and the image should look less flat.

Detail in dark area

Bringing out detail in a dark area, or a light one, can also be done with a Levels layer. Select the area you want to lighten or darken, then add the layer; selecting first will define, or mask, the area, and you can then adjust only the parts which need it. (Shh—this is one of the Secret Awesome Inner-Circle Techniques for doing a restore in Photoshop—the ability to selectively adjust parts of the image. The only downside is having to learn to do careful selection.)

Using Photoshop — More Tips, Tricks, and Hints

Figured I’d mention a few other techniques which might be of use. Photoshop is almost a gold mine of cool tip after cool tip; I’d never deny it takes some practice to become comfortable with the program, so here’re some more.

Tip 4. Always be aware of the Layers panel if the image has more than one layer (not all images do). Particularly, which layer is selected. Whatever kind of edit you’re about to do, with whichever kind of tool, the layer selected is the one that’ll show the change. If it’s the “wrong” layer, you can undo, but it’s irritating. Better to know in advance, and choose the right layer up front.

Linking tip

Tip 4a. Once you’ve built a “structure” involving more than one layer, and want to keep all the pieces in the same places relative to each other, select the layers (Control-click on the PC, Cmd-click on the Mac—these let you select non-adjacent layers), and link them (using the panel menu at top right).

Fill tip

Tip 5. When adding color to an image, using the Edit > Fill command/dialog gives you easy access to both the blending modes (controlling how the color interacts with what’s already there) and the opacity (how solid the color you’re pouring will be). The blending modes could be a seminar on their own, but basically you can use them to produce all kinds of neat effects. And even just using the opacity control lets you add washes or “glazes” of color, if you need subtle changes in color. (Da Vinci would be delighted.)

Navigator tip

Tip 6. Don’t forget the Navigator panel. You can use the Hand tool and the scroll bars to get around in the file if you like, but the Navigator shows where you are and how close you’ve zoomed, so even if you prefer some other means of navigating, the panel is a good situation display.

Using Photoshop — Tips, Tricks, and Hints

Photoshop has been around for a while, and it’s a fairly sophisticated program, but there are some tips one can learn to work a little more efficiently no matter what your level of expertise.

1. A lot of the work we do depends on selection. Refining selections takes time; actually doing things with the selected area usually takes less. But when done working with a selection, don’t forget to DE-select it! Kind of like turning the oven off when finished cooking. (Ctrl- or Cmd-D is quickest.) Otherwise you might end up doing the right thing to the wrong part of the image.

Photoshop Channels

1a. If you have any idea you might be doing further work on the same piece of the image, save the selection (Select menu>Save Selection). You can store about fifty selections in there as selection channels (usually known as alpha channels), so there’s no need to skimp unless there’ll be a really big number of selected pieces that need lots of changes.

Photoshop Inverse

2. If you need to select all of something in an image, say a person, but the selection would take time, see if you can select the background or surroundings more easily—then go to Select>Inverse. Select everything except the hard part, then invert the selection. Voila. It isn’t always possible, but if the background of the image is relatively plain, give it a try.

Photoshop Hand

3. This is a really simple one, but I’ve had at least a few people tell me it was helpful: When finished working on something for the moment, switch to the Hand tool. The Photoshop equivalent of putting a stick shift in neutral, it means you won’t accidentally move something, or paint something, or otherwise edit something if you don’t mean to. When a Photoshop file is open, you have to have a tool selected, so if it’s a tool which won’t do any editing, it’s a safe choice when you want to pause. The Hand tool simply moves the image around in the frame if you’re zoomed in, but can’t edit. So it’s much harder to mess up the image with it selected.

How to Use Color Libraries in Photoshop

For some reason, a few people I’ve talked to seem a little uneasy about the Color Libraries. Either they don’t know what these are, or they don’t know how to use them. But they’re easy to bring into play, they’re very useful, and sometimes even necessary. They’re standardized sets of colors anyone can use to make sure the viewer sees precisely the color which was intended.

Many companies have what are called “product branding” standards: Official fonts, official colors, logos, and so on. If I mention Coca-Cola, or John Deere, you can probably see the right shade of red or green in your mind’s eye. But if you were creating an ad for these (or other) companies, you’d have to match the color EXACTLY, for reasons of copyright (the color plus the logo).

Libraries in Swatches

This is where the Libraries come in. Once you’ve created your basic art (and found out what the specifics are for the product branding colors), you can call up the correct library from the Swatches panel menu. (Usually, we append the choice of “book” to the existing palette.)

Another approach is to go through a color picker—say, for example, by clicking the foreground color swatch in the Tools panel. From the picker, you can click the Color Libraries button on the right, and call up the appropriate book at the top, then the specific color, which we add to the swatches simply by clicking “OK”. It normally shows up at the top of the Swatches panel, properly named so you won’t mistake it if you hover on it.

Picker Libraries

The key to the technique is knowing in advance which of the libraries (or standards) the company, coworker, or whoever is using. Many companies will stick with a particular library or set of libraries to make things as simple as possible, and then all one has to do is check the type of paper or printing surface to be used.

The color libraries are also the idea behind the concept of “spot color”. The plain-language definition of spot color is a color NOT mixed from the C-M-Y-K inks, but brought in separately, in another cartridge, ready to go; it must match perfectly the desired color for (as I mentioned earlier) copyright purposes. It is normally not used everywhere in the document, only in certain spots, hence the name.

How to Use Duotone Mode in Photoshop

One of the least-known color modes in Photoshop, or certainly lesser-known today, is Duotone. This may be partly because it requires converting a file to grayscale first, which means that for color images the very name is grayed-out on the menu. But it has a couple of interesting properties.

Convert Gray

The first thing, as I mentioned, is to take an image and convert to grayscale; from there, one can go to Duotone mode. And then, as the one chap said in the movies, the fun begins. Duotone mode allows the user to “tint” the image with between one and four ink colors, rather like “dunking” the image in a dye bath. So what? you might ask.

Convert Duotone

Although one might want to do brightness and contrast adjustment beforehand, Duotone mode allows some artistic things to happen to an image. For one, it’s possible to print a grayscale-like picture in the four-color process (since the max number of colors one can use is four, they can be cyan, magenta, yellow, and black—CMYK) and make the grayscale-like image a little warmer or cooler by tweaking the balance of the colors in the dialog box.

For another, it’s capable of closely simulating a couple of older photographic printing processes which were considered very beautiful and elegant back in the day. Some illustrated novels, even graphic novels, occasionally still use these kinds of repro art styles.

Cyanotype

One, called cyanotype, was used till fairly recently not only to do photo printing  but also to create traditional-style blueprints for building and manufacturing. (Since the chemicals involved, ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide, are both rather nasty, being able to create the appearance without the potential to poison oneself is certainly a plus!) Even the sub-mode called Monotone can handle this one.

Sepia Tone

Another, perhaps one of the most beautiful, is sepia toning. A print was washed in a bath that included sepia ink (from the marine animal called the cuttlefish), which both stabilized the image chemically and gave it the lovely golden-brown cast we often associate with antique photographs. Sepia toning helped prevent fading, and gave the image a warmth which a normal silver print would sometimes lack due to its regular color. Duotone mode with all four inks (Quadtone) makes this version easy.

Some newer users of Photoshop love playing with the ability to bend reality—which is cool. But there are a lot more capabilities built into the program. Using it to reproduce some of the beauty of yesteryear doesn’t hurt.

Dealing with Dust Using History in Photoshop

There’s another trick for dealing with dust in Photoshop (to sort of continue from the last blog post), which takes a little setup but is even more subtle. It involves the History Brush tool, and the History panel. The advantage is that the corrections are very unobtrusive, especially if one takes the time to do them carefully. The disadvantage, such as it is, is that the recipe has to be followed rather carefully, which is why I’m taking the liberty of condensing it at the end of the post.

After opening the file, it’s advisable to save it as a PSD, and make a copy of the layer containing the artwork; work on the copy for safety.

Gaussian Blur

The first real step is to go to Filter—Blur—Gaussian Blur, and set it for 6-12 pixels (all numbers approximate; your mileage may vary).

Then, in the History panel, take a snapshot of this state (call it Blurred, or whatever you’ll recognize). After which, click one step up in the History (which will un-blur the art but leave the snapshot blurred). THIS IS A KEY STEP.

History Panel

Click the selector for the blurred snapshot (left side of panel) to indicate what the History Brush should work from. Then select the History Brush itself in the Tools panel.

Blending Mode

THE OTHER KEY STEP is this: When painting a dark spot with the History Brush, switch the blending mode in the Control panel up top to Lighten, and vice versa. So you’re lightening and blurring the dark spots, and darkening and blurring the light spots. Lightening or darkening makes them less conspicuous; blurring blends the repair in.

Before

Before

After

After

Don’t panic if you need to practice this one a bit. The recipe is a bit more complex, and has to be followed. But I can tell you it works, as I’ve used it myself many times.

 

Short version:

Open file, save as PSD if necessary, make copy of layer

Blur image (Filter/Blur/Gaussian, 6-12 pixels)

In History panel, take snapshot and name accordingly

Go back one step

Select blurred snapshot

Use History Brush tool to paint blur back in (Lighten mode on dark spots, and vice versa)

How to Deal with Dust in Photoshop Images

In the age of digital photography, dust would seem to be a thing of the past. Perhaps. But who knows how many pre-digital pictures still exist, un-digitized, and in need of cleaning? With this in mind, I’d like to show you how.

Before we had digital cameras, Photoshop, and so on, one would have to clean the film very carefully, print the picture, and use a kind of watercolor called spotting dye to touch up the (hopefully few) white spots caused by dust on the negative. (Yes, I did it.) It’s not too hard, but it is tedious, and requires patience and a steady hand. Photoshop, of course, removes the need to do the spotting by hand, but how to actually deal with the dust spots?

Dusty Wedding Pic

With an image open, you could just borrow nearby color with the Eyedropper tool, then use the Brush to tap color into the white bits. This does work. But there’s a slightly more subtle technique which works better, is a little faster, and doesn’t need any eyedropper-ing.

Selecting Dust Spots

First, select a few spots (to start with, do one or two at a time). You want to make your selections only about half again as large as the white spots. Any selection tool is fine; with roundish spots, the Ellipse Marquee tool works well.

Feathering

Then, go to the Select menu, Modify, and Feather command. We want to feather the selection by at least a few pixels, though we normally don’t need much more unless the spot is big. About three or four pixels’ worth will do.

Blurring

Next, we go to Filter–>Blur–>Gaussian Blur. What we want is to “smear” the “paint” immediately around the spot onto it, but soften the edges of the smear to make it very gradual, and therefore hard to see. This is where there might be a little experimentation; the nice thing about the Gaussian Blur is, one can control how much blur there is. Sometimes it works with just a few pixels’ worth; sometimes it can take as much as eight or nine. The tricks are to keep the initial selection just a little larger than the dust spot, and feather the edge (either before selecting, in the Control panel, or right after with Select–>Modify–>Feather) prior to blurring. We do NOT want sharp edges here at all.

And don’t worry if it takes some practice to get right. Maybe make a copy of the layer containing the picture, for insurance. Then go for it.

Using the Layers Panel in Photoshop–Tips and Tricks

The Layers panel is one of the most important members of the team; a lot of what goes on in Photoshop is related at least partly to which layer(s) you’ve selected, or want to select to do stuff in. So paying attention to this, and knowing a few things, will save you some work, and a little stress.

Unlike in its brother programs, Illustrator and InDesign, layers serve a vital function here—anything in a Photoshop layer is basically oil paint that never dries. So keeping things on separate layers till you’re SURE you don’t need to is good procedure.

Before painting, clone stamping, erasing, or anything else, especially if you’re in the middle of an important project, glance over to see which layer you’re about to affect. You can easily select the right layer by clicking its name once.

Selecting/Merging

If you want to merge two or more layers, you can easily select them, even if they’re not adjacent, by clicking the one’s name and control/command-clicking the other(s). Remember, merging layers normally sort of “collapse” such that whatever’s on top, in the middle, etc. will stay looking that way when done.

Layers Visibility

Turning off a layer’s visibility is an easy way to avoid editing it when you don’t want to. Click the eyeball on the left of the layer name. But don’t forget to turn visibility back on when you *do* want to edit.

Locking Layers

Locking a layer is a better way to avoid editing, especially if you want to see how the layer interacts with its buddies while working in the others. You can lock the image pixels, the transparent pixels, the position of the layer, or all of the above (usually the most common) with the buttons at the top of the panel. Just remember, you need to unlock before editing. Duh. 😉

Linking

Linking layers together provides a useful capability—if two or more layers need to be positioned just so, relative to each other, do the positioning, select them, and link the layers with the button at the bottom of the panel; if you then move one, you’ll move all. Unlinking them is easy too. Same button.

Renaming

Renaming them is easy—double-click the current name, type what you like, and hit Enter.

Finally, remember Photoshop creates new layers whenever you copy and paste, or cut and paste, or pretty much anything and paste. It’s conservative about this, so you don’t smear the “paint” from different elements together. Which means you can accumulate a LOT of layers. In fact, as far as I know, there’s no limit to the number you can have. (I got bored and stopped counting at two hundred and twenty.) So don’t be afraid to merge them when you’re done with separate elements—they add to the file size. And don’t create them just for the heck of it—again, the file gets bigger when you do this.

Using Paths to Make a Selection in Photoshop

An unexpected ally in making selections in Photoshop is the Paths panel.

Selecting a precise piece of an image can be tedious, even for a veteran user; understanding the selection tools does not provide instant expertise, and some images have such irregular content that it’s a touchy matter to set the right numbers for almost any of the tools. But the Paths panel lets the user at least partly bypass the problem.

Using the Pen tool, we can create a path (essentially a vector shape) within Photoshop. This also takes practice, but the nice thing about a path drawn with the Pen tool is that it can be modified almost indefinitely. (By analogy, I’ll date myself badly and mention Silly Putty.)

Basic Paths

First, we bring up our image, select the Pen tool, and start creating anchor points etc. for the path. This can take some time—in fact, it’s a good idea to go fairly slowly—but since we can clean up later, a rough shape will do. Naming the path is usually a good idea for reference, especially if you’ll have more than a couple.

Cleaned Up

The next step is to use the other vector tools to refine the path as needed: The Add and Delete Anchor Point tools to give the shape more or fewer anchor points, the Direct Selection tool to fine-tune the locations of the points and tweak the control handles, and occasionally the Convert Anchor Point tool for changing curve to corner, or vice versa.

Menu

Finally, we can select the path in the panel, go to the panel menu, and click Make Selection. We then have to specify the various options in the dialog box, and click OK.

Selection

This is one of those not-technically-complex-but-kinda-tedious features which requires a little practice. Working with Photoshop’s brother program Illustrator would give some additional footing on this too. Couldn’t say whether it’s the *best* technique, but it seems to work well with practice, and it’s not too hard to fine-tune paths.

How to Use Layer Styles in Photoshop

The use of Layer Styles (also known as Layer Effects) in Photoshop is fairly easy, but can add some pretty snazzy results. One of the most visually catchy is the Drop Shadow, which can make it look as if an object is in front of the rest of the artwork. Any of the styles can be applied in about the same way, but the Drop Shadow gives a good general example.

Layers set up

Usually the first thing is to assemble the artwork layers, since the effect is normally applied to the whole layer. As far as possible, get things positioned (though moving layers and items around does not mess up the layer effect).

Layer Effects box

Double-click  the layer thumbnail to bring up the Styles/Effects box, or select the layer and go to the Layer menu/Layer Style submenu and select the effect you want to apply.

At this point, the controls will vary widely according to which style you select, but here’s one point you don’t always hear about: If you want to open the box by double-clicking the layer thumbnail, remember to then click not the check mark next to the effect name, but the name itself. Why? Because if you click the check mark only, it will activate the effect but NOT bring the controls up. You’re saying you want to accept whatever defaults are already there. And usually, the user is looking for a particular fine-tune of whichever effect.

For our example, I want to make it look as if the gull is flying in front of the picture, almost as if he had somehow gotten free of the poster. So I can set the angle (from which the light comes) as 125 degrees (upper left), the distance (of shadow from object) at 150 pixels (so I can see it clearly as a shadow), the spread big enough to keep the edges soft, and the size (which is actually the blur) fairly large, since most shadows in this situation are not sharp-edged.

Drop Shadow effect in

Click OK, and it’s done. The Layers panel shows the Fx symbol, to let us know there’s effects in them there hills, and we can double-click the thumbnail or the Fx anytime to get back in and play around with it some more, or delete it completely and start over. Fully editable. Way cool.

Creating Alpha Channels in Photoshop

Making selections in Photoshop is fairly easy, but a large, complicated selection can take some time. And if it’s an area that needs repeated tweaks, such as for color balancing or lightness, it’s helpful if one doesn’t have to keep going back and reselecting thirty or forty bits and pieces. There’s a feature in Photoshop which can help, but seems almost hidden, in the Channels palette/panel.

Normally, we see the composite channel there (showing the full color image) and the individual color channels (RGB or CMYK, or other) giving a view of the components, which can themselves be manipulated if desired. But we can also store selections in there, in a form called an alpha channel.

Channels Palette

The use of the feature is quite straightforward. First, make whatever selection you need to. Remember you can switch from selection tool to selection tool, changing modes as needed, till you get the entire area you need.

Selection

Then, at the bottom of the palette, click the Save Selection as Channel button.

Save as Channel

You can easily rename the channel by double-clicking its name—a good idea, since it’s possible to have something like fifty channels in the palette, and even if none of the selections closely resemble each other, it’s less confusing, and very little additional work.

Renaming

But what’s even more interesting is, you can fine-tune the selection in the channel by using a painting tool. If you activate the selection (alpha) channel by clicking its name, then select, say, the Brush tool, you can use the color white to add to or solidify the selection if you missed a couple of spots, or black to unselect areas you might have selected by accident.

Fine Tuning

And zooming in to do this carefully is a good trick too. Some people find this is easier for making selections, or at least cleaning them up. It does take a little more time, but since precise selection is often important to professional imagery, any technique you can use to improve the precision is a good thing.

How to Use Bitmap Mode in Photoshop

Of all the image modes in Photoshop, perhaps the least used today is Bitmap mode. It’s the “true” black-and-white mode, unlike Grayscale, which is what a “black-and-white” photograph really is. And Bitmap actually has a couple of advantages, though making proper use of the mode does take a little understanding.

A color picture first has to be changed to Grayscale mode to drop color out, and then one can convert to Bitmap. (If the user knows the image is going to be put in Bitmap, it’s advisable to keep it fairly high-resolution; since Bitmap only has two colors—black and white—compensating with more pixels helps keep the image from looking too grainy.) There are a couple of other things one can do to make a grayscale image better, but that’s another story.

Color Picture Convert Arrow Grayscale Picture

When Bitmap mode is called up, another dialog box asks a couple of questions. One is about resolution—usually this should not be changed. If the image already has adequate detail, it should be left alone. Increasing the resolution should be done beforehand, if at all.

Bitmap Dialog Box

The other is “Method”—how should the pixels be handled? This is the real question, as it affects the final appearance the most.

The first choice, 50% Threshold, looks at all the pixels in the image and applies a straightforward rule: If the brightness of the pixel is 128 or less, it turns black. If 129 or more (the possible range is from 0 to 255), it turns white. But this makes the picture look very harsh and blotchy, as it doesn’t take shading or grays into account.

50% Threshold Picture

The next choice, Pattern Dither, sort of does this. It tries to distribute black and white pixels a little more evenly (in a pattern, hence the name), and can create a fairly “readable” image provided the resolution is not too low. Some people consider this to look artistic, and in some cases the image turns out pretty well.

Pattern Dither Picture

Diffusion Dither, though, is a better choice for a result which looks more realistic. “Diffusion” means the pixels are scattered semi-randomly, the same way perfume gradually drifts through the air. “Dither” is defined as “The use of dot patterns to approximate colors not available in the palette.” (Wiktionary)

Diffusion Dither Picture

Halftone Screen is another matter, and produces something else again. Half-toning was used for a long time in producing newspaper photographs such that they looked like “true” grayscale images. What half-toning really does is to remake the image as a regularly-spaced pattern of dots of varying size to simulate grayscale, rather than bunching them together to make darker (or lighter, by spreading them apart) grays. How often this comes up today depends on what the print medium is going to be, but it’s not as useful for onscreen or conventional computer printing these days since half-tone techniques were developed partly to allow for rapid mass printing (newspapers, magazines) with relatively low-res, high-speed (therefore less expensive) processes.

Halftone Dialog Box Halftone Picture

The advantages to Bitmap mode are, first, it brings the file size WAY down, sometimes only a couple percent as big as the color version, or even less. (Only two colors, after all.) Ditto the grayscale version. Second, though it won’t have color, the detail and simulated gray shades can look almost as good as a true grayscale image, and take a lot less time to print. And finally, it’ll look decent on any printer, color or no. Picking the method is the only thing one usually has to worry about, and often the choice simply depends on the desired final use.

Feathering a Selection in Photoshop

One of the must-have skills in Photoshop is the ability to make precise selections, since we indicate which parts of the picture we want to work with this way, and there are a number of techniques to do it. But equally important is the ability to feather, or “fuzz” the edge of the selection. Very few normal photographs are going to be so supremely razor-sharp in focus that a selection needs to be also, and even those that are will often not be super-high-resolution (that is, naturally a tiny bit fuzzy) anyway. Aside from any specific effects you want to achieve….

Open File

Once you open your file, you can start by making a rough selection with any tool—say, the Magic Wand or the Lasso. Then, either hold down the Shift key or select the Add to Selection button in the tool’s Options at top, and click or drag as needed to add the bits you want. (I admit I like the Magic Wand for a good many items, as it lets me make color-based selections quickly.)

Selection Made

Then, having made and fine-tuned the selection, we go to the Select menu, slide down to Modify, and click Feather in the submenu.

Select Menu Modify Feather Dialog Box

The number of pixels of feather you want to use will depend on a few things: The resolution of the image (the higher the res, the lower the feather number), the area you selected (larger selection=lower feather, generally), and what you want to do with the selected area (you tell me 🙂 ). For things like tinting, a lower number is usually better as you don’t want it to look like smeared paint. For blending effects like softening filters or other non-color-related ideas, a higher number would be good to soften the edge (romantic-portrait-type photos, for example).

It’s a simple effect, but a powerful one. And it doesn’t take too much practice to get a nice result. Besides, you can make a copy of the layer in question and play around with it till you get a good combination, then apply to the final draft.

Clone Stamping in Photoshop

The use of the Clone Stamp tool, in itself, is not hard to understand. It allows the user to “borrow” or copy a piece of picture from one spot to “clone” or paste elsewhere. But some people use it like a paintbrush, and clone big swaths of picture from one place to another—which looks obviously like cloning, or stereotypical “Photoshopping”.

So is there a trick to using the tool and not making things look visibly cloned? Actually, there is. It’s a little bit more work, but it’s not really difficult. It does depend somewhat on the picture and your goals.

Elephant

Once you open the picture, examine it to see where you want to borrow from and copy to. (Here I use the example of making an elephant disappear—it’d be a cool stage illusion….)

Luckily, the surroundings lend themselves to the effect I’m going for. I start by setting the size of the tool, not too big, and the hardness (how sharp the edge is) to zero, so it blends nicely.

Clone Stamp Tool Settings

I do an Alt-click where I want to borrow from, then use a few clicks to “paste” from that area over the image of the elephant. Alt-click again, from a slightly different area, a few more regular clicks on the elephant, and continue on, each time starting with a different patch, till the modification is done.

Clone Stamping

The real trick—the main point of this kind of exercise—is to borrow a little from here, a little from there. Create the cloned area as a sort of patchwork, to get a somewhat random choice of bits from the “copy” area so the “paste” area actually consists of many small ones, chosen from no one particular part.

Mostly Gone

There is also some technique to clone stamping like this—some study of the image to determine which parts to borrow from and clone to, exactly how big the tool area should be based on the image and its resolution, and so on. But the main thing is to do a little at a time, and not too much from any one area. Nature is usually pretty random when she paints, so following her precept can give you a natural-looking result.

RGB vs CMYK–Which should I use?

Having taught and worked with Adobe Photoshop for many years, I get asked many basic but good questions about it by new users. One has to do with color, and the color systems we use in a picture. There are several that Photoshop can use, but the two most common are RGB and CMYK. The question: Which is best?

The fundamental difference between the two is, RGB is meant for use on screen, and CMYK for print. The terms used to describe how they work are “additive primaries” and “subtractive primaries”, which refer to how these systems show white. For RGB, imagine standing in a dark room with a white wall. Take three flashlights, with color filters (red, green, and blue) and shine them on the wall. Where the three colors overlap, they seem to make white light (the opposite of what a prism does with white light—see Pink Floyd’s album THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, specifically the cover—and the back cover.) So the three additive primaries add up to white.

Additive Primaries

With CMYK, the example is even simpler—a piece of paper going through a color printer may have areas where no ink or toner has landed. And the color of the paper we usually use? White, of course. So when the colors are held back, or subtracted, from a spot on the paper, that spot stays (or is) white.

Subtractive Primaries

But we need black ink too, because the dyes or pigments only sorta make black, and a normal eye can see this. So the printing folks added it for completeness.

In doing this, though, we get a couple of problems, and it takes a little thought to get round them. First, because the RGB system normally involves a screen that illuminates itself, it can show more subtle shadings of color than a piece of printed paper (which, unless you’re using radioactive inks—shame on you!—does NOT glow in the dark). The term Photoshoppers and graphic artists use is the “gamut”, which is wider/larger for RGB than for CMYK (where the ink/toner can smear a tiny bit and mess up the shadings). And a printout can’t show all the shades that a screen can. By definition, therefore, printout will always look a little less intense (“saturated”) than onscreen images.

Color Gamuts

And second, any Photoshop image saved in the CMYK system will use 33% more space on disk, regardless, than if saved with RGB. Why? Because the number of color “channels”, how many kinds of color there are in the picture at minimum, is three for RGB, and four with CMYK.

So which should we use?

If you’re scanning in a photograph you want to clean up and reprint (say, from the early 1900s), CMYK will work better, because what you’ll see on screen is what will come out of the printer. But if you’re scanning for archival purposes, scan in CMYK if possible to get a realistic version of the image, THEN change to RGB. Since RGB’s gamut is wider than CMYK’s you won’t lose any subtleties or shadings, but you will get a smaller file on disk. And you can scan in CMYK, do all your work, then save in RGB for later. Best of both worlds. Just have to make sure we understand the tradeoff of size, gamut, and storability.

Photoshop CC 2017 Property Panel Update

November of 2016 has seen an update to the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite which includes Photoshop. I have already posted one article on the changes to the New Document window and another article on the updates to the Liquify Filter.

The focus of this article will be on the changes to the Properties Panel in Photoshop CC 2017. The last couple of updates have seen improvements to the Property Panel, but this by far is the biggest change.

Take a look at this screen capture of the 2015.5 Property Panel in use.

photoshop-cc-2015-5-properties-panel

The Properties Panel contains absolutely no information about the selected layer.

The same layer selected in Photoshop CC 2017 now includes x and y coordinates as well as width and height data.

properties-2017

Here is another example this time with a text layer selected. First in the 2015.5 release.

photoshop-cc-2015-5-properties2-panel

And now in the 2017 Update.

properties2-2017

In addition to the x and y coordinates available previously we now can change the font, font size, alignment, and color. Additionally there is an Advanced button that will open the Character Panel.

All of these changes are designed to accomplish one thing, making each task more efficient by limiting the number of panels we need to open.

The Properties Panel update is a welcome change to Photoshop CC 2017.

Photoshop CC 2017 Face-Aware Liquify Update

If you remember the last update to Photoshop (Summer 2016) we shared a post about the new Liquify Filters Face-Aware feature. It turned out to be a wonderful addition.

The filter addition would naturally recognize the facial region and let you modify eyes, nose, mouth, and face shape. Working on a face or multiple faces became much easier.

face-aware-liquify-2015-5

But there was a drawback…there was only one set of adjustment tools for the eyes. Which meant the changes would be applied equally to both eyes.

Photoshop CC 2017 has addressed this issue and has fixed it. The Liquify Filters Face-Aware settings include two sets of controls for the eyes; one for the left and one for the right. Eye size, height, width, and tilt can be set for each eye independently.

face-aware-liquify-2017

Thank you Adobe. A great filter is now even more powerful and an easier to use utility.

 

Photoshop CC 2017 New Document Window

Sometimes the changes to an application are subtle, sometimes not so much. Last year’s Start Workspace in Photoshop was one of those not so subtle changes. Just a few weeks back Adobe’s Creative Cloud application suite updated to its 2017 version and Photoshop has added another one of those not so subtle changes.

Selecting File > New in the menu bar or the New button within the Start Workspace has resulted in dialog box similar to this for a number of years.

2015-5-new-file

If you expanded the Document Type menu you were presented with several choices including; Clipboard, Default Photoshop Size, U.S. Paper, International Paper, Photo, Web, Mobile App Design, Film & Video, Iconography, Art & Illustration, Artboard , and Custom.

2015-5-new-file-options

This is no longer the case. The New Document window is much larger and although some of the old menu categories remain the window is completely revamped.

2017-new-file

Each of these presents a screen with a series of default sized blank documents, and also pre-built templates available through Adobe Stock.

2017-new-photo

Many of the templates are free and there is a search option that will take you to Adobe Stock online so you can look at the other options available.

2017-new-web-download

Once downloaded the resulting file will contain a series of scenes, layers, or artboards and each item will be on its own layer ready to be used as you see fit.

2017-after-download

All the custom options are still there but Adobe has added through Adobe Stock many start-up options. You don’t have to start with a black slate if you don’t want to.

 

 

Select and Mask Workspace: Photoshop 2015.5

Photoshop has continued to refine the selection tools available and the latest update, June 2016, is no exception.

Gone is the Refine Edge tool, or better yet, not gone but improved and placed in its own workspace.

image-one

image-two

I have two images I would like to combine and masking out the unnecessary bits of the second image pictured is a simple task which has been made easier. Once photo number two has been added as a new layer to the first image and sized so our participants are approximately the same size we’ll choose the Quick Select tool. Notice there is a new choice in the Options bar, a button labeled Select and Mask.

image-three

quick-select

Clicking the Select and Mask Option takes us into a new workspace and lays out all of our tools in a new window. All the options you’ve used in the past with the Refine Edge tool are here and a few more. The View Mode now includes Onion Skin with a transparency setting that makes masking even easier than it used to be.

select-and-mask-workspace

select-and-mask-transparency

After all adjustments have been made clicking the OK button will apply the mask and return you your standard workspace.

select-and-masked-image

I’ve seen a post or two on Adobe’s Community forum concerned that the Refine Edge tool was gone. Have no fear, it’s still there it has been renamed and resides in the Select and Mask workspace.

Creating Maxfield Parrish Clouds Using Photoshop

I was recently leaving the parking lot of a local business when the cloud formation in front of me reminded me of a painting by American painter and illustrator Maxfield Parrish. If you are not familiar with his work here is a painting called Ecstasy that was commissioned for the 1930 General Electric Mazda Lamp Calendar. The model was his daughter Jean Parrish.

ectasy

The clouds I was looking at were beautiful and saturated with color because it was close to sunset. I grabbed my phone, took a picture, and went about my business. Imagine my disappointment when I looked at the photo later that same evening and this is what I had captured.

IMG_1434-smaller

No worries…that’s one of the many reasons we use Photoshop.

Step number one was to get rid of the power lines, street lights, and poles. My tool of choice was the Spot Healing Brush with Content Aware active. Simply setting the brush size and dragging over sections of the poles and power lines with this tool and next thing you know; unsightly clutter removed.

spot-healing-brush-image

I wasn’t 100% sure how much of the image I wanted to keep so the next thing that needed to go was the building in the lower left-hand corner. Selecting that area with the Rectangular Marquee tool and using Content Aware Fill was all it took. By the way, this was all being done to a copy of the background layer.

content-aware-fill-after-image

Now it was time to decide what part of the image stayed, and what would be cropped. If you think you might change your mind later don’t forget to uncheck Delete Cropped Pixels in the Options bar. That way all of the image is still available.

cropped-image

Now to enhance the image with one of those layers that almost any photograph will benefit from; a Levels Adjustment. Or some of you may prefer a Curves Adjustment. Either way we are adjusting the tonal quality of the photo. Removing the vale as it were, and tweaking our contrast. At this point I’m 90% there.

levels-adjusted-image

One more step and we are complete. Just a slight bump in saturation done by adding a Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer.

memphis-clouds

When complete we have a sky that would be the perfect backdrop to any Maxfield Parrish painting. And all it took was a little imagination…and Photoshop.

Face-Aware Liquify: Photoshop 2015.5

The Liquify filter has been part of Photoshop since version 6.0 which was released in September 2000. Over the years there have been a variety of improvements in this filter and the newest release is no different.

There is an entirely new facial recognition portion to the Liquify filter. It works on one face or many faces as long as they are full frontal views. It doesn’t work on profiles. There are separate settings for eyes, nose, mouth, and face size.

Let’s take a look at what it can do. We’ll start with a photo from Adobe Stock.

AdobeStock_73154683_750x500

face-aware-liquify

face-eye-size-aware-liquify-

face-eye-size2-aware-liquify-

face-nose-aware-liquify-

 

face-mouth-aware-liquify-

face-shape-aware-liquify-

With a few adjustments to each of the four facial areas our original photo now takes on a new appearance. A narrower face, raising and narrowing the nose, thinner lips, and making the eyes a little smaller looks like a different person.

AdobeStock_73154683_liquified_750x500

 

Straightening an Image Using the Crop Tool: Photoshop 2015.5

Sometimes the picture is perfect…almost. You see, while the composition is excellent that slight tilt left or right throws the image off. Photoshop has offered a couple of different tools over the years that will allow us to fix this issue but not without additional doctoring.

With Photoshop’s latest release (2015.5 June release) they have knocked it out of the park. Let’s take a look at a simple example. Here is a shot of downtown Memphis, TN. taken from the observation deck of Memphis Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid.

before-crop

It’s a decent enough shot but the slight tilt of the camera puts the horizon at an angle, which you can see in this screen capture from Photoshop.

horizon-line

The tools we’ve used in the past, primarily the ruler tool, would allow us to straighten the image. But then we would end up needing to crop the image to take care of the white or transparent background that became visible where the picture rotated. The crop tool also allowed us to rotate an image to straighten it, and CS6 even proportionally cropped the picture as we rotated it. As a matter of fact, that’s still an option as you can see here. The area between the orange lines is what will be cropped.

straight-but-cropped

Ideally we could rotate the image and not need to crop the finished product.

Enter a new usage for Content Aware that is associated with the Crop Tool. The Content Aware algorithm continues to amaze as it finds its way into more and more tools. Now all you need to do is check the Content Aware checkbox in the Options Panel when you select the Crop Tool.

selecting-content-aware

Rotate the image so the horizon is level, press enter or click the Commit current crop operation button and watch in amazement as the picture is rotated and the areas that would normally be blank are filled based on surrounding pixels.

typical-straighten-content-aware

No pixels lost and a perfect horizon line. Thank you Photoshop and thank you Content Aware!

after-crop-straightened

Font Matching: New to Photoshop 2015.5

Have you ever seen an ad before and wondered what font was being used? That’s probably not the type of question you ask of just anyone, but in the world of graphic design…well that’s a different story. The latest release of Photoshop, 2015.5 June release has a new feature that will help answer that nagging font question.

Let’s use this image as our example and we’ll place some sample text above it to test our results.

font-to-test-with

With the image containing our unknown font open in Photoshop we’ll need to designate the area to sample from, so using the rectangular marquee tool simply draw a rectangle around the text you’d like to sample.

marquee-font-to-match

Next, using the menu select Type > Match Font.

type-menu-match-font

After having selected Match Font from the menu, a new Match Font dialog box will open. The dialog box will be divided into two sections. The upper section will offer suggestions from your installed fonts. The lower section will offer suggestions from the available fonts at Typekit.

suggested-installed-and-available

Then it’s just a matter of doing some comparisons’. Choose an installed font for your sample text and see how much it does or doesn’t look like the font being sampled.

local-font-selected

In a perfect world we would always find an exact match, but that’s not where we live and there are hundreds of thousands of different fonts that exist. It will find the closest suggestions it has based on what you and Typekit have.

It can be a true time saver.

 

 

Photoshop Image Adjustment Layer

The art of photography has changed dramatically with the advent of the smart phone. Today everyone is a photographer, and pretty much all of those photographs need some adjustment. Enter Photoshop with the ability to adjust your pictures in a non-destructive way.

The Adjustments Panel in Photoshop includes 16 different types of adjustments that can be applied to your image as a separate layer. By doing this as a separate layer none of the pixels in the original image are altered. The benefit to you of course means you always have your original.

Let’s take a look at two of the most common adjustments: levels, and hue/saturation.

Here is a beautiful image of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco taken from a passing plane. At first glance everything looks great but truth be told it could use a little help.

base-image

This image shows the histogram, or tonal range of or picture. Notice the two orange triangles on either end. They indicate where black should start on the left side (0) and where white should start on the right side (255). By moving the sliders, the circled options, we have re-established those tonal beginning points. The mid-tone slider has also been adjusted to drop the mid-tone just a touch. The resulting changes have a dramatic impact on the image.

levels-histogram

base-levels

One additional adjustment to our image will be beneficial. We’ll bump the saturation (color intensity) just slightly to improve the coloring in the lower left-hand corner.

saturation-adjustment

base-levels-saturation

The difference is subtle but just enough to help the image pop.

Change Colors Using Blending Modes in Photoshop

There are times when everything about the picture you’ve just taken seems to be perfect. Then, when it comes time to use it, you discover one key color just doesn’t work. Or you need the same item in more than one color.

Using Photoshop one solution is to apply the color needed to a new layer and change its Blending Mode.

Take our automobile example for instance. The photograph captures the essence of the car but the ad needs to feature a new, hot color.

telsa-base-color

Our first step is to add a new empty layer above the car layer. There are several ways to do this but we are only going to mention one which is the keyboard shortcut; Ctrl+Shift+N on Windows , or Cmd+Shift+N on a Mac.

This adds a new layer above our background layer. We’ll rename this new layer “paint job” by double clicking the name in the Layers Panel and typing the new name in its place.

Next we’ll change the foreground color in the Tools Panel to the new color we want on our car. If you know the RGB color value you can click the foreground color swatch to open up the Color Picker Panel. Then type the RGB values in the appropriate location and click OK.

tesla-color-picker-window

With a new layer in place and the color we what selected the next set would be to use the Bruch Tool to paint over the car on the new layer. It doesn’t have to be perfect, we can clean things up later.

tesla-color-layer

The magic happens in our next step. Once we’ve painted over the existing color and it looks like our next example image we change the Blend Mode of this new “paint job” layer from Normal to Color.

tesla-blend-mode-menu

Voila! A new car with a new paint color. There may be a little clean-up work needed on the “paint job” layer, but that can be handled with the Eraser Tool.

tesla-blend-mode-color (more…)

Photoshop Interface Easter Egg

Easter eggs in software have been around since 1978. The term was made popular by developers at Atari after game designer Warren Robinett placed his name as a hidden message within the game Adventure. Finding the message was like going on an Easter egg hunt.

Today, Easter eggs are hidden gems within software applications, operating systems, and DVDs. The developers at Adobe are no strangers to this concept.

The new dark interface settings within Photoshop have given the development team a wonderful location to place an Easter egg. To get to these settings we need to open the Preferences panel and we can do so by selecting Edit > Preferences > Interface on a Windows computer, or by clicking the Photoshop menu and going to Preferences > Interface on a Mac.

edit-preferences-interface

Inside the Interface portion of the Preferences panel there are four square buttons at the top of the dialog box. They represent our four different color settings. Clicking on each one allows you to lighten or darken the UI (User Interface). The Easter egg is changing those buttons to either coffee cups or slices of toast.

photoshop-preferences-interface-default

Hold down Ctrl+Alt+Shift on Windows or Cmd+Opt+Shift on a Mac and click on one of the buttons…they change into coffee cups. Do the same thing again…they change back into square buttons. One more time…they change into slices of toast. A fourth click while holding down our key combination and they return to square buttons.

photoshop-preferences-interface-coffeecup

photoshop-preferences-interface-toast (more…)