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Friday, 4 November 2011

Adobe Photoshop – Creating Special Effects With Photoshop

So as we continue for our next Photoshop lesson for beginners, we are going to take a closer look at the important tools for creating special effects.

Christina Hendricks
You might find it helpful to apply a masking on your photo to choose which areas you want to change and leave untouched before you apply any of these special effects. You can create a soft fade between the areas with effects added and those without. This is called masking and can be done in a variety of ways. One method is called the ‘quick mask mode’. This is quick and easy to do and results are typically acceptable.

Quick masking

In Adobe Photoshop find the button called ‘edit in quick mask mode’. It’s located near the bottom of the main tool bar and looks like a circle in a rectangle. There’s also a short-cut key: Q. Once in quick mask mode, you can select and deselect areas simply by painting them with white and black respectively, using the standard brush tool. Zoom to 100 or 200 % for best accuracy. You might want to use a soft-edged brush to avoid hard edges. Alternatively, when you’re done, exit the masking mode and go to ‘Select – Feather’ and set the feather radius to 5-10 pixels or so. A nice option is that you can set the opacity to anywhere between 0 and 100%, allowing you to apply the effect stronger or weaker in one part of the image that another.

Layer masking

Only a bit more complicated, you can add a layer mask. This lets you to apply any effect gradually from any point in your photo. Follow these steps to achieve this:

1. Select ‘Windows – Layers’
2. Right click on your layer and select ‘Duplicate layer’
3. In the bottom of the layer box, click on the little icon called ‘Add layer mask’
4. Select the ‘Gradient tool’ on the main tool box
5. Choose a gradient style from the top ‘Options’ bar (linear, radial etc.)
6. Now click on your image on the point you don’t want to change, then drag the mouse away to the point where you want the full effect to take place. The effect will be applied gradually more and more along this line you’ve created
7. Last, return to your original background layer and apply any effect you want. This will apply the effect in a soft, gradual way. Use opacity to turn the effect down to less than full strength if you want.

Lens-like effects

Lucy Pinder
Using the same layer masking explained above, you can apply ‘Gaussian blur’ which will make the selected areas appear soft-focused, a bit like if you had used a large-aperture lens. With ‘Curves’ you can make your corners darker than the center, replicating the lens effect called vignetting.

In principle, vignetting is considered a lens dysfunction, but subjectively it can add an extra feeling to your photo. It will create a kind of frame that will have a ‘sucking’ effect, drawing more focus to the center of your photo. You can also just lower the contrast and/or color-saturation around your main subject, helping to divide it from the background clutter. Be creative with the many options you have available!

Soft glow effect

Great for creating a ‘romantic’ look for portraits. Here’s what you have to do:

1. Duplicate layer
2. Apply ‘Gaussian blur’ to the new (top) layer. Make it blurry, but leave a little detail
3. Play around with the blend modes and opacity till you get what you want:-

‘Darken’ or ‘Multiply’ blends darkens image details while softening features and adding a halo. Good for soft, expressive shadows.

‘Lighten’ or ‘Screen’ blends lightens the image instead. Good for adding high key or highlight glows.

‘Soft Light’ and ‘Overlay’ adds contrast and saturation. Useful for landscapes and still life photos.

Black and whitish

A cool metallic black-and-whitish look, in my opinion very suitable for documentary work and subdued portraits, is easily obtained by setting the contrast high (curves) and color saturation low. Do it with Photoshop’s ‘layers’ to be able to tweak your exact settings it in place.

Rosie Jones
Color grading

You can get the same effect in your photos as in some ‘color washed’ movies. The easy way is to go to ‘Image – Adjustments – Hue/Saturation’, click ‘Colorize’ and use the slide bars to choose your favorite grading. If your goal is well-defined color, it’s better to use the ‘Edit – Fill’ function. Simply select the color you want and set the ‘Blending mode’ to ‘Color’.

Whichever way, it’s advised first to duplicate your layer before you start. This will allow you to safeguard some of the original colors by turning the color grading down. Use the ‘Opacity’ slider in the layer box to do this. If you want a duo-tone image, just make 2 duplicate layers and give them different color gradings. Mix them together, again with the ‘Opacity’ slider and the different ‘Layer blending mode’ options in the layer box.

Example: To give your image a warm reddish-orange color tone make two duplicate layers first. Use ‘Edit – Fill’ to make the first one red and the second one orange. Set opacity to 30 and 60% respectively and select the ‘Multiply’ blending mode for the top (orange) layer. Tweak it in place to get it precisely as you want. Also try adding a soft glow, as explained above.

Micro contrast

This is a really neat trick to enhance your contrast and draw out texture details in your photos. You can even use it when your overall contrast is already maxed out, using all tonal ranges from pure black to pure white. The procedure is similar to the normal ‘Unsharpen Mask’, but with some special settings. Go to ‘Filter – Sharpen – Unsharpen Mask’ and set the ‘Amount’ to around 20-30%, the ‘Radius’ to 50-100 pixels and zero on the ‘Threshold’. You will get a subtle contrast enhancement that, for some pictures at least, works really well.

Remember however that just as important as learning how to apply these effects, is learning when to use them. You want to make sure to not loose the original qualities of the photo to the special effects. When to use these effects is ultimately up to you and your personal taste and opinion. Less can be more, so make sure not to overdo it.

Author: David Peters
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Do you want to create fantastic and spectacular photos? If yes, I recommend taking a look at Trick Photography and Special Effects by Evan Sharboneau in order to boost and enhance you photos with outstanding special effects!

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