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Keeping Up Appearances: Techniques for Retouching Images

Check out this chapter for tips on retouching images in Photoshop, improving color, adding new elements to an image or removing unwanted image elements. (From the book Inside Photoshop CS by Gary Bouton, Sams, 2004, ISBN: 0672326442.)

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By: Sams Publishing
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August 18, 2004
  1. · Keeping Up Appearances: Techniques for Retouching Images
  2. · Rotate the Image
  3. · Improving Overall Color
  4. · Removing Unwanted Elements
  5. · Enhance Image Elements
  6. · Coloring the Shrubs and Vines
  7. · Adding New Elements
  8. · Adding New Landscaping Elements
  9. · Adding Ready-Made Elements
  10. · Adding Some Finishing Touches

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Keeping Up Appearances: Techniques for Retouching Images - Removing Unwanted Elements
(Page 4 of 10 )

After studying the original photograph and deciding on a plan of attack, I've identified some elements that need to be removed from the photograph.

The next exercise will concentrate on removing the hydro wires, which are an unattractive distraction. Additionally, there is some ice on the house that would realistically be out of place in the spring setting we've chosen for this scene. The street sign, nearby buildings, and any other evidence of winter (such as the snow and leafless shrubbery) will eventually be replaced with new elements to make the spring version more convincing (we'll worry about these items later in the chapter).

As always, it is a good idea to get in the habit of working on a duplicate layer when undertaking major changes. This gives you the freedom to delete the layer and start fresh if things do not go as planned. Let's begin the next phase of repair.

Cloning and Patching Away Unwanted Elements

  1. Click on the Aligned layer to make it the active layer. Press Ctrl(Command)+J to duplicate this layer. Rename the Aligned copy layer by double-clicking on the layer title and typing Elements Removed. Press Enter(Return) to accept the name change to the layer.

  2. Next, you'll remove the hydro wires. Hold down Ctrl(Command)+spacebar to toggle to the Zoom tool (Z), and drag a marquee around the hydro wire in the upper-right corner of the document window to zoom in on this area of the image. If necessary, hold down the spacebar to toggle to the Hand tool, and reposition your view to ensure a clear view of the hydro wire in the upper-right corner (see Figure 13.6).


Figure 13.6

Zoom in to get a clear view of the hydro wire before removing it. The figure also shows how your Layers palette should look at this point.

Note - Clearing up palette clutter: If, at any time, you find your workspace area becoming cluttered with palettes, you can quickly toggle these palettes off and on by pressing the Tab key. You can also reposition any palette by clicking on its title bar and dragging it around the workspace, or you can double-click on its title bar to toggle between a collapsed and expanded view.

Insider - The Patch tool is the perfect tool for getting rid of this wire, but first you need to make a selection around the wire. You can use the Patch tool itself to make a selection, but this tool operates in the same way as the Lasso tool: You must make a freehanded selection. Because the object in this instance is straight and narrow, and because you can use any of Photoshop's selection tools before using the Patch tool, it will be easier to use the Polygonal Lasso tool to make a selection around this object. After making the selection, you can use the Patch tool to repair the area.

  1. Choose the Polygonal Lasso tool (L) from the toolbox (click and hold on the Lasso tool until it appears from the fly-out menu). Click once at the top edge of the document and near one side of the wire. Because this wire goes to the edge of the document, you can actually make the remaining clicks in the title bar or scrollbar areas of the document to ensure that the selection goes to the edges of the document. Click again outside the edge of the bottom area of the wire. If necessary, hold down the spacebar to toggle to the Hand tool, and scroll to the bottom area of the wire for a better view. Click again outside the bottom area on the other side of the wire, and make a fourth click on the title bar area of this side to surround this wire area. When you have made enough clicks to surround the wire, double-click to close and complete the selection. Marching ants should now appear around the wire area, as shown in Figure 13.7.


Figure 13.7

Make a tight selection around the wire to ensure the selection extends all the way to the edge of the document.

  1. Choose the Patch tool (J) from the toolbox (it's grouped with the Healing Brush tool). On the Options bar, make sure that the Source option is selected (the remaining options should be unselected). The Elements Removed layer should still be the active layer on the Layers palette.

  2. With the Patch tool, simply click inside the selection area around the wire, and drag this selection down and to the left slightly, as shown in Figure 13.8. You can see the sample area change in the selection you are dragging, and this sample area will be mirrored in the original selection space, where the wire was located. When the area in the wire selection space looks good, release your mouse, and the Patch tool will repair this area and remove the wire. Press Ctrl(Command)+D to deselect.


Figure 13.8

Use the Patch tool, and move the selection to rid the area of this unattractive wire. The Patch tool makes use of the Source pixels (the location area that you drag the selection to) to average with the original selection area for a flawless result.

  1. Press the spacebar to toggle to the Hand tool, and scroll the document view over to the upper-left edge. There, you will find a protruding pipe, which you can remove from the image by using the Patch tool again. Use the Patch tool to make a loose selection around the pipe area, as shown in step 1 of Figure 13.9. Click inside the selection, and drag the selection up and to the right slightly to sample a new area of the sky. When you're satisfied with the sampled area, release the mouse button, and Photoshop will repair the original selected area with information from the new sampled area (see step 2 in Figure 13.9). Press Ctrl(Command)+D to deselect.


Figure 13.9

Use the Patch tool again to make a selection around the protruding bar, and move the selection to an appropriate sampling area.

Insider - The Patch tool and Healing Brush tool operate by averaging the texture of the selected area with the texture from the Source area. As you can see, this averaging method works quite well for many situations. However, if you scroll back over to the upper-right side of this image, you'll notice some ice and a few more wires. These items intersect areas of the house in which it is important to retain the well-defined edges and details. Therefore, for these areas, the Clone Stamp tool will perform better.

  1. Press the spacebar to toggle to the Hand tool, and scroll back over to the upper-right side of the document until the ice and nearby wires are in view. Choose the Clone Stamp tool (S) from the toolbox. On the Options bar, choose a soft round 35-pixel brush, and refer to Figure 13.10 for the remaining settings. Here, you want to sample an edge close to the top portion of the ice particle (near the roof edge) and line the brush up perfectly over the ice (to clone in this edge area). So pay attention to the following trick to accomplish this feat. When you hold down the Alt(Opt) key, the cursor will change to a circle containing a bull's-eye–like cross-hair. Hold down the Alt(Opt) key, and use the cross-hair to align the brush with the edge area to the right of the ice; click once to sample the appropriate area, but do not release the Alt(Opt) key just yet. Continue holding the Alt(Opt) key as you slide the brush over the top area of the ice, and use the cross-hair to approximate where the edge of the roof should fall. When you're satisfied with the position of your brush, release the Alt(Opt) key, and then click once or twice to clone in the sampled edge to this area (see Figure 13.10).


Figure 13.10

Use the Clone Stamp tool and the sampling Alt(Opt) key bull's-eye cursor to help position the cloning brush properly.

  1. Step 7 helped to clone the horizontal edge of the roof, but if you feel you need to clone in the vertical edge as well, repeat the same technique to fine-tune the vertical edge.

  2. Lower the brush size to a soft round 21-pixel brush, and continue to use this technique to clone away the remainder of the ice and wires. Sample frequently and sample appropriate areas. Be sure to use the previous technique when cloning away wires that intersect the edges of the house. And remember to use the History palette (or Ctrl(Command)+Alt(Opt)+Z) to undo any brush strokes you are unhappy with. Another useful hint to keep in mind is that after you've cloned away enough wires from the edge of the house, you can switch to the Patch tool again to patch the remaining wires in the sky area.

  3. Choose an appropriate brush size, and use this cloning technique to clear away some of the snow from the bottom step of the house, as shown in Figure 13.11. Sample from appropriate areas. For example, look for a bottom edge of bricks without snow (to sample from), and clone this information in areas where snow obscures the bottom edge. Again, use the History palette if you don't like a particular brush stroke. Plus, keep in mind that most of the snow areas will be replaced with different elements later, so remove just enough to give an edge to the bottom of the brick steps (without worrying about the rest of the snow areas).

Tip - Sampling with the right tool: You can also use the Rectangular Marquee tool or Polygonal Lasso tool to make a selection to define a working area that will include the bottom edge area of the brick steps. Then you can use the Clone Stamp tool to clone in sampled bricks along this bottom edge (within the selection area). This extra step can help to define a clearer edge at the bottom and give you the freedom to sample from bricks that are the right color, without limiting you to sample an area that contains an edge.


Figure 13.11

Carefully find sample points to clone away the snow from the bottom step area in the image.

  1. When you're satisfied with the results, press Ctrl (Command)+S to save your work. Keep the document and Photoshop open for the next exercise.

Okay, take a break and congratulate yourself! A break is important at this point, not only because you've worked hard, but also it's always a good idea to step back and admire how far you've come. Press Ctrl(Command)+ the minus key to zoom out and admire all the changes made to the entire document at this point.

This chapter is from Inside Photoshop CS, by Gary Bouton (Sams, 2004, ISBN: 0672326442). Check it out at your favorite bookstore today. Buy this book now.

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