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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 - Adding Some Finishing Touches
(Page 10 of 10 )

You've come a long way. The image could certainly pass for a spring-time setting. However, there are still a few details that might help to improve the overall look even further. We're done adding elements, but let's fine-tune the image.

Many of the elements that we added were resized to fit into the master image. Because the scaling process tends to soften the added elements (due to lost pixels), the first question to ask yourself is whether any of these elements could benefit from some sharpening. Next, consider the lighting. Try to imagine where the lighting source is coming from, and add some appropriate shadows, maybe even some additional lighting itself. The next exercise will show you how to take care of all these fine details, to put the finishing touches on your revamped mansion.

Taking Care of the Small Details

  1. The ready-to-go drag-and-drop elements were already sharpened for you. But if you took the time to add the elements from scratch, you'll also want to apply some sharpening to the necessary layers. For now, the Picket-fence flowers could benefit from sharpening. On the Layers palette, click on the Picket-fence flowers layer to make it the active layer. Choose Filter, Sharpen, Unsharp Mask. In the Unsharp Mask dialog box, type 50% for Amount, 0.5 (pixels) for Radius, and 0 for Threshold (see Figure 13.24). Then click on OK.


Figure 13.24

Use the settings shown here to sharpen any layers as needed.

Insider - If you feel other element layers could benefit from some sharpening, simply click on the appropriate layer title to make it the active layer; then press Ctrl(Command)+F to apply the last filter and settings to that layer. Next, let's add some shadows.

  1. Imagine the light is coming from high up and from the left. You'll need a shadow of the left tree that falls at a steep angle. On the Layers palette, click on the tree's left layer to make it the active layer, and press Ctrl(Command)+J to duplicate it. Press Ctrl(Command)+[ (left bracket key) to move the copy below the trees left layer, and double-click on the layer title to rename this layer Tree Shadow. Press Enter(Return) to commit the new name to the layer.

  2. Press D for the default colors. Black should be the foreground color. Press Alt(Opt)+Shift+Delete (Backspace) to fill the content of this layer with the black foreground color. Press V to switch to the Move tool. If you move this layer slightly, you'll be able to see the effects because this layer is currently hiding behind the tree's left layer. On the Layers palette, change the layer Mode to Multiply and lower the Opacity to 50% (see Figure 13.25).

  3. You will use the Transform tool next and will need some working room to see the bounding box handles. Press Ctrl(Command)+ the minus key to zoom out to about 25%. Drag out the bottom corner of the document window to give some working room area. Press Ctrl(Command)+T to bring up the Transform tool. Right-click (Macintosh: hold Ctrl and click), and choose Distort from the menu. Now drag on the handles until you produce a tree shadow that falls on the side of the house near the steps and on the walkway below the tree, similar to Figure 13.25. When you're satisfied with the results, press Enter(Return) to commit the transformation changes.


Figure 13.25

Distort the Tree Shadow layer to achieve a shadow that falls at a realistic angle onto the house and walkway. The settings shown here in the Options bar might help to aid in adjusting the Transform tool for your own project.

  1. Choose Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur, and enter 2 (pixels). Click on OK.

  2. Click on the shrubs layer to make this layer active. Press Ctrl(Command)+J to duplicate it. Press Ctrl(Command)+[ (left bracket key) to move the layer below the shrubs layer. Rename this layer Shrub Shadow, and change the layer Mode to Multiply and the Opacity to 70%. The foreground color should still be black. Press Alt(Opt)+Shift+Delete (Backspace) to fill the shrubs on this layer with black. Press Ctrl(Command)+F to apply the last Gaussian Blur settings to this layer. Press V to switch to the Move tool, and move the Shrub Shadow layer slightly down and to the right until you can see the shadow peek out slightly from behind the shrubs.

  3. Repeat this same process for the Window Boxes layer. Start by clicking on the Window Boxes layer to make it the active layer, make a duplicate layer, and so on. Rename the duplicate layer Window Box Shadow.

  4. Click on the top layer (trees right), and press Ctrl(Command)+Shift+N to create a new layer. In the New Layer dialog box, name the layer Light Layer. Also, while you have this dialog box open, change the layer Mode to Overlay and the Opacity to 70%. Click on OK.

Insider - As you work through the next step, imagine light beaming across the house, starting from the upper-left side of the image and streaming toward the lower-right area. Figure 13.26 shows a black-and-white representation of the places to apply white color in the next step. Don't worry about confining your brush strokes to the house only. Go ahead and make bold, broad diagonal strokes across the entire image, and we'll explain how to clean up the unwanted areas later. So if you don't paint exactly as shown here, or if you paint into any unwanted areas, don't worry. Just watch the image, and concentrate on using your judgment to achieve a natural look.


Figure 13.26

This black-and-white image indicates where you will be applying white color to simulate light streaming across the house.

  1. Press D for the default colors, and then press X to switch white to the foreground color. Choose the Brush tool (B) from the toolbox. On the Options bar, set the Flow to 50%; the Opacity should remain at 100%, and the brush Mode should be set to Normal. Choose a large, soft round brush; start with a 300-pixel brush and change the Master Diameter setting from 300 to 500 to temporarily create a 500-pixel soft round brush (see Figure 13.27 for the correct settings). Press Enter(Return) to dismiss the Brush palette.


Figure 13.27

Use a large, soft round brush with the settings shown here. The brush is huge, so give your document window some working room to make space for those broad strokes.

  1. Again, it might help to press Ctrl(Command)+ the minus key to zoom out and then drag a corner of the document window to give some working room around the image border area. Start at the upper-left area of the document, and make a broad diagonal stroke down toward the lower-right area. Repeat with another stroke below that one and so on until you cover down to the lower-left corner area. Click once near the slanted rooftop areas. Don't forget to use the History palette to undo any strokes you're not happy with.

  2. Now, let's clean up any unwanted paint, beginning with any areas that spilled over into the sky. This area is actually easy to fix because you already have a layer that can provide you with a perfect selection of the sky. Ctrl(Command)+click on the Sky Color layer to load a selection of the sky. Make sure, however, that the Light Layer title is the active layer; if necessary, click on the Light Layer title to ensure that it is the active layer. Press the Delete (Backspace) key to remove the paint from any sky areas. Press Ctrl(Command)+D to deselect.

  3. Next, we want to remove the paint from areas where there should be deep shadows (areas where light is blocked). Choose the Eraser tool from the toolbox, and choose a soft round 65-pixel brush with the settings shown in Figure 13.28. Press Ctrl(Command)+ the plus key to zoom in. Hold down the spacebar to toggle to the Hand tool, and drag until you have a view of the rooftops. The Light layer should still be the active layer. Start near the rooftops, and brush to erase any dark shadowy areas (refer to Figure 13.26 as a guide for areas that might need to be removed). Press the spacebar as needed to adjust your view of the image as you work.

Figure 13.28

Use the Eraser tool settings shown here to erase away any remaining unwanted areas.

  1. Now we should give the walkway a bit of wear, to make it look more authentic. Click on the Walkway layer to make it the active layer. Press Ctrl(Command)+ Shift+N to create a new layer. In the New Layer dialog box, name the layer Walkway Wear, and change the layer Mode to Overlay and the Opacity to 60% before clicking on OK.

  2. White should still be the foreground color. Choose the Brush tool from the toolbox. On the Options bar, you can leave the previous Flow setting of 50%, but change the brush to the Spatter 59-pixel brush (see Figure 13.29). Now simply click in the center areas of the walkway to add a little wear and fading.


Figure 13.29

Click in the center area of the walkway to begin "aging" the bricks. Use your judgment, and don't forget to use the History palette to undo any strokes you aren't happy with.

  1. Press Ctrl(Command)+S to save your work.

You have been given the skills to make repairs on this image, so if you would like, we can suggest one more item that could give you the opportunity for a little more practice. Click on the Elements Removed layer to make it the active layer, and press Ctrl(Command)+J to duplicate it. Remember, by working on a copy, you can always delete the layer if you don't like the results. Now, on your own, do some repair work on the peeling paint areas around the rooftop, on the eaves, and along the attic windows. Use whatever tool you feel will do the job appropriately. Some areas can benefit from the Patch tool, Healing Brush tool, or the Clone Stamp tool. Other areas might require you to use the Brush tool and an appropriately sized brush. Remember, when you're using the Brush tool, you can press the Alt(Opt) key to toggle to the Eyedropper tool and sample nearby colors. Also, don't forget that your Flow setting is at 50% from the last exercise, but this setting may work well. If not, adjust it back to 100%.

Your finished image should now look very close to the one shown in Figure 13.2. Now, wouldn't this make our fictional real estate agent happy and help to speed up the sale of this property?


In this chapter, you learned to use a number of tools to retouch a photographic image. You learned how to rotate the image and change its perspective and how to evaluate an image to determine what kinds of changes you want to make to it. You used Curves Adjustment Layers to change the overall color and the Clone and Patch tools to remove unwanted image elements. You used color to enhance individual image elements, and you learned how to add new image elementsóboth "raw" and "ready-made." Finally, you learned a number of techniques for fine-tuning your composited and edited image. Be proud of yourself for having accomplished this assignment! We hope that you found it to be not only educational, but also rewarding, and we hope that you will use your new skills and confidence to tackle your own makeover projects.

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.

DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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