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Photo editing

Photo editing Tutorial_tutorial cover


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The following Photo editing tutorial below, will take users through the intricacies of editing a portrait image supplied by a client, for the purpose of creating a Halloween themed party.

The initial brief from the organiser (Rita Gulyas) was to transform her portrait into something identical to the “silence of the lambs” poster.

The purpose of her idea was to create something that most people would instantly recognize when plastered across the walls of her venue and printed on T-Shirts of her guests.

The entire art direction/idea for the poster was driven by the following witty quote she chose as a title:  God is silent, now if only people would shut up

Photo editing process in Photoshop

1-We have begun by first opening the portrait image in Photoshop.

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2-Next, a Noise filter was added and a greyscale version (Black & White) of the original image was created, by taking the following steps:

A- Right clicked and chose the, Duplicate layer option, from the pop up menu list.

In the, Duplicate Layer dialog, the layer was renamed as, Rita photo editing, followed by clicking, OK, to close its dialog.

For this Photoshop exercise, we’ve always worked in the, Layers panel.

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B-In addition, to ensure the integrity of the original Photoshop layer was kept after adding filters, the, editing layer was converted into a Smart object, by right clicking on the layer and choosing the, Convert to Smart Object, option from the pop up list.

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C- While the, Rita photo editing layer, was still selected, a Noise filter was added, by first clicking on the, Filter main tool bar, followed by choosing the, Add Noise filter from the drop down list.

The value of 11.86 was entered, as a starting point.

It’s worth noting that, since the edited layer was previously converted into a Smart Object, we could always tweak its parameters at a later stage.

Note how the Photoshop layer display changed automatically and an icon immediately appeared on the side of the Smart Object layer.

To edit the parameters of any of the Photoshop Filters applied earlier, one is required to simply click on its adjacent icon (an arrow) to expand it down, followed by double clicking on the filter’s name.

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D-The subsequent step was to desaturate the layer.

It was done by clicking on the adjustment layer button and choosing the, Hue/Saturation, from the pop up list.

Following that, the, Master, Saturation value was decreased to about -100.

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E- To increase the image contrast, a Levels adjustment layer was created.

In the Levels dialog, the leftmost slider was set to 49; the midpoint slider was set to 1.03 and rightmost slider was set to 208. Again, these values worked well for this project.

However, the Photoshop adjustment layer gave us the flexibility to manipulate its parameters at a later stage, if desired.

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3- The next step was to create a bright/whitish layer on top of the main image, using the Solid Color adjustment layer.

Again, adjustment layers provide users with the flexibility to go backwards and forwards with settings/parameters at any stage of the production.

To create the Solid Color, the adjustment layer button was clicked ( as previously done) and the Solid Color was chosen from the pop list; followed by picking an off white colour, from the, Pick a color dialog.

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Since we had plans to add a filter to the Color fill at a later stage, we converted it into a Smart Object, as previously done.

As highlighted earlier, converting Photoshop layers to a Smart Object allows users to have the flexibility to edit the Filter parameters at any stage.

Next, the Color Fill layer visibility was turned off, by simply clicking on its Eye icon; followed by clicking on the, Select, main tool bar and choosing the, Color Range, tool from the drop down list.

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In the Color Range dialog, the brightest point of the edited image (i.e. the forehead) was picked first, and the Fuzziness slider was moved to about 99.

For this project, the value of 99 worked well. However, we could have tried higher values, if desired.

Note the amount of contrast depicted in the Fuzziness preview thumbnail, as the slider was moved. The brighter areas indicate the areas that will be automatically selected; and the darker areas indicate the opposite.

Once satisfied with the values, we simply clicked, OK, to close the dialog.

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While the selection was still on, the layer visibility was turned back on and a mask of the Color Fill layer was created; by clicking on the, Add Vector Mask, button.

Adding masks to Layers provides users with the flexibility to control what’s omitted with the brush tool, or otherwise. The subsequent steps will help highlight the immense benefits of this tool.

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4-The following step was to obscure most of the facial features (apart from her eyes, nose and the chin line) with the Colour Fill layer, using a mask and the brush tool.

A- We first selected the mask (previously created) from the Color Fill layer, followed by enabling the brush tool (B). Also, we have ensured that the, Switch Foreground and Background Colors, swatch was white and black.

To switch between the colours, we’ve simply clicked on its icon, or pressed X.  The white colour swatch brings pixels to the foreground/front; and the black colour suppresses the pixels to the background.

To change each colour swatch, simply click and hold its swatch to bring up the, Color Picker, dialog.

Furthermore, the brush Opacity determines the amount of pixels to be omitted/suppressed or brought to the front/foreground.

It’s often prudent to start with the brush opacity set to 30% or less. This will help control the amount of pixels being omitted or brought to the front/foreground.

Again, it’s worth emphasizing that, the Color Fill mask needs to be selected, otherwise one would end up painting directly on the layer, as opposed to brushing off/on the pixels’ opacity.

We’ve begun brushing the photo’s pixels (whilst the mask was selected), with the foreground colour set to white.

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B- While brushing away, we’ve switched between the foreground and the background mask colours (X) and also increased (]) and/or decreased the brush size ([).

To control the Photoshop brush size, one can also click on the brush size button from the main toolbar.

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C-The subsequent step was to create a dark background that gradually faded away towards the bottom left area of the portrait photo. It was achieved by creating another Color Fill layer with a black colour that was later converted into a Smart Object, as previously done.

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Next, a vector mask was created to start brushing away the unwanted pixels.

While brushing away large areas, we’ve set the brush opacity to 100%.                                               For areas where the colour had to be faded, we’ve decreased the brush opacity to about 8%.

In addition, we kept on changing the brush size as necessary (i.e. [    ]).         

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Once finished, a Noise filter was added to the Color Fill layer. It’s worth mentioning again that, before applying a filter to a Smart Object, one is required to select the layer first; NOT its vector mask.

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D- To complement the black background colour, another Color Fill layer with a dark blue tint to was created.

Before creating it, the Color Fill 2 layer was selected first, to ensure the new layer was positioned underneath the Color Fill 2 (black).

It was done with the intention to later create the illusion of both colours blending together around the neck area.

Following that, we’ve begun blending both colours, by brushing across their respective layer masks.

In addition, we have gone back to the black Color Fill mask to brush as necessary. 

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As one can see, at this stage, image was resembling increasingly, the movie poster she was looking for.

5-To finalize the edited image, we have started adding final retouches/tweaks such as the following:

A- The contrast of the photo was increased, by double clicking on the, Levels 1 thumbnail icon and sliding its RGB midpoint slider to about 0.54.

Moreover, to add a slight blue tint to the darker areas, the Blue channel was pulled up, from the Channel drop down list.

Next, its midpoint slider was moved to about 1.05.

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B-To add a more cinematic feel to the photo/poster, the amount of Noise was increased, to about 58.91 and the distribution type set to, Gaussian.

Gaussian Noise disperses noise in a cinematic style.

To bring up the Noise dialog, we first selected the, Rita Photo editing layer, followed by expanding the smart object and double clicking on the, Add Noise, eye icon.

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C- Next, the Color Fill 1 layer was selected and a Noise filter was added to it (Noise value of 18.2). Since the layer was initially converted to a Smart layer, we had the flexibility to tweak its color and/or this newly applied filter.

Again, always ensure that you select the Layer itself; NOT its mask. Otherwise the Filter will be applied to the mask instead.

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D- To add or subtract white areas of the face, we selected the Color Fill 1, layer mask and gradually masked away the relevant areas.

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E- Furthermore, the unwanted Noise filter was brushed away from areas of the image such as eye lashes, etc.

It was done by first selecting the, Rita photo editing layer, followed by expanding the Smart object layer and selecting its Smart Filter mask.

We then enabled the brush tool (B) and begun brushing away, as previously done.

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6– To truly capture, the silence of the lambs poster, the following was done:

A- A pre-masked moth and a red iris(eye) were imported into the document first.

It’s worth mentioning that, we could easily have recreated the red iris from scratch, using some of the techniques covered earlier. However, Jody Foster’s unique red iris seemed better suited for this specific Poster.

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B-The moth’s shadow was created by simply duplicating the layer first; followed by darkening it completely with,Levels adjustment layer and by reducing its opacity to about 86%.

To tweak the shadow even further, a bit of colour was added, along with the Noise filter. The Transform tool (Ctrl+T) was also used in order to angle the shadow in a particular direction.

To transform a layer freely, one is required to first press Ctrl+T, followed by right clicking and choosing the, Distort, option from the pop up dialog.

Users can also apply this Transform technique to selected areas (specific) of the shadow.

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7-Moreover, we have sourced the quote “God is silent, now if only people would shut up”, from our extensive library of quotes.

The Text font chosen was BStyle.

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The final document was saved as a Photoshop PSD file, TIFF, and as a JPG for T-shirt Printing.

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When saving a Photoshop document to PSD, users are required to enable the, Layers, option. This option will retain all the layers previously created.

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The same Photoshop document (PSD) can be used as a template to quickly recreate an identical Poster with someone else’s photo.

To do so, simply select the, Rita photo editing layer, followed by right clicking on the middle part of the layer, and choosing the, Replace Contents option from the pop up list.

Ensure that you right click on the middle part of the layer, in order to have this layer option available. This option allows users to locate and replace the selected layer.

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In addition, you may be required to re-brush or recreate the mask from Color Fill 1 layer.

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For printing, the Photoshop file (PSD) was saved as TIFF, with the option to, save As a Copy, only. This file format is rasterized and uncompressed (High resolution). Disabling the, Layers, reduces file size.

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When saving the file as a JPG, we have simply set the quality to 12(Maximum).

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As mentioned earlier, we’ve also used the final edited JPG image to print shirts for Rita and her invitees.



I hope you have found this Photoshop tutorial somehow useful. To see more of our creative templates, please go to the prices and services page, and choose the Instructions/creative tab.


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