Book chapters

Here's an idea of what each chapter in the book is about. Each chapter opens with a relevant illustration, which includes a view of the Layers Panel for the Photoshop file that created the illustration: that way, you can see how each one was put together, and get an idea of the techniques used. 

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Natural selection

The ability to make good selections is an essential part of every Photoshop artist’s job. These can be as simple as rectangular sections of a photograph, or as complex as a person with frizzy hair. But however you work, you’ll need to understand how all Photoshop’s many selection tools function, so you know which ones to use in each situation.

This book assumes you have a reasonable working knowledge of Photoshop. This introductory chapter is here to get everyone up to speed, to make sure we’re all operating at the same level.

Even if you already know most of the stuff in this chapter, it’s worth skimming through to make sure you understand all of it. There’s an awful lot that’s hidden away in Photoshop, and it often takes a book like this to show you where everything is. 

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Transformation and distortion

When we assemble multiple picture elements, we always have to transform them in some way – even if it’s a process as simple as changing the scale. Photoshop’s Free Transform mode is our key tool here, allowing us to scale, rotate and distort all our objects.

But there are many more ways of producing a distortion. We can use Puppet Warp to change the position of a hand, or the pose of a figure; we can use Image Warp to twist an object into just about any shape we can imagine; and we can even use the Clone tool to produce automated transformations as we paint.

The innovative Content-Aware technology, in all its manifestations, helps us to patch backgrounds, remove objects, and perform
all manner of tricks. In this chapter we’ll look at the best of what Photoshop has to offer. 

 

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Hiding and showing

The easiest way to remove something from a picture is to erase it. But the simplest way isn’t always best: once something has been erased, it’s gone, and it can be hard to get it back. Using a Layer Mask, on the other hand, allows us to hide part of a layer without ever deleting it – which means we can choose to show it again later if we change our mind.

There’s much more to hiding and showing picture elements than merely painting them out on a mask. We can use all of Photoshop’s tools and techniques to make layers interact with each other, using different modes to allow us to see the layers beneath, or automatically making parts of a layer invisible depending on their brightness.

A mastery of all these tools will make you a better Photoshop artist, and put you more in control to make you both more efficient and more effective. 

 

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Image adjustment

In an ideal world, our digital cameras would capture exactly what we see and everything we photograph would look perfect. But cameras are limited in scope, and the scenes we shoot rarely look as good as they could.

In the bad old days before Photoshop, photographers would spend hours in darkened rooms reeking of chemicals in order to produce the perfect image. With Photoshop, of course, our task is vastly easier: we’re able to adjust colors, tweak contrasts, and change every aspect of the way a picture looks without having to turn the light off.

Photoshop is awash with adjustment tools. But which one should you use for a particular job? In this chapter we’ll look at the main methods Photoshop artists use to fix their images, so you can decide which you need in each situation. 

 

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Composing the scene

It's important that every element in your montages should be perfectly cut out, properly lit, and color balanced to match all the other picture elements. But the most important factor of all is arrangement: how the objects relate to each other is critical.

And yet composition is an area that’s often overlooked by Photoshop artists: so tied up are they in the detail, they forget to look at the bigger picture.

In this chapter, we’ll look at how the arrangement of figures in your scene tells the story – and how that story can be radically changed by making subtle adjustments to the position of the characters involved. The direction of travel, the body language, the angle of interaction – all these factors determine how the reader interprets your picture.

 

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Getting into perspective

Perspective is one of those things that Photoshop artists either love or hate. It can plague them with its complexities, or delight them with its simplicity. But love it or hate it, you can’t create a realistic image without considering it carefully.

The correct use of perspective makes all the difference between a montage that looks convincing, and one that readers will examine with a sense of unease. They may not be able to put their fingers on it, but something will definitely appear to be wrong.

And yet it’s easy enough to learn the few simple rules that make working with perspective a pleasure rather than a chore. It can still be tricky to read the perspective out of an existing background, but if you like a puzzle, you’ll love this. 

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Light and shade

When we assemble montages, we almost always use picture elements from a variety of sources. These will have been photographed under very different lighting conditions, and when we put them together it’s vital to ensure that they all look as if they belong in the same scene. Adjusting the lighting on an object is a key Photoshop skill, and we’ll look at a couple of ways in which we can change the lighting on a figure.

One important fact that’s often overlooked is that everything casts a shadow. If your figures don’t cast shadows, then they’re probably vampires. Adding shadows helps objects to look as if they’re sitting on the ground, rather than floating in space; it makes everything look more coherent, and more consistent.

 

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Heads and bodies

If there's one thing people notice, it’s people. People catch our eye in landscapes; we invent people in clouds. Without people, montages can look dull and uninviting. Which means we need to find images of people to populate our scenes. But it’s rare that we’ll find exactly the right shot of exactly the right model, in exactly the right pose, with exactly the right expression; more often than not, we need to modify the models we find in order to make them fit both the sense and the layout of the scene.

This means combining heads with different bodies, of course – a staple procedure that every Photoshop artist should be fully familiar with. But it also frequently entails adjusting poses, whether individual limbs or entire bodies. We’ll look at all kinds of manipulation in this chapter.

 

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Shiny surfaces

Glass in one of the hardest surfaces to depict, since it’s almost invisible. Or is it? When you look closely, glass can be seen to reflect the scene opposite; to refract the view seen through it; and to have definite thickness.

We’re surrounded by shiny surfaces in everyday life, but we rarely notice them. As Photoshop artists, though, we have to pay attention to how they appear, to the fact that they have a physical presence. Glazing a window with a slight reflection will make it look like it’s really got glass in it. Creating reflections takes care and thought.

Working with shiny surfaces can be challenging, but it’s sure to make you a better artist.

 

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Metal, wood and stone

These three basic materials make up much of the fabric of everyday life. We’re surrounded by them, from cutlery to tombstones, from tables to coins. We may take them for granted, but when we want to recreate them in our montages we have to look at them with new eyes.

In this chapter we’ll see how we can create metallic effects from scratch, using a variety of techniques – from Curves to Layer Styles – that will allow us to turn any object we like into gleaming steel, chrome or gold.

We’ll also look at how we can use the Lighting Effects filter, which underwent a major reconstruction in Photoshop CS6, to model all kinds of embossed surfaces. And we’ll also take in making all sorts of objects out of wood, as well as methods for turning people into statues – and bringing statues to life.

 

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Paper and fabric

In the previous chapter we looked at substances whose common factor was that they were hard. Here, we’ll see how to work with textures that have precisely the opposite characteristics.

Paper and fabric both distort. They can be crumpled, folded, torn, twisted, rippled, and put through as many different types of transformations as you can imagine. To show a sheet of newspaper as a purely flat surface may display the design, but it does nothing to get across the essence of the newspaper itself: its pliability, its tendency to tear, the difficulty of keeping it straight.

It’s not difficult to crumple a sheet of paper, or to wave a flag, or even to curl a banknote so it looks like it’s flying through the air. But when we do so, we bring an added realism to drawn or scanned artwork, making it appear that little bit more like the real thing.

 

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The third dimension

The image in this opening spread was created from a single Photoshop path. The whole process took under ten minutes. Granted, it’s not a work of art that’s going to set the world on fire, but it does show just how far Photoshop’s 3D modeling capabilities have come in the last few versions of the program. 3D modeling in Photoshop is not just an idle dream, but a very real and viable option.

The 3D capability used to be a feature provided only in the Extended version of Photoshop. But with Photoshop CC that distinction no longer applies – which means every reader can get to grips with this exciting new technology.

We start this chapter with a look at how to simulate the third dimension, using tools that have been present in Photoshop right from the very beginning. All it takes is a little imagination and the conviction that anything you can imagine, you can create in Photoshop.

 

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Hyper realism

As Photoshop artists, we’re often asked to produce images of situations that would be impossible to photograph – a planet exploding, a politician melting down, or, as opposite, a bottle of placebo pills that contain nothing of medicinal value.

We have to produce these images armed with nothing more than Photoshop and our imagination. But in cases like this it’s really not important exactly how a scene would look in real life; what matters is how well you can get the point across. The same applies to many other forms of montage. We’re telling a story, not cataloging forensic evidence, and the truth is less important than producing a compelling and intriguing image.

In this chapter we’ll look at several ways of creating powerful, sometimes cartoony image effects that can add a sense of life and energy to our montages. Often, we’re enhancing reality, rather than merely reproducing it. Where you use these effects is up to you.

 

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Advanced techniques

You may be the most talented Photoshop artist in the country. You may be overflowing with creative ideas, bursting to get them into print and share them with the world. But unless you can meet a tight deadline, you have no place in the frantic design studios of today’s newspaper and magazine publishers.

The techniques described in this chapter differ from the rest of the book in that they’re not, by and large, designed to produce spectacular artwork. Instead, they’re a collection of tips for long-term Photoshop users who want to sharpen their skills. The techniques here are ‘advanced’ only in the sense that they’ll be of little interest to beginners. It doesn’t mean they’re hard to achieve! 

 

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Print and the internet

Throughout this book we look at how to get the best out of Photoshop, how to improve your workflow and how to make pictures that look beautiful.

But creating images that look stunning on your computer isn’t enough. At some point, you need to break them out of the confines of your monitor and share them with the world – whether that’s through the medium of print, or on the internet.

And that’s where many people come unstuck. What is CMYK all about? How do you make files smaller without making the images smaller? And how on earth do people make those animations from Photoshop files? It’s all a lot easier than you might think.