Saturday, October 24, 2015

Hesperides, Photoshop-style

I haven't posted in ages, in direct contradiction to my high-spirited declarations when first I started this blog. So I am hastening to make amends.

This technique came about as a result of a class I was teaching - a participant asked me how was it possible to create an effect which made the object look like fluid chrome or quicksilver. After some discussion, it emerged that he had seen a YouTube tutorial that was more bragging than teach; no surprise there as most of YouTube's so-called "tutorials" are like that. Most either gloss over the steps, move the mouse in endless circles around the screen or click things so quickly you have no idea what was clicked, or display dialog boxes so minuscule that settings are impossible to determine.

So here's my version of the technique and its surprisingly easy using Adjustment Layers!

Begin with the intended image.

For this example I decided to make some apples into modern-day Hesperides (FYI: the Hesperides were golden apples given to Zeus by his wife Hera as a wedding gift. They were guarded in a secret garden by a 100-headed dragon named Ladon and also by the Hesperides, the nymph-daughters of Atlas, from which comes the name. Obtaining the apples was one of the 12 Labours of Hercules.)
You can download the exact apple image I used from Pixabay (

Start the transformation by rendering the image as a grayscale.
The quickest way to do that is use the Gradient Map Adjustment.

Just ensure your Foreground/Background colour are at their default.

Once the image is black and white, you can add the Curves adjustment to make the apples look like they were formed of liquid metal.

The trick to this look is to "solarize" the Curve - add points and drag the Curve properties so it resembles the one shown below.

When you are satisfied with the "liquid metal" look, add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to turn the apples into their golden namesake.

Click the Colorize checkbox, and set the Hue and Saturation values to turn the apples a deep burnished gold. Here we are using Hue=45 and Saturation=49.

And there you have it!
The best part of this is that, because they are all Adjustment Layers, the effect is non-destructive and can be altered at any time.

Happy Photoshopping!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Giving SKII a run for its money!

These days, advertisements are all about flawless perfection, especially those from the cosmetics and skincare industries. And coupled with that perfection is the relentless pursuit of youth and beauty; but that's another story for another day!

There has been much talk in retouching circles lately about frequency separation. If you Google that phrase a plethora of tutorials will turn up. Most of these tutorials run the same route - separating the image into high- and low-frequency layers, then painstakingly brushing out flaws and imperfections.

The results are spectacular. But most of the time, you may not have the patience, or the luxury, to execute frequency separation. Unfortunately, at the other end of the spectrum are techniques that call for merely blurring the image and blending with Overlay or Soft Light. This often results in plasticky-looking skin, or a model which looks more like a Barbie doll than a real human being!

This technique is a hybrid in that it calls for a rarely-used filter and a couple of extra steps, but I think the results speak for themselves. The technique itself is quite quick to do, and as an added advantage, it will work on both sexes!:


Begin with the model - this one is from FreeImages (

Duplicate the Background layer and erase away everything that will not be affected by the smoothing process.
(Quick tip: to make the erasing process less tedious, hide the original Background, use the Lasso tool to select the portions that will not be smoothed, apply a small Feather, then delete it. You can then use the Eraser tool to quickly finish off - the completed erasure should look somewhat like a theatrical mask.)

Apply a High Pass filter - Filter > Other > High Pass...
(Note: this filter is often used in filmography as a method of sharpening images.)
In the filter dialog, increase the Radius till you see a distinct edge:
 - for this model we used 8, the number will vary depending on the image.
Click OK.

From the Image menu, select Invert from the Adjustments submenu - this will reverse the image.
(Explanation: You may be wondering - why did we Sharpen then reverse the sharpening? Why not just soften it with a blur, like Gaussian Blur? That is exactly what we want to avoid. Gaussian Blur, or any of the Blurs for that matter, make the image too smooth and even. The result? -the model looks like a Barbie doll.)

To complete the technique, change blending mode of the duplicate ("mask") layer to Overlay and lower the Opacity till the skin is smooth but still retains its texture - for most images, an Opacity ranging between 55% - 85% should do the trick.
And that's it!

Happy Photoshopping!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Going vintage

This is a rehash of a comment I posted on LinkedIn in response to a group query on how to apply a vintage look to a photograph.

Here is the full technique, complete with screenshots:

First find a suitable photo to "age" - this is a wide-shot of Paris from the FreeImages website (
Adjust the Contrast to give you a bit more detail to work with. I did this using Curves' Auto options - apply an Curves Adjustment from the Adjustments panel.
From the Curves panel dialog, select the Panel Options drop-down (its the down-pointing arrow at the top-right with the 4 horizontal lines) and choose Auto Options...
In the Auto Options, first select any of the radio options above the default Enhance Brightness and Contrast - this is just for you to access the lower half of the dialog box; you will evaluate your options in a moment. Tick the Snap Neutral Midtones checkbox and try each of the options to see which one works for the image. For this example, I have gone with the Enhance Per Channel Contrast option.
The final steps in preparing the image are to make the image into a black-and-white - I did this by setting the colour chips to their default (White Foreground and Black Background), then applying a Gradient Map Adjustment.
Before the texture is placed, it is a good idea to colour the image a sepia tone - apply a Solid Color Adjustment layer and select the Pale Cool Brown preset from the Swatches panel.
To tint the image, change the Color Fill layer's blend mode to Color.
You need a vintage paper image to complete the look - this one is from Pixelmator's Tutorials page; and some scratches for authenticity - also from Pixelmator's Tutorials.
Note - the scratches image is actually transparent, it has been placed here on a black ground to show the scratches.
Place the paper texture over the image, resize it to fit and change the blending mode to Multiply.
To finish off, place the scratches and lower the layer's Opacity to 50%.
And there you have it!
Have fun!

Monday, December 29, 2014

A new blog ... a new beginning

As 2014 draws to a close and 2015 looms on the horizon, thoughts spring anew in the minds of men - New Year Resolutions.

I always view them as vague, half-fulfilled promises of wanting to do something to make one's life, or the lives of those around you, better. They always start out the same, pregnant with promise, then peter out soon after the year has begun, to grind to an inglorious halt.

Such might be the destiny of this blog. Oh this child has long been in gestation! Spurred by the urgings of colleagues and students to "do something so we can learn more!", I have finally "shaken off this mortal coil" so to speak and put impetus where inertia once was.

What this blog will be, then, is a place to find odd Photoshop-related tricks. Not the showy, one-trick ponies that seem to proliferate on the Photoshop sites which litter the Internet, but real techniques that hopefully my visitors will take away and use.

What this blog will not be is a half-baked effort of some wannabe impresario, maundering on of her digital exploits and indefinite assurances of tutorials. Only when one reaches the torturous end to realize it has been a massive chunk of codswallop and flatulence.

Of course this blog will be buffeted by the winds of blogging - days of frenetic posting following by long periods of torpid inactivity. What I will strive to do is to continue with it as long as I am able.

Happy Photoshopping!