Monday, July 13, 2009

Cosmetic Surgery with The Spot Healing Brush

This Photoshop tutorial will show how to remove small glare spots, scratches, fuzz, cat hairs, and other boo boos (think of this as the 'cosmetic surgery' of Photoshop).

final edited image at left, Cuppa Black, 10" x 10"

First, a nice compliment: Here's a really great quote (Thanks Doug!) from the very fine painter Doug Hoover:
"R. I just wanted to tell you, as a 20 year recovering creative veteran, your Photoshop posts are spot-on. You know your PSD stuff. For a full-time artist, I think Photoshop is invaluable. And the only way to get good at this is to do it over and over. I started using Photoshop in 1995 and haven't looked back... You rock... D.

So, onto to today's tutorial:
Repairing small glare spots, scratches, fuzz, and other boo boos with the Spot Healing Brush.

First, I've opened the usual set of two matching images, and then used the Zoom Tool to magnify what I want to correct: primarily the cat hair (how'd that get in there??). To use the Zoom tool, click on the icon in the bottom of the side tool box that looks like a tiny magnifying glass. Holding down your Ctrl Key, (Cmmd for Mac users), click on + to enlarge, and - to reduce. (that's the 'plus' and minus' keys respectively.

Photoshop (CS2 and up) has a great little tool called the Spot Healing Brush; it is located on the main toolbox and the icon looks like a little bandaid. For small repairs on photos you can't beat this tool.

The Spot Healing Tool is very easy to use. Click on the tool, and then set the size as needed in the toolbar above: click on 'Brush' and a drop down palette will let you size the tool. To use the tool to take away dust motes, tiny raised spots that caught the light, etc., simply click on the offending spot. It will automatically blend into the surrounding area.

For scratches or hairs on a straight line
, click on one end of the line (the circle below indicated that starting point of the tool); then hold hold the shift key, and click again. The whole line should correct. If you get color crossover, undo the step (Ctrl+Z) and do in shorter segments.

Below is the corrected photo (on the left) line gone!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Reducing the appearance of glare in dark areas with Contrast/Brightness

(Final edited image: Parrot Tulips, R. Garriott, oil, 24"x24")

The best way to avoid having to deal with glare in photo editing is to avoid it when photographing. Try some of the photo suggestions posted here to eliminate or reduce this issue.

Occasionally, though, you'll be in a hurry, photograph without checking, the painting goes out the door, gets sold... and the only record you have is a photo with glare-- as in this sample in the tutorial below. For those instances, here's a method that might help minimize the effect of glare a bit.

The Magic Wand Tool

With the Magic Wand tool, select the areas of glare that are most noticeable. (As in past tutorials, I've included a second 'control' image to the right, to help show the change.) In this case, it's the upper and left background. Select 'contiguous' on the upper toolbar to select only pixels that touch each other (otherwise it will select pixels all over the image). You can adjust the tolerance as needed; 32 is the default, it is set at 20 here. You'll see a dotted line around the area as you select it. To select more area at the same time, hold down your shift key while continuing to click on areas with the Magic Wand.

In the top toolbar, choose Image/Image Adjustment/Brightness-contrast. To darken, move the brightness pointer to the left. In this case I've reduced the brightness by -14. This allows the background to blend in with the dark areas at bottom and left with no noticeable line.

Release the selected area, and you'll have your result. If you get a 'line' or the fix doesn't blend in smoothly, undo (Ctrl+Z), try again, and adjust your increments.

If the glare covers a large portion and is noticeable over areas of light and dark, I would suggest rephotographing as a first step.
Here's one more little tip that may help you-- when you use the Magic Wand in an image with mixed shades, it may not pick up all the pixels in an area. So while holding down the Shift Key, click the Magic Wand a few times, moving around to pick up more pixels, and then if you need to pick up strays, switch to the 'Lasso' tool (while still holding down the Shift key)-- it's right next to the Magic Wand. Move your mouse in a loop around the stray pixels, and then make your adjustment with Brightness/Contrast or Levels.
I hope you find this tip useful! Happy photo editing!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Using Templates to Set Up Business cards, postcards, and other printed materials

Ordering business cards, postcards, and other printed promotional material for promoting your art is easy and cost effective. For ideas on printing companies to try, see the earlier post on Affordable Business Cards. Most of the information you need is available on any of these print sites. Look for the terms:
  • Download Template
  • Artwork specifications
  • Preparing Artwork files
Tips for setting up your own invitational postcard.
Note: virtually the same method applies for business cards, with the exception of the mailing information.

    When setting up digital files, check with your chosen printing company for Templates; they will almost always be available for download on the website, often under the term: Artwork Specifications.

    Here's a sample view of a template for a standard size postcard, front. all vital information should be well within the Safe Margin (blue outline)

    ...and here's the template for the back of the postcard. Note that it takes postal regulations into account.

    such as, 'mypostcard2009.psd'
    in a separate document, save the photo of your artwork you'd like to use on your card. You'll want to use 300 dpi, with a color mode of CMYK.
    For best results, make this image the same dimensions as it will print on the final card. See other tutorials on this blog if if you need more information.
    If you want the image to cover the entire card, be aware that some of your image will be cropped off.
    Add your photo to the downloaded template.
    Making sure again that your file is 300 dpi (from the top toolbar, click on image/image size; look for the the number in the 'resolution' box); add type using the Type tool in Photoshop (It looks like a capital 'T').
    Make sure you don't have any type or important parts of your image outside these lines or they may get cut off.
    If you leave this layer in, it may get printed. Oops!
    You may find it useful to save a copy as a .PDF; this is a smaller file but is accepted by most printing companies.
    After you complete both the front and back files, you should be ready to upload your file for ordering. Follow the online directions at the printing company of your choice.

I realize this is kind of a loose overview; please let me know if you think more detail would be useful. As I said, most of this information is available at each printing site, along with their own specific directions.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Editing Photos for Print: When to Convert to CMYK?

Thank you for the great comments and suggestions on my posts about printing your own Artist Business Cards on my painting blog. I hope that some of you will be inspired to have cards printed (and I would love to see your results!).

Loredana asked a really great question this week: "When you work on your photos to correct levels or balancing or anything else, do you work on RGB and after you modify it, you switch to CMYK to print?; or you switch to CMYK directly and you modify it later? I noticed a big difference from one to another when I watch the folder's preview and find the CMYK quite uncomfortable to watch!"

The simple answer (with a few extra details):

For Print:

  • Start with RGB, and do all or most of your editing in RGB.
    RGB is the native format for most digital files.
    Some editing procedures are not available in CMYK.

  • Convert to CMYK as the last step only if the file is being sent to a print house.

  • If you are printing from your home or office printer, you can use RGB or CMYK. Try both and see which you prefer.

For Internet images (blogs and websites):

  • Images to be used only for onscreen viewing (websites, blogs) should NEVER be converted to CMYK.


For a more thorough explanation of CMYK vs. RGB try this link:

(You may want to review the earlier post on File Types, too.)


Monday, May 18, 2009

Color Balance: Removing unwanted color cast in your images

What follows is a repost of one of the most popular tips in this series thus far.
(final edited photo below: 3 Tangerines, oil, 9" x 12")

So, you've tried the Levels and maybe the Hue/Saturation tricks, but your image is still not quite there: maybe you've got a decidely 'cool' or 'warm' cast that is not present in the actual artwork. This is where Color Balance can be of use. I tend to use this one near the end of the editing process, as it seems more subtle to me. This is the tool for when your values are right, your contrast is correct, but the color is just a little off.

The image below has been edited for contrast and levels already; it does have a bit of a 'milky' look in real life, but the red of that tablecloth is off.

To open the color Balance dialog box, click Cntrl+B (Cmnd+B for Mac users, or Image/Adjustments/Color Balance in the top toolbar). As in previous tips, I've used a 'control' image duplicate on the left so you can see the change.

Starting with the Midtones, move the sliders to add more color as needed
; like many of the Photoshop tools, you will need to trust your eyes and experiment. It's also very handy to have the artwork right where you can see it as you make these adjustments.

In this case I could see that the tablecloth photo had too much purple (blue) in it, and needed to be more red. (I had painted it with a warm red earth, Blockx Capucine Yellow Deep.) The sliders were moved toward red and yellow, respectively.

In a separate step, I adjusted the 'highlight' colors
, again choosing to move toward red and yellow, but also a bit toward green. (Another mini tip: For each adjustment you make, copy the previous layer and adjust on the new layer. Then if you really get lost, you can back up).

As a final step, I adjusted the Shadows
, this time moving toward Magenta and Blue. This step was more logical than intuitive; shadows are often cooler shades. This is so close to original painting, I've amazed even myself.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hue: How to Correct Color with the Hue/Saturation Command

Just to show that the pros don't always get it right, either! I took this painting to a professional photo lab and paid to have a good image of it put on CD. I have to admit I was dismayed when I got it back-- my lovely chartreuse dahlia (seen at left in the final edited image: Sunny Mandahlia, 30"x30") was now leaning seriously into orange-- (see below)!
(I have the feeling that digital cameras are programmed to shoot a full spectrum of color; when given a monochromatic image, it 'confuses' the interface and it tries to make up the difference, with sometimes odd results.)

Using Hue to edit and refine your artwork photos.
In the sample below, I've opened the original file and made a duplicate layer to edit on, as before. For the purpose of the tutorial, I've made a second 'control' image to help show the changes in progress.

To begin, click Ctrl + U (Cmnd+U for Mac users, or Image/Adjustments/Hue-Saturation on the top toolbar. This will bring up the Hue Saturation dialog box.

For this image, which I want to be less red and more green, I've moved the Hue slider to the right. Notice it doesn't take much; I've only gone from 0 to 10.

Note that the Hue adjustment method tends to work better on predominantly monochromatic images like this one; if your artwork encompasses more than a short range of color you may get some surprisingly interesting (if not useful) results.

Originally when I set this tutorial up, it was to show how to correct the color shift using the Green and Red Channels in Levels. While this can be done, I found that in this instance, using Hue was much more expedient. I'll revisit the issue of color adjustment with Levels at a later date, with a different image.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Levels Part 2: Correcting a Black and White Image with Set Point in Levels or Curves.

In Photoshop, there are often different ways to accomplish similar goals.

In this tutorial, I've referenced the 'Levels ' function, but you can also try this with 'Curves'. And in addition to working on black and white images, either of these tools may help in editing your color images as well.

When you are in Levels (or in Curves), you can use the eyedroppers in the lower right corner of the box to set your black and your white. Just click on the "white" eyedropper, and then click on a place in your photograph that you know is white... then do the same thing with black... and it virtually color-corrects for you.
Diagram A.

Here's the step by step: I've opened the original dark file (as you can see, the same funky sketch from last time), and made a copy of it for on screen comparision.

To begin, Click on Ctrl + L (Cmnd+L for Mac) or from the top toolbar, Image Adjustments/Levels to bring up the Levels dialog box. (for Curves, substitute + M; the dialog box will look different but the eyedropeers will be in the same position.)

Note the eyedroppers in the lower right hand corner as shown in Diagram A above. Click on the farthest right one, the 'Set white Point' dropper. Choose an area on your image that you know to be (in life) true white (in this case I clicked on the lower lefthand background), and click on that area with the dropper. Voila!

If the image didn't turn out quite how you wanted, click Ctrl + Z for undo, and try the step again with another 'white' area of the image. (Notice the middle graph, called a Histogram, and how it changes in these steps. The histogram measures the relativve amount of light and dark across your image).

As Carrie pointed out, do the step again using the left hand dropper to set your black point; I've done it here, using the shadow under the babushka's lower lip.
Big Thanks to Carrie Jacobson who emailed me her photographer-husband's Photoshop Tip --

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

How to Correct Contrast with the Levels function, part one.

Levels magic

Levels is one of the most useful Photoshop tools I know of. It can be used to correct both color and contrast. It takes a little practice and some trial and error, but it can work wonders to improve your photos. I'll show several examples over time of how this tool works in various situations.

Right image: Final edit, Datura, 20"x20" R. Garriott

Today’s tutorial starts with an overly dark photo. This can happen a lot when photographing paintings with a lot of white in them. Let's see if we can fix it. (Note that it’s already been cropped and aligned as per tip 2. I've made a duplicate layer to edit on.)

Click Ctrl + L (or Cmnd + L for Mac) to open the levels dialog box
(it can also be accessed from the top toolbar: Image/Adjustments/Levels)
(Note: I've shown a duplicate file to better show how the levels works)

Using the default tab (Channel: RGB), slowly adjust the three arrows until the image is closer to your original art. I suggest starting with the middle arrow first:

  • the basic rule for the middle arrow is left is lighter, right is darker.
  • To darken your darks, move the left point inward;
  • to lighten your lights, move the right pointer back towards the center.
  • Make sure the 'preview' box is checked so you can watch the transformation.
  • If at any point you feel you've lost control, click cancel and start again.
  • Once the image is where you want it, click Enter.

This image will still need a little color correction, but you can see how much improved the photo is with this one simple step.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

How to Calibrate Your Monitor

To calibrate one's monitor means to reset it to an accurate display of light and color.

To make sure your seeing your own images accurately, you may want to calibrate your monitor every couple months. (This link provides a 'test page' of black and whites that may help you decide whether to perform a calibration. Handy instructions are provided:

Calibrating your monitor can be a simple and free process. If you have Adobe Photoshop installed, you will already a calibration tool, Adobe Gamma, installed as well. To access it on a PC (scroll down for instructions for Mac):

  • Go to your Start button (lower left corner of your screen), /Control Panel/Adobe Gamma.
  • Move the pop up box to a lower or upper corner (this will make sure it not covered up by the monitor settings overlay in the next step). Then just follow the on screen directions.

  • The pop up box will walk you through adjusting your monitor settings; when ask to make adjustments for contrast and brightness, you will want to use the buttons on the bottom frame of your monitor (example shown below). You may find it helpful to look up your monitor model online for instructions on how to adjust your particular settings.

Mac users, try this link for information on calibration for the mac:

Here's an alternate explanation on monitor calibration, which includes a link to a free calibration tool, Quick Gamma, for those of you without Photoshop:

If your monitor is very old, with a faded or discolored display, and doesn't seem to respond well to calibration, you may want to consider replacing it.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Gamma Settings: Using Image Ready to Adjust for Best Cross Platform Effect

See the post on Gamma on my painting blog for more information and a disclaimer.

Have you ever looked at your blog or website on a computer other than your own? You might be in for quite a surprise. It's probably NOT going to look the same on another computer as it does on the one you have at home (or office). Especially try and get a look on the platform you don't have-- such as view your blog on a Mac if you own a PC, or on a laptop or flat screen if you're using a CRT old style monitor. Because we edit mostly on one given computer, that is the one that is 'True' to our eyes. But it's a partial truth, at best.

"The gamma value of a computer monitor affects how light or dark an image looks in a web browser. Because Windows systems use a gamma of 2.2, images look darker on Windows than on Mac OS systems, which are normally set to a gamma of 1.8."

  • So if you're viewing other peoples blogs and websites from a Mac, it might seem that a lot of other people's images are washed out looking.
  • Conversely, if viewing from a PC, there might be some other's images that are so dark you can barely make them out.

Well, we can't do anything for most of these images, but we can be aware of the impact of our own images. Luckily there's a pretty simple way to make this adjustment. First, a visual example of what we're talking about:

Gamma 1.8 example (as might be created on a Mac, but as seen on a PC)

The same image, but as a Gamma 2.2 example (as might be created on a PC, but as viewed on a Mac)

You might be thinking, why should I care? And maybe you don't need to. I do think most of want our images show up as true to life as possible; however given the millions of monitor variations (and the fact that almost no one calibrates their monitors the suggested once a month), I'd only be concerned if I was consistently getting messages from others that my images were showing up too dark or too light. Mac users won't like this one bit, but because of the predominance of PC's, Mac users might be the ones to find this information most helpful.

To adjust your gamma settings, you'll need to open your image in Image Ready (this comes bundled with Photoshop); one way, if you were making edits in Photoshop, is to click on your 'File/Save for web' option; the dialog box that opens witll have an option at the lower right corner: "Edit in Image Ready".

From there, choose Image/Adjustments/Gamma as shown below.

The gamma dialog box will pop up and offer 2 basic buttons: click the one appropriate to your situation (example: choose Windows to Mac if you to email a photo to a client who has a Mac, but you have a PC). The image will automatically adjuct; then you just need to save it.

A possible workaround to this issue is the PNG file, but..."The PNG graphic file format has a feature that effectively adjusts the gamma of picture depending the platform it is running on. It sounds like an ideal answer but the format has been very slow to take off and is not widely supported by browsers." (Click for source)

As an experiment, I'm posting PNG file here. Let me know if it appears on your screen, and whether it looks 'more acurate' than either of the two above.

Was any of this helpful? Let me know.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

CMYK vs. RGB: knowing which color space to use

The two basic color spaces, or Modes, that you'll most often encounter with your digital images are RGB and CMYK. Each has a specific use, outlined below.

RGB (Red-Green-Blue) is the color of the light emitted from your computer monitor, and from TV's. Use RGB if you are taking photos specifically to be viewed onscreen, such as the internet, or for a CD or emails. RGB usually also works well for printing from your home or office printer.

CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) is the color of inks used in the offset printing process. Use CMYK if you are sending your photo to be printed, such as preparing a postcard to be professionally printed for a gallery invite.
NOTE: CMYK is an option offered only in full versions of Photoshop; it is not available in Photoshop elements or most other photo editing programs (if you know of one, please comment, thanks!). However, if you, if you don't have it, and need to have your files converted to CMYK, do all your edits and then take to a Kinkos or similar shop and they can convert for you).

What color mode is your photo? In most cases, right off of your digital camera, the mode (or color space) will be RGB. You can tell in Photoshop by looking at the blue bar at the top of your open image (see the red arrow).

If you need to change the mode of your image, from the top toolbar click Image/Mode/CMYK.
Changing mode can affect the appearance of your image.
If you switch to CMYK from RGB, you may need to adjust your color. You may notice, as in this exaggerated sample, that the colors in the CMYK sample on the right have become somewhat subdued, especially in the blue range.

For a more thorough explanation of CMYK vs. RGB try this link:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

File Types: Lossy vs. Lossless files for your artwork

This tutorial is to you show why you should always edit your photos in a "lossless" format, such as a .PSD file or a .TIF file. When you've completed editing, that is the time to resize and save as a .jpg for your blog or website.

As a kid, did you ever xerox a xerox, and then xerox THAT xerox...? And after about 20 prints you get this mooshy, funky, broken up picture?
Or here's another example: Your FAX machine. Ever notice how crappy faxes tend to be, barely readable half the time? That's because a FAX and a XEROX are both good examples of LOSSY formats.

  • LOSSY formats (.JPG, .GIF) LOOSE information-- poorer quality, but faster download
  • LOSSLESS formats (.PSD, .TIFF) SAVE information -- good quality, not appropriate for web, but good for print.

Here's a visual:

Sample A went through 6 types of edits as a 300 dpi .PSD file BEFORE reducing it to 72 dpi and saving it as a .JPG for the blog.

Sample B is an example of what might happen if the same image went through six types of editing and saving, all as a 72 dpi .JPG. See a bit of a difference?

JPG's are a LOSSY format. This means that every time you make a change to the file and resave it, the pixel data is compressed (meaning, the system 'throws out' anything it deems redundant). Pretty quickly, you will lose image quality if editing and saving only in JPG's. For this reason, I recommend to ALWAYS take your original digital file and immediately save it a PSD file. PSD's are a LOSSLESS format, so your pixel data is less prone to degradation.

Quick review:

  • Set your camera to record high resolution JPG's as in the last post, as per your camera's manual
  • Save the original digital image as a .PSD file before any editing.*
  • Once you've finished editing the photo, then you can save a copy of it as a JPG.

WHAT'S NEXT: I'll demonstrate how to save for both print and web in a later post.

*Alternately, can you set your camera to record TIFF's (another lossless format) and edit these safely? Yes, you can if you want. However, I have two things against TIFF's; one, the files can be so large on a standard setting (23 MB per picture) that they can be slow to work on, even with a well powered computer, and also take up a lot of storage space on your computer. But if you prefer TIFFs, then by all means use them.

Friday, April 24, 2009

File Types: What's the difference between JPG, PSD, TIFF, and which do I use when?

I've had some good questions about file types and sizes...
I'll be breaking this topic into short bits over the next few posts, as it covers a lot of territory.

The basic issue is:
Where will the photo ultimately be used?
Print or Web?

Print Requirements:
(professional printing, office/home printing)

  • Larger files in high resolution (300 dpi)
  • Print files for professional printers must be CMYK* mode (I will do another post about color space.)
  • Appropriate file types can be PSD, TIFF, a high resolution JPG, and sometimes PDF.
    (Which I'll discuss in more detail in another post.)
Web Requirements
(Computer viewed images websites, blogs, email, etc.)

  • Smaller files in low resolution (72 dpi): this is so they load fast and it doesn't take ten minutes for your blog to show up with pictures.
  • Color space for Internet images is RGB mode.
  • The appropriate file type for photos of artwork is most commonly a low resolution JPG.

Tomorrow: 'Lossy' versus 'Lossless' file types


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Photoshop tips: Straightening with the Measure Tool

Final corrected image: "Birds in Flight" .. oil .. 18" x 36" .. SOLD

This tutorial is a variation on the last one. Often in Photoshop you'll find that problems can be solved in any number of ways. If your original photo seems tilted, more than skewed, try using the Measure Tool before cropping or fixing skew. It may get you most of the way there.

Straightening your image with the Measure Tool is very easy:

1. Click on the Measure tool in the tool box to activate it. It looks like a mini ruler, and may be hiding under your eyedropper tool.

2. Click your mouse button down and hold it to draw a horizontal guide line from left to right (or a vertical line from bottom to top), across any line that should be straight, but is not (The measure line here appears at the top of the canvas, as a somewhat dotted line).

3. From the top toolbar, click on Image/Rotate/Arbitrary.

4. The correct amount of rotation will automatically be assigned to make the line level, as shown below.

5. At this point, your image is ready to crop. You may wish to go back to the earlier tutorial on cropping and fixing any remaining skew.