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Retouching and compositing are two very different, yet closely related sides of the same image-manipulation coin. Retouching generally involves fixing problems with existing photographs: removing dust spots, stains, and artifacts generated by a digital camera; correcting lighting problems; recomposing poorly composed images; or even deleting the tracks of roving organisms that find the emulsion of your conventional photographs tasty.

Although compositing can help you fix errors, this tool also opens doors to other types of image manipulation. With compositing, you can combine one or more images, or portions of images, to create an entirely new picture that never existed in that form in reality. Photoshop has enabled us to flip the old saying, “Seeing is believing” on its head. Today, if you believe in an image and have the requisite image editing skills, after a little bit of work you can see it, too.

Digital Retouching and Compositing is aimed squarely at those who want to use Photoshop creatively to mend defective images, produce enthralling new images, and become proficient with all the tools available to them. The emphasis in this book is on mastering the tools Photoshop has for editing and assembling images. You’ll learn more than you expected about methods for retouching and compositing, and as much as you dreamed about how to apply them. Other books may show you some quickie self-defense tricks that work in an emergency; this one gives you a black-belt’s grounding that can handle just about every conceivable situation.

The seed for this book was planted while I was writing my last image editing effort, Photoshop 7: Photographer’s Guide. Tucked away in that book were three concise chapters covering Photoshop’s basic tools, image retouching, and image compositing. Although the chapters were full of helpful information and fun to write, I realized that a great deal more could be said about each of those topics. The focus of each of those individual chapters became the subject of the three parts of this book. Part I provides an introduction to each of the most important tools Photoshop offers for retouching and compositing images. Part II explores all the different ways you can fix goofs through skillful retouching. Part III takes off for the exhilarating thrills possible when you begin creating brand-new images from old ones using compositing skills.

You don’t need to be a Photoshop guru to apply the techniques explained in this book, although basic familiarity with Adobe’s flagship image editor is a tremendous help. After you’ve honed your expertise through the material in Part I, you’ll be ready to tackle Photoshop’s most misunderstood, but easily applied tools using the step-by-step examples, helpful background information, and advice that will spark your own creativity.

Why This Book?

There are hundreds of books available on how to use Photoshop, including more than a few that cover retouching and compositing techniques, at least in passing. Some are dumbed-down or padded with a half-dozen chapters that tell you how to use the Brush tool, or where to find each of the ten billion Photoshop commands and features tucked away in menus, palettes, and toolboxes. Others have pretty pictures (often taken by someone other than the author) and somewhat useful techniques, assuming you only work with the same pictures the author used.

This book was written for those who already know where to find the Eraser in the Tool palette, and want to learn how to apply their basic Photoshop knowledge to performing useful tasks. You want to solve problems without creating new ones, and learn how to handle any image manipulation situation that comes along. You’ll probably find yourself in one of these categories:

  • You’re someone who takes good pictures, perhaps as a hobby or as an artistic outlet, and want to learn to use Photoshop to make your photographs the absolute best they can be.

  • You need creative images to dress up your personal Web site, or to add a professional touch to your own or your company’s pages on the Web.

  • You’re a small business owner who wants to document your business, promote it with effective visuals in advertising or publicity, or create pictures that are salable in their own right.

  • You’re a corporate worker slaving away in a cubicle who wants to enhance our value to your current employer (or your next one) by adding impressive graphics skills to your résumé. The ability to produce professional-looking images for reports, presentations, or other applications is highly marketable.

  • You’re a hustling Webmaster who understands programming in XML, Java, JavaScript, Perl, or even plain old HTML, and you want to expand your graphics capabilities.

  • You’re an apprentice graphic artist who already has some expertise with Photoshop, but wants to learn more about retouching and compositing.

  • You’re a trainer who needs a nonthreatening textbook for an advanced Photoshop class.

Who Am I?

You probably don’t buy many Photoshop books because the author is famous, so you’ll probably take comfort in the fact that I’m probably the world’s most successful unknown author. As much as I’d like to think you picked this book off the shelf and are reading this because you really, really loved my last book, odds are greater that you grabbed the book because the title interested you, and, as you flipped through, you found all those gorgeous color pages and eye-popping images interesting. You were looking for cool ideas and useful techniques. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed one of those meaty books that Course Technology/Muska & Lipman lovingly turned out in the past and were looking for more of the same. I figure that the content will hook you more easily than this introduction, so I’m content to let the pictures and text speak for themselves.

However, a little background on the one who presumes to instruct you in this arcane technology may help you understand exactly where this book is coming from. In each of the chapters that follow, I don’t plan to melt into the background and let Photoshop take center stage alone. I’m going to poke my nose into everything, offering up my experiences, advice, tips, and goofs as examples to help you learn retouching and compositing as you deftly avoid making the same mistakes I did.

My original training and experience were heavily steeped in photography. I’ve operated a commercial photographic studio, worked as a photojournalist for magazines and newspapers, and written hundreds of articles for the major professional photographic publications. I’ve made my living as a sports photographer for an Ohio newspaper and an upstate New York college; I’ve slaved in my own photo lab; and served as photo-posing instructor for a modeling agency. People have actually paid me to shoot their weddings and immortalize them with portraits. Eventually, I was seduced by the dark side of technology, and combined dual interests in photography and computers to author more than 70 books on computers, graphics, photography, and Photoshop.

Like you, I’m trying to do what I love, and have been lucky enough to have been doing it longer than most. When I utterly trash a photograph, either in the camera or after uploading it to my computer, I can usually offer exceedingly technical explanations of what I did wrong. I’m more than happy to let you learn from my mistakes, and travel to Photoshop and image manipulation proficiency on a more comfortable gain-without-pain route than I took.

How to Use This Book

Some books are intentionally written so you can start anywhere and begin working without having read any of the previous text. When writing in that mode, the author has to include cross-references to other parts of the book virtually every other paragraph so that, when you’re instructed to make a selection but haven’t the faintest idea of what the selection tools are, you can jump back to the part that gives you those basics.

Some Photoshop books sprinkle four or five icons on every page, advising you of Warnings, Tips, Technical Stuff, Potential Bombs, and Alerts, with perhaps a special icon to remind you that if you want to use a file that’s on the CD-ROM, you should look for it on the CD-ROM. The true value of these icons is that they usually highlight the only parts of the book really worth reading.

This book doesn’t use thousands of icons as a substitute for content (although you’ll find a few where they are actually helpful), and it’s not the sort of book that can be read odd-numbered pages first (although it is entirely possible to skim through parts that you already understand and concentrate on the areas that most interest you). You’ll get the most value from what I have to say if you start at the beginning and work your way through. Many of the techniques build on those that were explained before. For example, you’ll find the sections that explain how an image’s tonal values work helpful when you begin studying color, or the sections on making simple selections when it comes time to jump into the really hairy stuff.

Feel free to read quickly the sections that you already understand well, or ignore some of the background on how things work. However, I’ve tried to chuck all the boring parts of this book into the bit-bin long before this book reached the printing press. That’s why you’re not holding an 800 page book in your hands. All you need is this book, the photos on the CD-ROM (or your own pictures), and a copy of Photoshop. Here’s a summary of the essentials.

  • You’ll need a Windows PC or Macintosh OS system with enough RAM to run Photoshop comfortably (that is, from 256 to a gazillion megabytes of RAM). I use both a Pentium 4-based PC and a G3-based Macintosh, so I’ve tried to make this book a cross-platform experience. The instructions generally tell you to use the Alt/Option key, Ctrl/Command key, or right-click/Control-click to access particular functions. (Remember that the PC’s Ctrl key is not the same as the Control key on the Mac.)

  • You’ll make things easier on yourself if you’ve upgraded to Photoshop 7. Many of the menu items have been moved since Photoshop 6.x, and Photoshop 7 includes cool new features, such as the Healing Brush and Patch tool (which are useful for retouching and compositing) and the File Browser (which is less useful). Most of this book can be meaningful for those who haven’t upgraded yet, if you’re willing to make a few adjustments.

  • The more photos in digital form you have available, the better. I’m providing the same images I used to prepare the exercises in this book on the CD-ROM, but you’ll get the most from this book if you immediately follow up each exercise by tackling one of your own photos using the same technique. It doesn’t matter if the pictures derive from a digital camera or were scanned in. The important thing is that you work with images that need fixing, or which can be improved by compositing techniques.

  • Don’t lose the CD-ROM that’s bound into the back of this book. It’s a dualmode CD that should work with any Macintosh or Windows PC, and contains all working files you’ll need to complete every exercise in this book. The CD includes folders given the same names as the chapters (Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and so forth) and inside each chapter’s folder are two other folders labeled Figures and Working Files. You can view the figure files to get a close-up look at any of the color illustrations in this book. The working files are what you need to complete the exercises. If you have a lot of free space on your hard disk, you can copy all the working files to your disk so you don’t have to keep the CD-ROM inserted all the time.

Your Next Stop

I’m not your one-stop source for toll-free technical support, and almost certainly can’t help you with questions about Paint Shop Pro, Corel Draw, or JavaScript programming (although I get these from time to time). On the other hand, I’m always glad to answer reader questions that relate directly to this book, or to my other area of expertise, photography. Even if I can’t answer a question, I can sometimes get you pointed in the right direction. You can write to me at photoguru@dbusch.com. You’ll also find more information at my Web site at http://www.dbusch.com. Should you discover the one or two typos I’ve planted in this book to test your reading comprehension, I’ll erect an errata page on the Web site, as well, along with an offer of a free copy of the next edition to the first reader to report anything that, on first glance, might appear to be a goof.

A final warning: I first came to national attention for a book called Sorry About the Explosion! This book earned the first (and only) Computer Press Association award presented to a book of computer humor. Since then, my rise from oblivion to obscurity has been truly meteoric—a big flash, followed by a fiery swan dive into the horizon. So, each of my books also includes a sprinkling of flippancy scattered among all the dry, factual stuff. You aren’t required to actually be amused, and you can consider yourself duly cautioned.

Chapter Outline

This section is a brief outline of the chapters in this book. If you want to know exactly where to find a topic that interests you, consult the table of contents or index.

Part I: Mastering the Basics

This first part of the book has five chapters that serve as an introduction to each of the most important components of Photoshop that you’ll use for retouching and compositing. These topics are all explored in greater depth in Parts II and III.

1. Retouching and Compositing from 50,000 Feet

In this overview, you’ll learn about retouching and compositing, what they are, and how they are used. You’ll also find a discussion of pre-Photoshop image enhancement and manipulation techniques, and an overview of your image editing toolbox.

2. Selecting Objects and Backgrounds

Learn the exciting origins of masking in conventional photography, and refresh your knowledge of Photoshop’s selection tools, including the Marquees, Lasso, Polygonal Lasso, Magnetic Lasso, Magic Wand, use of Channels, and clever ways to manipulate selections.

3. Cloning, Patching, and Healing

Here, you’ll learn how to use the versatile Clone Stamp tool, clone from the same layer or different layers, use the Healing Brush and work with the Patch tool. These tools are all basic implements for retouching that you’ll want to master early.

4. Tools for Adjusting Tones

Many Photoshop users don’t really understand tonal values, which is why they find essential tools such as the Levels command and Curves feature so difficult to fathom. This chapter gives you the information you need to increase detail in highlights and shadows and manipulate gray tones effectively.

5. Adjusting Color

Color’s another realm that causes confusion. This chapter helps you master Photoshop’s color controls, understand the various color models it uses, and make color corrections quickly and easily.

Part II: Practical Retouching

The second part of the book shows you how to fix faulty photos using increasingly complex retouching techniques. By the time you finish this part, you’ll be adept at repairing the most errant image.

6. Simple Retouching Techniques

Part II kicks off with this chapter that eases you into retouching using simple techniques. You’ll learn to remove small objects, erase dust and scratches, use sharpening and blurring effectively, and make light work for yourself.

7. Retouching Portraits

Learn the challenges of retouching photos of people, including removing wrinkles around the eyes, mouth, and forehead, fixing and brightening teeth, removing braces, erasing redeye, and performing digital plastic surgery on noses and other features.

8. Creating Great Grayscale Photos from Color

It takes only seconds to transform a great color image into an inaccurate black-and-white picture. Creating a great grayscale photo from a color picture takes only a few minutes more, but you have to understand exactly how Photoshop works to do this effectively. This chapter shows you some little-known secrets for performing this magic.

9. Creating Duotones, Tritones, n-tones, and Colorizations

Here, you’ll learn how to add color to grayscale images. You may think you understand duotones, but you’re in for a few surprises in this chapter. You can also learn how to mix color and grayscale images, and mimic hand-coloring, even if you’re not an artist.

10. Photo Restorations

When terminally ill photographs hit your Photoshop ER, you’ll want to use the techniques in this chapter to revive them. Learn to fix tears, camouflage cracks, minimize stains, remove undesirable patterns, or create whole new backgrounds.

Part III: Compositing Magic

The fun hits full throttle in this part of the book, where you’ll learn to create seamless composites, remove or relocate objects, or build fantasy landscapes from parts of many different photos. You can let your imagination run free using the tips and techniques provided here.

11. Simple Cropping and Fix-up Techniques

Learn to improve compositions with cropping, straighten images, improve perspective, or stitch several images into one to create a panorama.

12. Compositing to Improve a Picture

Every picture tells a story, but some of those stories need editing. This chapter shows you how to remove large objects, replace objects, or add entirely new objects to a photo. You’ll discover the basics of merging images.

13. Invisible Compositing

This chapter explores the essentials of creating seamless composites by matching colors, making lighting and textures consistent, using scale and angles, and blending layers.

14. Fantasy Compositing

Creating your own fantasy world, manipulate scales to create outrageous effects, and add wild colors. Work with filters to fashion incredible looks and textures, or use shadows to add a three-dimensional effect.

15. Compositing and Retouching for Print and Advertising

The rules are different when you’re compositing for publication. Learn the rules, and learn some techniques for making products and people look their best. Anyone using Photoshop in business will find something helpful in this chapter.


This illustrated glossary defines all the terms you’ll find in this book, or which you may encounter when working with Photoshop, retouching, compositing, or digital photography. xixIntroduction

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