How to Use Photoshop to Turn White into Transparent

A pure white background is dull and boring. A transparent background adds a new dimension to an image and creates a point of interest. It is relatively easy to make one of these transparent backgrounds.

File Issues

The disadvantage with this process is JPG files cannot support the transparent background. The only option is to change the file type. When manipulating the image, try to use PSD files; the official Photoshop files. After making the background transparent, save the file and transform it into a PNG or GIF file.

Try to avoid making an image background transparent before finishing the actual image itself. For example, if making a transparent poster, add everything to the poster before embarking on this process. Otherwise, it just causes problems when trying to make any edits.

Turning White into Transparent

Start by opening the file with the white background by navigating to the ‘File’ dropdown menu and picking ‘Open.’ From here, there is a breakdown of the computer’s folders and the various Photoshop files. Pick the right one from here and wait until it loads up.

Continue by clicking ‘Select’ followed by ‘Colour Range.’ Change the ‘Fuzziness’ to zero. There is also the potential for manipulating this slider to create a number of other cool effects.

Next, go to the ‘Select’ dropdown menu and find the ‘Sampled Colours’ option. Click it and it should make a colour chooser appear. This palette includes all the colours found on the painting panel at the side of the screen. For the purposes of this process, pick white.

Find the ‘Invert’ box under the selection window and make sure it has a tick inside of it. Press ‘Ok’ and it will select everything in the image that isn’t white. Press ‘Edit’ followed by ‘Copy’ to place this selection in the clipboard. It is now safe to deselect everything.

New File

After completing the selection, create a new Photoshop file. When picking the new document, remember to choose the ‘Transparent’ option and press ‘Ok.’ The image will have a background made up of checkers. This displays transparency. Photoshop has yet to properly support obvious transparency, so they use checkers instead.

To finish the image, press the ‘Edit’ dropdown menu and paste it in. This will implant the selection from the previous message onto the transparent background. Save the file and look at it in Windows Photo Viewer to check if it has worked. If not, go back over the process again.

Transparency and Browsers

It is wise to avoid using transparency for any image that will go in a browser. Browsers such as Internet Explorer and Firefox will not support transparency. Certain add-ons can support them, but any visitor is unlikely to have the same add-on and will only see a white background.

Most people who decide to use transparency in their images are professional graphic designers. Transparent images usually go on posters, tickets, and other real-world media.

Browsers currently have no plans to make transparency a natural part of their products. M.A.H.

Filed under: Tips & Tricks

How You Can Use Clipping Masks in Photoshop

Masking images and selections in Photoshop is simple as the program offers users a variety of ways in which they can do it. The clipping mask is one such option. It is also perhaps the easiest option, so novices tend to make use of this technique regularly. What it allows people to do is define a specific mask in multiple layers using the shape of another layer. In other words, it gives people the tools needed to create text out of an image they defined. They can also mask more than one layer using this exact same shape.

Main Use

The main reason to use clipping masks is to allow text to come through an image. Most uses involve a clipping mask being applied to an image. The bottom layer will contain a shape or text. The image layer on top only displays the shape. This allows text to have an unfamiliar pattern or theme.

How to Use a Clipping Mask

  1. Open an image in Photoshop. In most cases, the image in question will have a single background layer, which should be locked. Change the name of the layer and it will unlock itself. What this means is users can manipulate the layer in any way they choose.
  2. Save the image as a PSD file (the official Photoshop file type). This is important because other file types, such as JPG and PNG, will automatically flatten the image and remove any created layers. Every time the file needs turning into an image create a separate PSD and JPG file.
  3. Create the mask shape using any type of vector shaping tools. Another method is to select an area using the select tool and creating a new layer. This new shape will serve as the masking layer. Take this layer and place it underneath the original image layer.
  4. On the image layer in the menu towards the bottom right, there is the option ‘Create Clipping Mask.’ Press this option and the new layer appears in the window in the form of an arrow. If done correctly only the content within the masking layer will appear on the top image layer.

Multiple Layers

The example above only includes one layer. The tool also allows the mask to cover multiple layers. To do this just drag any other layer and place it between the image layer and the masking layer. After it has been applied, it is just a matter of rearranging the order according to the current needs of the project. Graphic designers prefer this method for more complicated projects where they might have to deal with multiple effects and snippets of images at the same time.

Clipping Paths

The clipping path is often confused with clipping masks, or clipping layers as some people call them. Do not make this mistake. A clipping path is a vector shape that defines the boundaries on an image when determining page layouts. This is an advanced Photoshop tool, but they do not relate to each other in the slightest. M.A.H.

Filed under: Photoshop Features, Tips & Tricks

Unveiled – How Photoshop Can Bring Benefits to Your Life

Photoshop is commonly seen as a revolutionary tool that brings an untold number of benefits to companies in all industries. More importantly, it brings benefits to the individual. Learning to master each Photoshop tool instantly makes the user more valuable to any organisation, but as an individual not as part of a company. Read on to find out more about how Photoshop can offer so many benefits in life.

Work Alone

Being able to utilise such a useful program means additional work. Most people cannot use their skills alone; they need the safety net of an established business to ply their trades. A master of Photoshop can design and create in the comfort of their own homes. Become a freelance designer and earn thousands every year for doing what seems, to the designer, an incredibly simply job. For many people, being able to do this is a dream come true because it gives them the creativity to the life they choose. They get out of the 9-5 rat race and dictate how their schedule works.

Earn More Be More

Photoshop also brings so many financial benefits to the table. As a designer who works on their own, they can dictate their own fees and earn more. It is shocking just how much designers can charge just for having exemplary Photoshop skills. Large organisations spend thousands of dollars on freelance designers every year. Bringing talent into their own companies on a temporary basis is extremely beneficial, and this makes it a market on the up with the increasing use of the Internet in daily life.

Even people who decide to work for companies full-time can still make a lot of money. These skills take years to master completely, and this does not take into account the natural talent required to spot a good design.

Job Application

Sometimes Photoshop helps regardless of whether a specific employment role requires the skill or not. Employers are looking for people who possess skills the company could potentially require in the future. Nearly every company requires small image touch-ups, so an application listing these skills is going to stand out from the sea of other applications sitting in the in-tray.

Teaching Others

Tutoring people how to use this program is another lucrative venture that masters of the program can use to supplement their own income. It is hard to stay afloat in the design industry, but by tutoring other people, it can help in boosting a growing business. Companies themselves also love people who can teach their in-house team how to use Photoshop. Drafting in outside tutors is expensive, but if they have the talent within the organisation, they have just saved themselves hundreds of dollars.

Moreover, this is something that applies to the future. Companies are always wary about the skills they might need in the future, so even if they do not need it now they might need it later.

The Experience Factor

All of these benefits come from the vast experience Photoshop masters possess. It takes years to learn how to use each of these skills, as well as actually remember how to use them without looking anything up. At the same time, they must learn the industry of professional design. Studying Photoshop is definitely value for the work put in! M.A.H.

Filed under: Photoshop

Photoshop Benefits Industries and Professions

Adobe Photoshop is exponentially popular and a very powerful software on the internet today. However, Photoshop benefits are far more reaching than what the industries currently witness. Presently, Photoshop is commonly used by web designers and graphic designers mostly in web and graphic creation. Have you wondered, however, how Photoshop can benefit other industries and professions?

An obvious benefit that we commonly see is that Photoshop is used extensively to produce items with graphic designs. Some of the products in this category include the likes of mugs, tee shirts, gag items and other customized items. Customers can even produce products which include their very own photo to present it to a family member or loved one. This is a useful tool that is beneficial to the graphic design industry.

Another benefit of using Photoshop is in the social networking arena. For instance, users can create personalized templates on social networking pages. You can include pictures of yourself, kids and family members on several popular social networks like My Space, Twitter and Facebook. The possibilities using Photoshop are endless when it comes to incorporating web design and graphic creation. Web and graphic designers can work the magic with Photoshop by creating amazing web page templates not only for personal use, but also for businesses and other industries looking to outsource their designing and development work.

There are add-ons that allow Photoshop to be used in an industry that you may have not thought of. For instance, for manufacturers that provide service repair manuals on machinery parts and accessories, these add-ons make them a versatile tool to be incorporated into these service manuals. Photoshop graphics are loaded as non graphic formats; service repair manuals offer limitless opportunities to use Adobe Photoshop as its main graphic incorporator.

The use of Firework add-ons allow graphics to come to life and achieve a level of animation not seen before. These images can be transferred into the Adobe Photoshop program which in turn converts it into a real time environment. The image is given a 3D look and feel to it. This is extremely helpful when it comes to browsing through a service repair manual that is filled with parts some of which may seem unintelligible to an amateur. Also, repair manuals can be posted on the internet which makes it convenient for technicians to view it online from their work sites.

The add-ons can create a real-time step by step animation of the procedure as a whole. Companies can benefit greatly if they have personnel working overseas as this will save on time, prestige and money!

Photoshop can be used in video games by providing screen shot information. For amateurs looking to make their mark in the world of video games, this is a great way to learn to play through animated screen shots featuring useful and helpful information. Users will be soon playing like seasoned professionals through the benefits of using Photoshop! Adobe Photoshop can be used in a number of industries as long as the user makes use of their creativity and imagination! M.A.H.

Filed under: Photoshop

Cropping Actual Pixels – When, How and Why

Photoshop CS6 comes with an improved and redesigned Crop tool and the most significant thing is the cropping of the actual pixels of images with defined dimensions. The procedure basically calls for the setting in advance the preferred dimensions such as 480x 360 pixels and cropping the image without altering the resolution or changing the pixel interpolation.

Cropping without Changing the Pixel Interpolation

The initial reaction of most people would be to ask if there is anything wrong with the pixel interpolation. Strictly speaking, there are really no issues as far as pixel interpolation is concerned. It basically works out well like everything else associated with Photoshop.

However, we have to remember that interpolation means that we are making changes in the pixels. As you may be aware by now, users have the option to choose the interpolation method when the resampling of images is performed from the Image Size dialog. And this is done with setting of your default method for interpolation by going to the Preference dialog (press CTRL+K for the keyboard shortcut) and new for the Free Transform Mode in Photoshop CS6.

When you are cropping your images with the Crop Tool, the process is performed using the interpolation method that has been chosen in the Preference dialog. It is also important to note that the Photoshop CS6 comes with a new option known as Bicubic Automatic. The option refers to the special function where Photoshop CS6 can detect automatically and utilize the interpolation method deemed best for the user by taking into account the old and the new dimensions.

Scenarios Where You Should Skip the Interpolation

You have to skip the interpolation of pixels in situations where you are working on images that have already been resampled and have already been saved through lossy compression. One important thing that users have to keep in mind is that the details of the image will be lost during compression. Let us assume that one is working on an image that is already down-sampled, and this means that it has already lost some of its details as a result to jpeg compression. Another round of compression and interpolation won’t make it any better. What you can do is simply skip the interpolation of the pixels.

Of course, this will not be an issue in cases where you are trimming a defined area without doing any resampling of the image that you are working on. For instance, when you have an image of 560 x 420 pixels and you actually need an image of 480 x 360 pixels, the area or section of the image that will be trimmed will not have any importance. Another typical scenario is when you are working on a bigger image of what you actually need and all the important details that you intend to retain for the new image are already captured by the dimension of the expected output.

Cropping the Actual Pixels

In Photoshop, the Crop Tool cannot be used to grab the actual pixels of an image, although an image can be cropped in its fixed size, which is actually just one of the options of this Photoshop tool. Instead, you can use the Rectangular Marquee Tool for this purpose. The first thing that you have to do is to go to the Photoshop Toolbox to access the Rectangular Marquee Tool (Press M for the keyboard shortcut). The next thing that has to be done is to set the Style in the Options bar to Fixed Size and then input the dimensions for the Height and the Width, and this is followed by the unit of measurement.

After you are done entering the exact dimensions, the next step is to click the image once to define the selection within the image with the actual pixels based on the dimensions that you entered, and this is achieved regardless of the level of magnification.

It is at this instance that you go to Image – Crop, just like in the older versions of Photoshop or use the new option in Photoshop CS6 in order to activate the Crop Tool. The area that you want to trim will be shaded and the Crop Tool Marquee is displayed when you click the icon of the Crop Tool in the toolbox or press C on the keyboard.

An overlay will be displayed when you press Enter on the keyboard. You can move through the various overlays by pressing O on the keyboard or by clicking the selection and moving it around. One important thing to remember that instead of deleting unwanted pixels on the image that you are working on, the more appropriate option is by unchecking the Delete Cropped Pixels and this will automatically transform to normal the Background Layer and hide the pixels that you would have wanted to delete.

In this way, you will no longer have to contend with the single option of having to delete pixels completely and not to be recovered anymore. As an alternative, you can just designate what you want to remain as visible on the image that you are working on and also what will be hidden or cropped.

The Move Tool can be selected at any time if in the options bar the Delete Cropped Pixels is unchecked. And with the Move Tool selected, you can click on the image that you are working on and move it in any direction in order to change the visible pixels and these can be saved if you decide to export or save the image that you are working on.

Final Note

To attain an image that has the best quality possible, it is important for Photoshop users to know and learn how to apply several tricks and tips as it will provide them with the opportunity to handle those images that were saved by other people. This is significant when one is working on images that have already been compressed and resampled. And while Photoshop provide the best tools possible, the process involving compression and resampling will result to the degradation in the quality of the image. Thus, there are instances that skipping the interpolation of pixels becomes the most appropriate action. M.A.H.

Filed under: Photoshop CS6, Tips & Tricks

Enhance Yourself with Photoshop Layer Styles

Photoshop layer styles are very valuable tools that can come into play in a number of different situations. Essentially, they can add effects without destroying the fabric of the layer itself. The truth is that you can do absolutely anything if you can master layer styles. That’s why graphic designers, photographers, and illustrators need to know all about them if they are to provide professional work that radiate expertise. Take a look to find out exactly how you can use them to the best effect.

What Are Layer Styles?

Photoshop layer styles were originally implemented in version 6 of Photoshop. They were designed to allow people to add various different effects to layers without having to actually create them by manipulating the layer itself. Now they can be switched on and off at will without impacting anything that was manually set-down by the user. Using a simple interface of options with checkboxes and figures you can create dazzling effects to add a new flavour to your creations. Photoshop even has the ability to save these effects so that they can be implemented with a click of a button later on.

When they were first implemented, however, people didn’t understand what could be done with these styles. Of course, there were the preset styles that could be implemented, but this quickly grew tiresome and the use of them was often the mark of somebody who was unprofessional or who was discovering the program for the first time. Now, the true value of them has been discovered and users are taking advantage of them to really add an injection boost to their artistic endeavours.

Applying Layer Styles

Actually applying layer styles, on its most basic level isn’t difficult. Even the most novice users can apply them. Where it gets complicated is actually using them to create custom effects that aren’t built in to the original version of Photoshop.

Using a preset is the easiest way to apply a layer style. Start with a new Photoshop document and just keep everything as it is. Create a new line of text to add something to the document that can be changed. Navigate to the main menu and go to Styles under the Window dropdown menu. The Styles Palette should now be open. With the right layer selected, in this case the text layer, click one of the preset thumbnails inside the Layers Palette. Click through them until you find the one that’s right for the picture.

The way to create and apply custom layer styles is to start from scratch and create a line of text, just like before. This time when you go to the Layers Palette you should right click the correct layer and then navigate to an option known as ‘Blending Options’. A Layer Style box will now be available and this is where you will be creating your own effects for use. Take a few minutes to get acquainted with the various options, even if you don’t fully understand them at this point, because you will be using them a lot. It really can do that much, and already you should be able to see the true power that layer styles hold for users of Photoshop.

On a side note, you can check exactly which effects you’ve added to each layer by looking at the dialogue box in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. Click the small eyeball icon if there’s nothing there and the list will appear, or disappear if the list is already there.

Saving and Loading Your Presets

The best way to learn how to master layer styles is to just play around with all the options. There are a lot of guides out there that will teach people how to create certain styles, but it won’t show people how to be creative and to do things on their own. When you are playing around with different styles it’s a good idea to save some of them for later so that you can alter them as you please. Firstly, here’s how to load any styles you create, which will also come in handy if you download any custom styles from the web.

Any downloaded files should be saved into the relevant Photoshop folder on your computer, which can be found in your program files and is entitled ‘Styles’. Now, you will be able to load this file directly from your program. You can do this by clicking and dragging the .ASL file and taking it over to your Layers Palette. Drag it and drop it into your Photoshop program. At this point it will become one of the imported files in your Styles Palette. With a lot of styles you may even notice some extra presets. This happens because they naturally contain multiple files that can be used by users. Remember, you might just be getting more than you could have ever bargained for!

Saving presets is just as simple. The Styles Palette can help you with this as all you have to do is to use the dropdown menu to click ‘Save Styles’. Pick a name for your specific style and you can then load it up anytime you want.

Tips for the Road

  • Layers can be resized. Some layer styles only look good at a certain size. If you have a style that works well at a smaller size then all you have to do is right-click your list of effects on the Layers Palette. Click on ‘Scale Effects’ and you can then determine the percentage that will resize the layer style itself.
  • Copy and pasting between layers in one document is possible, and it can even be done between different documents. To do this, simply right-click the layer in the Layers Palette. A menu will then appear with an option called ‘Copy Layer Style’. Press this and right-click on the layer that you want to paste the style to. Click ‘Paste Layer Style’ and if everything was done correctly you will be able to see your styles pasted in the correct location.
  • You can see the effects on their own without seeing the layer content. It can help you to create some more of the advanced effects, such as the glass effect. Simply select the layer you want from the Layers Palette and select the Fill at the top of the Layers Palette. Change the figure to 0% and you can see your effects without any interference. M.A.H.


Filed under: Photoshop Features

A Basic Guide on Photoshop Interface – Part 1

Most of us will remember that feeling of being dazzled and intimidated by all those tools, buttons and options the first time we opened Photoshop. Most first timers will need some time to get accustomed to the Photoshop interface, and once they are able to get a good grasp of the “nuts and bolts” of the Photoshop interface, they can already start doing some minor tweaks so that they only have the things that they actually need. This article will tackle the basic aspects of the Photoshop interface and guide you through the steps for modifying it.

Starting with the Basics of the Photoshop Interface

Carefully examine the layout of the Photoshop interface. You will notice that it normally starts with three horizontal bars – Options, Menu and Application – and three vertical bars – Docked Panels, Image Window and Tools Panel. In a strict sense, the last three items would not be considered as bars, but for the purposes of simple discussion, let us refer to them as bars in this article.

One of the most important things that we have to be aware of is the fact that we cannot make any modifications, resizing or transferring of the three horizontal bars, with the sole exception of the Application Bar, which you can squeeze for the purpose of fitting the bar within the Menu bar and in the process gaining extra space in the Photoshop interface. On the other hand, the Vertical bar can be modified, resized or moved to suit your preference and requirements.

Application Bar

The Application bar, because of the nature of its function, can be used if you want to maximize, minimize or close the main application and then you can move on and open another application. This action is initiated when you click the Bridge button, adjust the zoom level, make changes in the workspace or screen mode or access extra applications. Most Photoshop users consider most of the elements of the Application bar as not really useful in most cases and there are other alternatives or modes by which they can access them without having to leave the image that they are working on and in most instances, this is done through the use of the keyboard shortcuts. Using keyboard shortcuts is obviously the more practical option as it provides for easier navigation and lesser time in accessing the desired functions. Once you become familiar with the keyboard shortcuts, you will find it more tedious working with those buttons.

List of Useful Buttons

Here is a list of some of the most important or useful buttons which you may want to have in your Photoshop interface.

  • Maximize, Minimize, Close Button – This is the alternative to the keyboard shortcut for the Close function, CTRL – Q.
  • Display extra options or additional workspaces – This is extremely useful when you want to resize and fit the Application bar within the same line as the Menu bar.
  • Display workspaces area – This is what you need when you want to monitor what working space you are at as well as the other workspaces that are available.
  • Resize button – A special drag icon is displayed when you mouse over the resize button. You expand the workspace area and display additional workspaces when this icon is dragged to the left. On the other hand, the workspace area is reduced when you drag the icon to the right. The Menu Bar is accessed and will sit along the same line where the Application Bar is located when you drag the icon to its farthest point towards the right. It is important to note that this process is only possible when you have sufficient room for such action. This feature is extremely useful since it will provide you with additional space where you can view your image.
  • Arrange documents Button– You can use this button in case you have a couple or several images that are opened and you need to view them simultaneously in a single window. A list of icons which is self-explanatory is automatically displayed when this button is clicked and this action will rearrange the window in a specific manner. These special icons include the Fit on Screen, Actual Pixels, New Window, Float all in Windows, Match Zoom, Match Location and Match Zoom and Location.
  • List of Less Useful Buttons

Here is a list of the less useful icons which you may or may not have in the Photoshop interface:

  • Screen mode – Instead of this button, you can use the keyboard shortcut, F, when you want to go through all the three screen modes – standard mode, which is the default mode; full screen with menu bar, which is the screen mode that removes the taskbar from the display window; and full screen mode, which is the screen mode to choose when you want to remove everything from the display window except for the image itself.
  • Zoom level – For most Photoshop users, it is a lot easier to use the keyboard control for the zoom level.
  • Display or view extras – This is another button which is rarely used. For most people, it is a lot faster to use the keyboard shortcuts as these extras are only needed in some rare instances. Another way to access these extras is by proceeding to the View Menu and selecting My Options.
  • Launch Mini Bridge and Bridge buttons – These buttons are self-explanatory and these are used when you want to launch either the Bridge or the Mini Bridge. The Bridge is a photo management application and the Mini Bridge consists of the extensions of the application. Those who have used the application were not really impressed. While it may be considered to be a solid application when you have less than a thousand pictures in your work file, it ends up as a tedious process when you have a much bigger file of photos as the reaction time and loading time become much longer.


Filed under: Photoshop Features

Getting More Juice Out of the Selection Tools of Photoshop

There are several ways for you to get more juice out of Photoshop. This article is a must read for those who want to explore other things that can be done through this software other than just to color correct images using Adjustment layers or simply tinker with the Liquidity Tool or do something like a simple painting task.

All these may seem to be impressive to your friends and family as well as other people who are not really familiar with the inner workings of Photoshop. But if you are dealing with a client whose requirements demand the most from us, then we have to go to the next level and explore the inner workings of the software. This means that we have to hone our skills when it comes to the various features and functions of Photoshop. One of the most important aspects of the software is the Selection Tool and we must know and understand the critical elements and principles behind the process.

Photoshop is Color Blind

This is one important fact about this software that we should not afford to miss. Photoshop is completely clueless when it comes to colors, and it cannot see the difference between red, blue and orange colors. This may seem strange to those who are not really familiar with the inner workings of Photoshop. In truth and in fact, Photoshop, considered as one of the best image editing and manipulation tools, is completely unaware when working with colors. So the next question that we would logically ask is how could Photoshop do the selections, adjustments, etc. if it is not able to distinguish these colors.

While it is true that Photoshop is “color blind,” it is able to detect the luminance of an image. This means that it can work on images based on their shades of white and black. Photoshop “look” at each channel of an image as a grayscale image consisting of some 255 different shades of white and black. Thus, when this software makes a selection, such action is done purely on the difference between these different shades of white and black.

You may raise the point that we are referring to just a single channel. So, what about the 2 other channels that are also involved when one makes a selection within the image that they are working on? Does that mean that more than the 255 shades of white and black earlier stated are involved? In a way, this is an incorrect assumption. What Photoshop does through its Selection Tool is calculate the “grayscale image” in its totality and this is done by retaining the image’s lightest pixel.

To prove this point, let us consider a pixel consisting of 20 levels red, 240 levels blue and 80 levels green. Photoshop will use for the selection with the ending grayscale composite that has pixels with luminance at 240 levels. This means that the lightest channels will readily stand out. And if you want to see how this works, then you simply “de-saturate” the image by pressing CTRL-SHIFT-U and then pick your selection using the Magic Wand Tool or the Quick Selection Tool. By doing this, you will get the same result that can be obtained when you use the selection tool with a colored image.

Elliptical and Rectangular Marquee Tools

We utilize the Rectangular Marquee Tool if we prefer to make a rectangular selection on our image and we use the Elliptical Marquee Tool if we prefer to make an elliptical selection on our image. These are just two of the basic rules of Photoshop. The Single Column and the Single Row Marquee Tools, which are the Selection Tools that pick out either the column or row of a single pixel, are seldom used.

Going back to our main topic, you can do some magical tricks with these selection tools with the right techniques. The first “trick” can be achieved by pressing SHIFT and ALT keys. Let us assume that you have a square selection made on your image, but you wish to make a second selection to modify the original selection that you have made. The original selection disappears when you drag again. On the other hand, if you want to add another selection to the previous one made, you just hold the SHIFT key while making the selection. This action leaves the previous selection in its original position while a second selection is added to it.

The ALT key operates in almost the same way as the SHIFT key, albeit with a minor variation. The former is used if we wish to extract from the selection as opposed to using the SHIFT key to add something to it. Thus, if you have a rectangular selection and you want to extract a portion from the selection made, then you just have to hold the ALT key while dragging using your preferred selection tool.

It is important to note that this technique is applicable to all Selection Tools. For instance, if you want to make a perfect circular selection or a perfect square selection, then you simply hold the SHIFT key while you are dragging using either the Elliptical Marquee Tool or the Rectangular Marquee Tool.

Quick Mask Mode

The Quick Mask Mode is probably one of the features of Photoshop that most of us are not really familiar with. Thus, a quick description of this Photoshop feature is in order. When you are in Quick Mask Mode or Q, the areas that are either selected or unselected will be displayed with a red overlay.

Now, in case you pick out a brush and paint the selected area white, you are in effect “erasing” its red overlay, and when you paint it with black, you are in effect “adding” to the red overlay. When you paint using a 50-percent Brush, you are in effect partially adding to or erasing the red overlay. You need to press the Q again in order to deactivate the Quick Mask Mode. This action will select the area that had the previous red overlay. Partial red overlay, which is normally achieved when you paint with a brush that has 50-percent opacity, will be partly selected and up to a point that is proportionate to the opacity of the brush used in painting the selected area. You may observe a different behavior in your machine and the red overlay may cover the areas that are unselected. You can perform this special trick by double clicking the Quick Mask Mode and then choosing the Selected Areas.

Now, it’s time for us to reveal this little trick that we have referred to in the earlier section of this article. Let us assume that the Quick Mask Mode is activated and you have made a selection in an image of a planet. One of the major challenges would be on how you can seamlessly find the center and tweak the circular selection so that it makes a perfect fit with your planet. Most of us would normally use the Elliptical Marquee Tool to achieve our purpose. However, the best that can be achieved through this technique is an ellipse that is much flatter. Is there another technique that we can use to obtain a better result?

The better technique is actually simple. While the Quick Mask Mode is activated, you press CTRL-L in order to get into the Free Transform Mode and from there you can freely tweak the selected area until you achieve your objective. In our example, you simply have to drag the corners in order to achieve a perfect fit. And since you have previously picked out the Selected Areas, you can easily transform the selected area without altering any portion of the unselected area. Once you are done with your task, you simply press the Enter button in order to initiate the desired transformation. You then deactivate and exit the Quick Mask Mode by pressing the Q key once you are done.

It is generally difficult to make these types of selections that we have just discussed if we don’t use the technique that we have described. It is also important to remember that you can apply Filters or Warp on the selected area while you are in Quick Mask Mode. You can use them if you want to inject some creative elements into the selected area.

Lasso Tool

Another important Photoshop tool that we should be familiar with is the Lasso Tool. This Photoshop tool is used to make a selection by “lassoing” the desired area within your image. There are those who don’t use this selection mainly because it doesn’t provide the precision that they normally get when using other selection tools. Another Photoshop selection tool that we have to consider is the Polygonal Lasso Tool. As the name implies, this is the ideal choice if we want to make polygonal selections and it can actually be a practical option in specific situations. You can access this selection tool by clicking and moving the mouse several times. They may seem easier said than done and you need to try it yourself to learn how this selection works.

You also need to learn about the Magnetic Lasso Tool. To access this selection tool, you click a portion of the image that you are working on and then drag the area across the margin of the subject or portion of the image that you want to select. While going through this procedure, you will see some points and lines that appear to snap towards the edges of the selected object or portion of the image. Once you are done with your selection, the lines created are converted into a selection by double clicking the subject or portion of the image that you have selected. While this selection tool is generally imprecise and bulky and may not produce the results that you want, it may still come in handy if you are looking for quick results. However, if you require the more advanced selection, then you may have to consider other selection tools. M.A.H.

Filed under: Photoshop Features, Tips & Tricks

Using LAB Color Mode to Improve the Color Quality of Photos

Quite a number of people are not really familiar with the LAB color mode and how this can be used in order to color correct and enhance photos. In this article, we will go through the various steps involved in this advanced Photoshop technique to improve our photos and also achieve the same result in RGB, which may take us longer to complete the process and may not provide us with the same great results that can be obtained in LAB.

A Brief and Simple Introduction to LAB Color Mode

This section tackles some of the basic stuff about LAB color mode and you have the option to skip it and proceed to the practical technique and steps involved in using LAB. However, this section is a must read if you need to strengthen your basic understanding of the theory before you start learning about the more advanced aspects of the applications.

So, what are the basic differences between RGB and LAB? Most of us are already aware that we have 3 color channels in the RGB color mode – Red, Green and Blue. These channels are combined to form the colors that comprise the RGB color wheel. Green and red are combined to produce the color yellow, blue and green are combined to produce the color cyan and red and blue to produce the color magenta.

Improve Photos with LAB Color Mode (1) – LAB color mode consists of 3 color channels: luminosity channel, green-magenta channel and blue-yellow channel. The Luminosity or “L” channel contains all the essential information on luminosity and it is generally referred to as the B & W version of the photo. On the other hand, the “A” channel contains all the greens and magentas of the photo while the “B” channel contains all the blues and yellows.

You may be wondering what happened to the channel for red cyan. There is no channel in LAB for red cyan as these colors are produced when the channels “A” and “B” are combined. Red is obtained when the same amounts of yellow and magenta in channels “A” and “B” are combined while the color cyan is obtained when magenta and green of equal amounts in channels “A” and “B” are combined.

Improve Photos with LAB Color Mode (2) – It would be easy for us to observe that the colors are somewhat not right. The blue color is a bit too close to cyan; the green color has this “cyanish” look while the yellow color has a distinctive brownish element.

The reason for this is that the LAB color mode is specially designed for the reproduction of colors in the manner that these are seen by humans while the RGB color mode is designed in the manner machines see these colors. It is related to the simultaneous contrast and the manner by which specific colors are perceived and judged based on the actual colors around them. While this is not a precise description of the LAB color mode, this should be enough to get us started. To learn more about the technical aspect of the LAB color mode, you need to check out the article on the subject at Wikipedia.

5 Simple Steps in Photo Enhancement

Begin by selecting a photo that requires some degree of enhancing and open it using Photoshop. A photo that is ideal for this activity should be fairly dark with light bluish color cast and somewhat bland colors. It is highly recommended that you initially do what is referred to as a “channel walk” and evaluate how the color channels look. Come up with a few color samples in the lightest and darkest spots of the image and try to determine whether there is a color cast or not. These steps may require some time and for our purposes, let us assume that we have about 3 minutes to correct the color and improve our image.

Now, let us go on and LAB our picture.

Step #1 – Go to Image/Mode/Lab Color

There shouldn’t be any change in the picture

Step #2 – Go to Layers/New Adjustment Layer/Curves

There may be some variances in the histogram of channel for lightness, but you can follow these guidelines.

Make an “S-Curve.” Create a point by clicking an area on the upper section of the histogram and dragging it upwards. Then create another point on the lower section of the histogram and drag it in a downward direction. Make sure that you don’t go overboard when making the adjustments in the highlights (upper section) and the shadows (lower section) of the histogram. You must aim for a perfect balance in the distribution of a balanced tone, where there are equal amounts of shadow and light.

The creation of an “S-Curve” results in more contrast to the middle tones, while the shadows and highlights are flattened. Carefully examine the histogram and when there is an empty space at the right side, drag the slider for the highlights up to the point where it is positioned right under the histogram values. This action will in effect establish the white point and add to the contrast of the middle tones. You can also adopt the same procedure for the shadow slider, but you have to make sure that you do it on a lesser extent as this would produce ugly black artifacts.

Shift to “a” channel and then drag the right and left slider towards the center making sure that the adjustments are of equal amounts. It would be of great help if you are able to obtain a grid that is more detailed. Drag the sliders until you reach the first vertical line and then shift to “b” channel and go through the same process.

Step #3 – Transform the “background” layer to smart object

You can achieve this objective by right clicking the layer and choosing the control “convert to smart object.”

Step #4 – Go to Filter/Blur/Surface Blur

Designate high values. You have to remember that a high radius and threshold value would result in more blur. There is no reason to worry if you get an image that looks blurry as this can be easily fixed. Find the little icon towards the right of the smart filter for the surface blur and right click it in order to activate the blending options. Then choose the color for the blending mode. This procedure will effectively reduce or remove any color fringing or color noise from the image.

Step #5 – Go to Filter/Other/High Pass

Apply a small radius up to the point where the details are about to emerge from the gray section. Then double click the icon for the blending options and convert the blend mode into soft light.

An alternative procedure involves the use of an Unsharp Mask or a Smart Sharpen and then change the blend mode to luminosity. This procedure applies the sharpening exclusively on the luminosity channel, leaving the color channels free of noise. You may opt not to use these filters on the image as there is the tendency that it would add noise to an image that is already noisy. This is the ideal option if, in your assessment, the degree of clarity obtained through the High Pass Filter is enough already. On the other hand, if you have an image that is blurry, then you may apply some degree of sharpening using the filters cited above, and don’t forget to shift your blending mode to luminosity when you perform this procedure.

The steps discussed in this article are much easier and faster as soon as you get the hang of the entire process. A person who is already familiar with these steps can complete the entire process of transforming a relatively bland picture into an image that is pretty decent looking in about 3 minutes.

You can start using the LAB color mode and gradually integrate it into your regular workflow. You have to remember that the procedure that was discussed in this article is not absolute when it comes to photo enhancement. Try to adapt it so that it would suit your needs and make those images look great in just a few minutes. M.A.H.

Filed under: Photoshop Features, Tips & Tricks

Separating Areas and Items in Photoshop

Learning how to separate out items and areas with Photoshop is extremely important, and this will come in handy in a lot of situations such as when you want to make adjustments in the exposure or color selectively without changing the rest of the image. You can also do other things selectively like when you want to dodge and burn or paint color casts in a defined area or section of an image.

There are tools that you can use when you want to select an entire area within an image. The desired results can be achieved by using any of the following:

  • Magic wand
  • New layers
  • Grouping layers
  • Layer mask

Making Selections Using the Magic Wand

By itself, the magic wand will not be able to separate an item or area. If you have made a selection using the magic wand and performed the desired adjustments, such as curves adjustment, or use the paint brush, only the area or portion that you have selected will be affected. However, such adjustment or change will result in the permanent alteration of the information for that portion or area. It would be better if you use an adjustment layer for the selection or make a new layer of the specific selection.

Fundamental Operation

You should begin the task by making sure that you have the right tool for the job. You can choose the appropriate tool by selecting it from the tool palette or using the keyboard command (Type W). Once you have engaged the selected tool, the icon of the selected tool is depressed and shaded, which means that the said tool is active.

As soon as you select the Wand tool, the next thing that you will do is “mark out” the section or area of the same color density. When you click on a section of the image using the Wand tool, the application will automatically create a feathered selection which will cover the adjacent pixels with the same color values as the one that you have clicked. You can control the degree by which the similarity of the pixels will be established by working on the fill-box which is referred to as Tolerance. It is located somewhere at the top of the screen.

You can use the anti-aliased to control the application so that there are no defined and hard lines and as such it automatically feathers your selection. When you select Contiguous, the select tool will only pick out pixels that are similar but only when these pixels are located right next to the one that you have clicked. On the other hand, if the Photoshop tool is not activated, then it will pick out parts of the images that have the same pixels.

When you engage “Use All Layers,” the tool will make the selection on all the layers and not just on that layer that you are currently working on. This is also a nifty way of activating other tools like the “Rubber Stamp” tool.

You can make the necessary adjustments in the “Tolerance” until the desired selection is obtained, and once you have achieved this, you can now move on and use the selection techniques in order for you to make the finer adjustments to what you’ve already worked on.


You can increase the size of the current selection by proceeding to Select/Grow. This modification is useful, although it only works off from the current layer that you are working on. Thus, you are better off when you use the “wand” tool and adjusting the “Tolerance” tool.


This modification technique, which is activated when you click Select/Similar, is actually a very useful Photoshop tool. This technique is somewhat similar to the “Contiguous” tool when you were making your first selection. It picks out areas or portions of the image that are similar and it is only applied on the layer that you are currently working on.


The “Feather” is generally the same as the original option in the “Wand” tool. However, it is a useful modification tool even in cases where its counterpart is used to begin a particular task. The “Feather” is generally similar to “Anti-aliased” although it offers more control and you can even use it to enhance the job done using the “Anti-aliased” where hard and defined lines are prevented. The modification is engaged by proceeding to Select/Feather, and it gives you the option of designating the radius of the pixel of your feathering. M.A.H.

Filed under: Photoshop Features, Tips & Tricks