Working with Layers in Photoshop 7: Part 2

By Gary David Bouton

Dateline: August 4, 2003
Volume 1, Number 8
Part One. I hope you'll like this series enough to consider buying the book. :)

Using the Liquify Command

If you skipped past version 6 to arrive at Photoshop 7, or if you're new to the program, the Liquify command (which has moved from Image to the Filter menu) is very much like KPT Goo and The VALIS Group's Flo', except for two things. First, Liquify produces more refined results than the other two products – with a lot of practice, you can actually make Aunt Tilly look slimmer, or practice a proboscis reduction, thus saving your (new) friend thousands of dollars in plastic surgery. Liquify turns the target image into soft, pliable pixels. Second, and this is unfortunate, Liquify cannot produce a movie of distortions like Goo and Flo' do. But hey, we're talking Photoshop and not Premiere, and in the following set of steps you will transform a grumpy rock into a smiling one for the occasion of the picnic image you encountered in Part One. To begin:

  1. Right-click (Macintosh: hold Ctrl and click) over the rock face to display the Context menu, and then choose the entry "Mr. Rock". (The author uses all sorts of cloying naming conventions in this chapter). The layer with the rock face is the current editing layer.
  2. Choose Liquify from the Filter main menu. As you can see in the illustration below, only the rock is subject to editing in the Liquify box. In this figure note the numbers, which we'll reference in the following steps in this tutorial.

  3. Click on the Zoom tool on the left column of the interface. Zoom into the rock face until it's about the size shown in the illustration. On the right of the interface, specify a 30-pixel brush tip (it's in a circle in the illustration) and change Reconstruction to Smooth. This is a more processor-intensive choice than the others, but we all have P4s and G4s these days, so brute force comes easy in Photoshop, right?
  4. Click on the top icon in the left column in the box. This is the Warp tool, and if you're new to the Liquify command you might want to turn on tool tips from the Preferences menu, so you can work more and hunt less.
  5. Pull on the rock's lips; first, pull the left one farther to the left, and then pull the right one farther to the right. That's callout #1 in the illustration.
  6. Now, a smile, especially on a rock, is a subtle one – the corners of the lips turn up (think of Clint Eastwood trying to smile). Choose the Twirl counter-clockwise tool (callout #2) and then rub the tool over the right corner of Mr. Rock's lips. Now he's smirking – you need to even out the smile.
  7. Click on the Twirl clockwise tool and perform step 6 on the left edge of Mr. Rock's lips. Oh boy, he's happy now!
  8. Finally (optional): Click on the Bloat tool (#4 in the illustarion) and click on Mr. Sun's nose a few times. I'm sorry; this doesn't directly contribute to the tutorial – it just looks funny. Click on OK to apply the changes to Mr. Rock, shut the Liquify command, and get back to the picnic. Keep Photoshop open. We have to pretend now that the section coming up is a reference chapter.

In the world of Photoshop, there's something called "modes". It won't make a lot of sense right now if you're just beginning, but Photoshop can eventually (and potentially) blend the visual information (the image area) on one layer with the underlying layer(s). The way in which the data (image area) is blended is called a mode. There are 22 layer modes (modes into which you subject an entire layer's contents) and 23 painting modes (all the layer modes plus the Behind mode, which enables you to (apparently) paint on the back of a layer, thus preserving the image data on the front of the layer.

The following section runs down what different modes do so you can make intelligent choices on work of your own, and explains why I ask you to choose certain modes in the picnic image for stuff.

Photoshop Modes: A Dry Definition of Each Blending Mode

I'm lying – the explanations will be terse, but not dry. I don't write "dry" (Really, I hadn't noticed – Ed.) To begin:

  • Normal. This is the default mode for painting and compositing, and is the standard mode for a layer. When a color or selected image area is composited into the background, Normal mode replaces the underlying pixels with the pixels you added to the image. It's a straightforward replacement of background pixels. You can change the opacity of the paint or selection before finalizing an edit by clicking and dragging the Opacity slider-found on the Layers palette for compositing and merging layers and on the Options bar when you're painting.
  • Dissolve. This mode corrupts a selection or paint stroke by randomly distributing foreground pixels throughout the selected area. Dissolve mode is useful for painting; it can create instant "texture" to which you can apply other effects and create complex designs. Dissolve mode can also produce some fairly unaesthetic blends of a selection into a background image, and blending layers together in Dissolve mode can be equally unphotogenic.
  • Behind and Clear. These modes can only be used on layers and these are painting modes, not layer modes; background images can't be painted clear or behind. Behind mode treats opaque pixels as masked, and only the transparent pixels on a layer can receive color. This creates a simulation of painting on the back side of a sheet of acetate, where a design has already been painted on the front. Clear mode changes opaque pixels to transparent and can be used with the the Paintbucket tool, the Paintbrush tool, the Pencil tool, the Fill command, and the Stroke command. You must be in a layer with Lock Transparency deselected to use this mode. Additionally, you can use the Edit menu's Fill and Stroke commands to apply Clear to the edges or interior of a selection. The Eraser tool, when clicked and dragged through opaque pixels on a layer, performs the same effect as Clear mode, so erasing can be a more straightforward way of removing a pixel's opacity.
  • Multiply and Screen. These are perhaps two of the most useful modes for painting and compositing that a designer could ask for. Multiply is the opposite function of Screen. When painting in Multiply mode, the foreground color (indicated on the toolbox) combines with an image's colors to decrease brightness on the area you're painting. A darker color is always the product of painting in Multiply mode, and the effect can look like soft charcoals or designer markers that have saturated the paper. When used as a mode for compositing floating selections, Multiply mode emphasizes the darker values of the selection as it's blended into the background image, and lighter colors in the selection disappear when you deselect (thus blend) the selection. Multiply is great for creating shadows. Screening "bleaches" a lighter foreground color out of an image when painting, and a lighter color is always the result of Screen mode.
  • Color Burn. This looks at the color information in each channel and darkens colors on the bottom layer by increasing the contrast. If the Color Burn mode is used on a layer of white, there is no change in the appearance of the overall image.
  • Linear Burn. Examines the channel colors in the target layer (the layer causing the change in Linear Burn mode) and darkens the color in the bottom layer to blend color by decreasing the apparent brightness. There is no change in the appearance of the overall image if the target layer is white.
  • Overlay. This mode intensifies the highlight and shadow areas of the image you paint over; it also creates intense highlight and shadow areas to the background image when you assign Overlay mode to a floating selection. The midtones of an image – the areas that have neither highlights nor shadows – are tinted with the current foreground color when you use Overlay mode for painting, and floating selections assigned Overlay mode blend most of their color values into the background image. This is a great mode for creating ghost-like objects in an image and for superimposing titles.
  • Soft and Hard Light. These are combination effect modes; both Soft and Hard Light modes react to the base color (the color found in the background image into which you paint or composite a selection). If a background area has a brightness of greater than 50%, Soft Light mode lightens the paint or composite selection, and Hard Light screens the paint or composite selection. If the underlying background has pixels that fall below a 50% brightness value, Soft Light darkens the area, and Hard Light multiplies the color values. So you can achieve a selective Screen and Multiply effect at once when you choose Hard Light as the painting or compositing mode. Use these modes with partial Opacity settings to achieve different effects.
  • Vivid Light. Burns in or dodges out the colors by changing the contrast, depending on the color(s) on the layer you're messing with. If the blend color is lighter than 50% black, the image is lightened by decreasing the contrast. If the blend color is darker than 50% black, the image is darkened by increasing the contrast. We'll be using this mode to help the alien in this picnic image color its fruit. (Where's the Lucky Charms leprechaun when you need him?)
  • Linear Light. Works very much like the Vivid Light mode, except brightness is the governing force, and not contrast. If the blend color(s) is lighter than 50% black, the image is lightened by increasing the brightness. If the blend color(s) is darker than 50% black, the overall image is darkened by decreasing the brightness.
  • Pin Light. Like the two previous commands, Pin Light replaces colors with a break point at 50% black; no contrast or lightness is involved in the process. If the blend color(s) are lighter than 50% black, pixels darker than the layer upon which you are working are replaced, and pixels lighter than the blend color (the color on the active layer) do not change. If the blend color is darker than 50% black, pixels lighter than the blend color are replaced, and pixels darker than the blend color do not change. This author has played with Pin Light mode for over three months, and has yet to figure out how to make a beautiful area in an image by using it.
  • Darken and Lighten. Darken mode affects only the pixels in the image lighter than the foreground color. Equal or darker pixels are not affected. Conversely, Lighten affects only the pixels in the image darker than the foreground color you selected. Darken and Lighten modes produce painting and compositing effects that are much more subtle than Screen and Multiply modes, but they are closely related. You may decide to use Lighten or Darken modes for painting when Screen or Multiply produces results that are too intense.
  • Difference. This mode evaluates the color of both the image area you paint over and the current foreground color. If the foreground color is brighter, the background color is changed to the color opposite its original value. Painting over an image with white produces the most dramatic results; therefore few background images contain a value brighter than absolute white!
  • Exclusion. Creates an effect lower in contrast than the Difference mode. Painting with white on an Exclusion mode layer inverts the bottom layer color values. Painting with black produces bupkis, nada, nothing.
  • Hue. Hue mode paints with the foreground shade of color only. The luminosity and saturation of the image area you paint over is unaffected. This mode is terrific when you want to tint areas.
  • Saturation. If your foreground color is black, this mode converts color areas to grayscale. If your foreground color is a color value, this mode, with each brush stroke, amplifies the underlying pixels' basic color value by reducing the gray component. The non-black foreground color you selected doesn't affect what happens. You have to play with Saturation mode to understand its possibilities in your own work.
  • Color. This mode changes both the hue and saturation of a selected image without altering the background image's tonal composition – the quality that comprises visual detail in most photographic images.
  • Luminosity. This increases the lightness qualities in the image. This powerful mode doesn't change color values. Use it sparingly when lightening, say, an over-saturated color area in an image. When using Luminosity mode with a brush, set the Opacity on the Brushes palette down to about 30%.

There. Whew! I think that's all of them! Take a look at the next illustration. Here's a Quick Teaser quiz: if the alien's fruit is all grayscale, what painting mode would be the best to really make juicy, albeit fake, fruit?

Well, Color mode would cover the fruit, but not with the intensity of the Vivid Light mixing mode. The guests really don't care which blending mode you use on the fruit. But you do, and you now have a handy reference for all the blending modes to help you decide.

Painting Greyscale Fruit with a Photoshop Mode

  1. On the Layers palette, click on the Alien layer title. The alien shares this layer with the fruit. Don't read anything into this.
  2. Click on the Creates a New Layer icon (the turned page icon on the bottom of the Layers palette). Heads up, since this is both a truism and a shortcut in Photoshop. New layers are always created one layer on top of the current layer, and they become the current editing layer. That's why you needed to click on the Alien layer. Now, double-click on the layer title and type in the text field "Fruit Color". You gotta keep track of layers and the only ways to do it are with understandable names and with Layer Sets.
  3. On the top of the Layers palette, choose Vivid Light from the modes drop-down box.
  4. Click on what is called the Foreground Color Selection box. Adobe calls it this, and so shall we, to keep their documentation and ours in synch. In the Color Picker (the result of clicking on the color selection box), drag the color field marker and the color slider (the vertical guy to the right of the field) so you've defined a juicy apple red. Click on Okay, and then choose the Paintbrush tool.
  5. Choose the 19-pixel hard tip brush, as shown in illustration below. You can right-click (Macintosh: hold Ctrl and click) when the Paintbrush tool is chosen to put the Brushes palette right at the point of your cursor, to make tip selection easy. Then start painting away on the apple. Cool, eh?

  6. Change the foreground color for the lime, and again, you want a green; but a dull green for the pear. As a matter of fact, you might want to put a hit or two of brown on the pear. In Photoshop, you can apply paint using strokes, but the cursor can also remain stationary and successive clicks can simulate airbrush "hits" on the canvas, each hit making the applied color a little more pronounced.
  7. Okay, the banananananas. Get out a deep yellow from the Color Picker and when you are done, why not choose deep green as your foreground color, click the Airbrush option on the Options bar, and set the Flow of the Airbrush down to about 38%, as shown in the illustration below.
  8. The bunch of grapes should be a walk in the park for an experienced fruit colorist by now. Make the foreground color selection box a ripe purple. You might want to choose a slightly smaller brush tip and take the Airbrush option off, and then daub away until the bunch is purple. If you want to be super-finicky, you can (finally!) choose a pale brown and color the grape bunch stem. Me? I let this one ride. Grey is so close to the real color of grape bunch stems, I called it quits right here.

Well, we've run out of pixels again for the month. Stay tuned right here, though, since there's more fun... oops, research, coming up. Next month I'll show you how to make your own brush tip, how to make grass grow and a lot of other neat tricks.

My Best,
Gary David Bouton

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Gary David Bouton is an author and artist who is largely responsible for the book "Inside Adobe Photoshop 7" and wouldn't mind at all if you bought a copy . Gary hosts a thread on the Photoshop Gurus site and is the moderator of a 3D modeling forum. His guide to Caligari's free trueSpace 3D app is available online. Besides being an educator/artist/all-around-nice-guy, Gary has no navel. And for that reason, he cannot be a flag-carrier in hometown parades."