Photoshop tips #1

I will try to explain my basic adjustments using Photoshop layer modes.
When dealing with printed media, like a magazine or creating an ad to be printed on a newspaper or even designing a poster… I must adjust my image to the specifications of the media.

I’m just going to explain an overall adjustment to correct things which I know would print badly.

Using Photoshop is not much different than using an enlarger to print a negative.

If I’m using an enlarger I can control the contrast by using Multigrade filters or/and paper.
If I want to control the brightness I can use the exposure time of the enlarger and the time the paper is developing.

If I want to control the overall look of the image I can choose from a whole range of photographic papers. Different fibers, different thickness, mate or shiny…

(My old photography teacher always said that, it is the exposure on the enlarger that must be right. Taking the paper out of the developer as a way to control the exposure was something he would not tolerate.)

Photoshop makes everything more accessible and in my modest opinion it is an awesome tool.
So… let’s start.
Look at the following examples. The first picture is as scanned. No adjustment.
The second picture is the manipulated one.

As scanned.

As scanned.

Adjusted image.

Adjusted image.

Here they are, side by side, for better understanding.

Screen shot 2014-01-30 at 9.22.55 PM

This is another example where the exact same layer manipulation was done.
The first image is as scanned.

As scanned.

As scanned.



Many, many times, little adjustments like these can make me work with 5, 6… 10 layers.
Let’s start with the first example.

The first thing is to duplicate the background.

Screen shot 2014-01-30 at 9.36.06 PM

I wanted to make his shirt lighter with a soft white glow, but I also wanted to keep the textures and contrast. My choice was to set the top layer to Screen mode.

Screen shot 2014-01-30 at 9.39.26 PM

With the top layer set to Screen mode the image will become much lighter. It’s like overexposing the image. But I don’t want the whole image to be lighter and I also don’t want the shirt as white as this.
The solution is to decrease the opacity of the top layer, the one set to Screen mode.

Screen shot 2014-01-30 at 9.49.13 PM

Side by side. Original, Screen mode 100%, Screen mode 60%.

Side by side.
Original, Screen mode 100%, Screen mode 60%.

Okay, but I’m just working on the shirt.
By setting the opacity of the Screen mode layer to 60%, I’m pretty much happy with it but I must erase the rest of the image I don’t want affected by the Screen mode.

In order to do that I’m going to use the Erase tool set to a big size and to the minimum hardness.
The big size and zero hardness will make softer edges.

Screen shot 2014-01-30 at 10.03.23 PM

Screen shot 2014-01-30 at 10.13.05 PMThe image on the right is the one with the Screen mode set to the top layer.
I’ve erased all the rest. I’ve also adjusted the Erase Tool size for fine adjustments but the hardness was always set to zero.

The next image is a trick just to show you what’s left of the top layer after using the Erase Tool.Screen shot 2014-01-30 at 10.11.27 PM

Now I will do the same thing for the face.
1 – Duplicate my original layer, the Background.
2 – Setting that layer to Screen mode.
3 – Erase everything but the face.

It will end up like this.

Screen shot 2014-01-30 at 10.44.33 PM

Okay, same problem has before. With the Screen mode on it, the layer with the face part, is now too light. It’s time to use the opacity slider to fix that.

The opacity of the layer with the face part is now 27%.
It no longer looks like a ghost.

The original on the left and the adjusted one on the right.

The original on the left and the adjusted one on the right.

The next step is doing the same to the neck, which is now much darker compared to the face, to the “B” on the apron, to the beard and to the hair. All of this using separate layers which one with a different mode, or not, of different opacity.

The final result would be an image with a Background and 6 layers on top which one affecting a specific part of it.

The method is always the same.
Duplicating the original layer, applying a certain mode that will cause an effect on a specific part of the image, using the opacity to control the effect and then erasing the parts of the image I don’t want affected by that mode.


Please do excuse my grammar and spelling.
I think in Portuguese and then try to translate it into a coherent English and that doesn’t always work the best way.

  1. Son of Sharecroppers said:

    Man. That worked out very, very nicely. I’m just not smart enough to do that!

  2. Rufus Girard said:

    You’re clearly finding your way. That’s the trick, to make the process your own. I think. like you, I often imagine myself pulling prints when working if photoshop.

    • Thank you Rufus.
      I was given access to a fully equipped darkroom which was almost abandoned. Myself and a friend cleaned the place and it is ready to use.
      I plan of using it a lot during this year.

      Let’s see what comes out.
      PS: love darkroom work.

      • yummania said:

        looking forward to see 🙂

      • Thank you dear Eni.
        Keeping busy is the main idea 😉

  3. yebisu1 said:

    Thanks for this. I’ve never used the screen mode before. I’ll definitely try it next time I use photoshop.

    • No my friend, thank YOU for stopping by.
      Let me tell you that, after using Photoshop for so long I narrowed it down to 4 blend modes which can do just about anything.
      Multiply, Overlay, Softlight and the Screen mode.

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