Snapshots and layer comps are fine and dandy as organizational tools, but how exactly should you create some of these variations? There are many ways to go about creating color variations, and not all are created equal.
Color Match is a feature added with Photoshop CS. The concept is simple: Photoshop looks at the values in a selected area and adjusts another selected area to have the same color range. In reality, I’ve found that this works better on fairly monochromatic images (such as a lunar landscape) and for bringing a particular area to match a selected color, but doesn’t quite work for most other scenarios. Nonetheless, it is a powerful tool that is worth mentioning. Take a look at Figure below. Assume a scenario where the Art Director would like this image of a door built into a hill to have a ground color that matches three different ground pictures.You could try to color sample or eye it, but this is the type of scenario that Color Match is perfect for.
Change the ground of this image to color match the three sample colors
Select the area you want to affect
The Match Color dialog box.
Your original and three variations.
Beware Variations and Brightness/Contrast
One of the features of Photoshop that I see used often is Variations. Back away from the keyboard…slowly….Although anyone can mess up an image with just about any function, Variations is one of two features that you should stay away from. Figure below shows the offending feature’s dialog box.
The Variations dialog box.
At first glance, the variations adjustment function seems like a good idea—a visual method of color correcting.There is one central image and you choose whether to work on the highlights, midtones, or shadows by adding any combination of green, yellow, cyan, red, blue, or magenta.
The main problem is that you have no way of finding out what exactly was done and no way to truly control it. For example, if you are working in an RGB space and add cyan to your shadows, what values are being considered shadows and what mix of RGB is cyan? In addition, all of its changes are linear, so your image tends to flatten out with too much adjusting. What’s worse is that there is nothing tracking your changes; no numerical slider or other input device can help bring back a neutral, unadjusted state. Did you add cyan to the highlights or to the midtones? And how many times did you click to add cyan, three or five? It takes more than a concentration whiz to keep track of the changes and replicate them. The last little jab with Variations is that there is no way to zoom in and see details. The little thumbnails may look great, but once you click OK and see the result in full resolution, you may be in for a big surprise.
If you insist on using the Variations feature, then use it as a form of visualization, cancel out, and make the corresponding changes in Curves and Hue/Sat.
What’s wrong with Brightness/Contrast? Nothing if all you need to do is to nudge the entire histogram over a bit for a final correction. The way people generally try to use Brightness/Contrast results in losing valuable tonal information; see Figure below. The function makes linear adjustments and often forces some pixel data off the chart an irrevocable loss. Brightness/Contrast shifts the histogram to the left or right for brightness, and linearly expands or contracts the histogram shape for contrast. The main point is that these adjustments don’t change the relationship between the values; they only shift them to a different location. Proper tonal correction involves changing the relationship between the different tones in the image.
Notice how the Brightness/Contrast feature affects the histogram.
For brightness and contrast issues, it is better to use levels and curves. Not only do they give better control, but both allow for saving and loading adjustment value sets. Notice how the histogram in Figure below shows the loss of data involved with the brightness adjustment.
The picture on the far left is the original image with its histogram. The middle picture uses Brightness to brighten the image and the picture on the far right uses Levels to bring brightness to the picture.
Several adjustment layers can create variations of color and tone. The draw of adjustment layers is that the original image is not touched and can be fully reverted to with no loss of data.What this means is that the effects can be reversed or tweaked and you can zoom in tightly to see the details of your changes.
The only questionable adjustment layer is Brightness/Contrast. This is an overused adjustment tool.With simple sliders that set the brightness or contrast between 100 and –100, most people think they are increasing the brightness or contrast by a percentage. This is not the case, and there are other reasons this adjustment tool should only be used rarely, if at all. Read the “Beware Variations and Brightness/Contrast” sidebar for why this is mostly a no-no.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to create 15 variations for the Director before he comes by in 15 minutes. (Figure below shows your original.) Given that Hollywood is notorious for being fashionably late, you may have a few minutes more but don’t count on it. This is to be a solo mission, with the adjustment layers as your main tools. This book will not selfdestruct, but if you don’t get the variations done, you might. Without further ado….
Your mission is to create 15 variations of this object.
The Hue/Saturation dialog box.
Four color variations were created and saved as layer comps.
In five minutes you already have seven color variations saved in the Layer Comps palette!
The Channel Mixer gives you two bump maps.
A few quick strokes of the brush give you your third bump map.
Use two color variations to create a third.
Take a look at Figure below for the 15 variation renders I created. Mission accomplished.
These are my 15 variations, with all the maps (both color and bump) created in 15 minutes!
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Adobe Photoshop Tutorial
Preferences And Settings
Customizing Your Workspace
Starting With Color Maps
Tiling And Transformations
Matte Paintings From Pictures
Quick Fixes For Common Problems
Masks And Mattes
Noise And Grain
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