Many of these tools require you to paint directly on the image yourself so your skills as an artist and your dexterity, or your lack thereof, immediately come into play.
Let’s talk about what everyone likely thinks about when they hear Photoshop, using it for retouching and altering images. Though it is at the heart of the power of Photoshop, it can also be the most daunting features to learn; and, with there being 23 tools available for just applying and changing the colors of pictures, it is no wonder it can seem like quite a mountain to climb to master them. Many of these tools require you to paint directly on the image yourself so your skills as an artist and your dexterity, or your lack thereof, immediately come into play. Luckily, the tools are a lot of fun to learn and play around with.
I would say the editing tools on Photoshop fall into these three different styles:
- Painting: These include the paintbrush, the spray can, the paint bucket, etc. These are the tools that permit you to draw lines and fill shapes with colors of your choosing.
- Healing: These include the healing brush, history brush, patch tool, etc. These tools permit you to copy and use elements from parts of the image on a different part of the image. The history brush copies pixels from a previous version of the image while the healing brush and clone tool take copied pixels and merges their values with the values of the pixels in the background they are being applied on to create a more seamless match.
- Editing: These tools include burn, smudge, color replacement, etc. These are the tools that are used to modify a pictures pixels rather than replace them. Burn darkens a pixel, smudge smears them.Let’s focus first on the editing tools that affect the tone of the pixels in an image. The first of these tools we will discuss are the Dodge and Burn tools. You can alternate quickly between the two by pressing Alt or Option on the keyboard. The Dodge tool brightens the pixels it is applied over whereas the Burn tool darkens them. The Exposure setting of the Burn tools sets the intensity of edits applied by it (I suggest setting it to 30). It is advisable to use long strokes when applying these effect rather than shorter strokes that will likely overlap. This is because the effects of these tools are compounded each time they are applied over any pixel. When using these tools, you can also set beforehand what range of tones they will preferentially effect as they are used. By default, they affect the midtone pixels the most but this can be changed, for instance, to affect the images shadows or highlighted parts more preferentially.
Another handy tool of this type is the history paintbrush. The history panel in Adobe Photoshop can be a lifesaver to an artist since this is where each action on an image is recorded and can thus be undone later on, though an artist must still use caution because the software only saves a finite number of actions before they are forgotten and cannot be undone. The history brush takes the ability of the Photoshop history panel to an even higher level of usefulness by permitting the user to “paint” portions of an image back to a previous state saved in the history panel. A handy way to use this tool is to take snapshots of images in various known states (likely at junctures between the use of different tools) that can later be used as the source for the history brush edits rather than worrying about keeping track of each action in the history panel or whether a previous state will be removed due to there being too many actions in the interim. The “Opacity” value for the tool is the strength at which the source image’s pixels will be painted over the pixels of the current state.
One wants to have a realistic and well detailed image, but overly vivid or washed out colors counter that ambition. Another tone editing tool is the sponge, which acts to alter the saturation of pixels. Whether you want the tool to act to increase the saturation or pixels or desaturate is up to you by choosing which in the mode options of the tool. In general, the dodge tool tends to increase the saturation of colors as it works whereas the burn tool desaturates colors. The unwanted saturation side effects of dodging and burning can then be fixed using the sponge’s desaturate and saturate settings respectively. You may also want to adjust the “Flow” of the sponge tool, which is the intensity of its effect. By default, it is set to 50%, but I would advise setting it lower, say to 10%, for more control and better results. By the way, to find the dodge, burn, and sponge tools, click and hold over the dodge icon in the tool panel (looks a bit like a lollipop) and a flyout menu pops up with these tools available to pick from.
Let’s touch on one more simple tool Photoshop provides that can come in handy for any shots with people or animals in them, the Red Eye tool. This tool is exceptionally easy to use. Simply choose the tool and click on or even near the pupil that appears red and the software will do the rest and make the pupil black.
That’s it for now, but we have only just started going into the various tools and techniques available in Adobe Photoshop. Until, next time…
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