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June
2000

Graphics Tools Abound in Adobe Photoshop 5.0

In the field of computer graphics software, the 2000 pound gorilla is Adobe’s Photoshop. The current version is 5.0, but version 5.5 will be released soon. Photoshop consists of basically a glorified paint program, but the it contains a vast arsenal of tools for image creation, manipulation, and conversion to a wide variety of file formats. In this article we will discuss some of the more widely used tools.
The Rubberstamp

The most useful tool for retouching is the rubberstamp tool. Also called the clone tool, this is used to copy information from one area of an image to another. You use this on images by cloning information onto things you want removed, or to fill in missing areas. For example: to remove a scratch from the sky choose a similar area of sky, select that as your clone source and then paint out the scratch. The majority of all retouching is done with the rubberstamp, using it to remove cracks, scratches and other damage. Much of this will only be learned through trial and error as you train your eye to recognize what the best place to clone from is, depending on what needs to be done.

There are a few issues of which to be aware. The edge hardness of the rubberstamp brush should generally be at least 50%, or cloned areas can get muddy or soft. Similarly, you can vary the opacity of the stamp to achieve more subtle effects, but can cause image softness. Something else to watch out for is patterning. This occurs when a lot of cloning is done in an area without varying the source point, which can result in a repeating image pattern.

Tonal Adjustment

One of the most common tasks in computer imaging is tonal adjustment, i.e. making an image brighter or darker or changing the color balance. There are many ways to do this in Photoshop, some working better than others, and they are located under the Image menu. For the new user, the Brightness/Contrast adjustment is the easiest, but it is also the most detrimental to the image. Brightness/Contrast actually throws away important data in your picture causing loss of detail in highlights and shadows.

The recommended tools to use are the Curves, Levels or Hue/Saturation. These tools take more practice, but they give you finer control and do less damage to your scans. In the Curves dialog, set the Black Point with the black eyedropper by clicking on the spot of your image that should be totally black. Do the same thing to set the White Point with the white eyedropper. There are some images that may not have a Black or White Point, such as a sunset shot may have no white in the image at all. Next you can adjust the brightness by setting a point in the middle of the line on the graph and pulling it up or down to lighten or darken the image. You can adjust the contrast by making the line into an "S" shape. You can even change the color balance by adjusting the curve in the individual color channels. The Curves may be the most useful tool in Adobe Photoshop.

Hue/Saturation works with sliders to allow you to add more or less of a specific color, or to shift the entire image toward a different end of the spectrum. This tool even allows you to completely colorize an image, or make an ordinary landscape look like a far-out science fiction planetscape.

Selection Tools

Photoshop has a variety of tools available to select a part of the image to work on, while leaving the rest of the image untouched. The are the Rectangular and Elliptical Marquees as well as the Lasso and Magic Wand tools. The Marquees allow you to make rectangular, circular or oval selection areas, the Lasso lets you draw out your own freehand selection, and the Magic Wand lets you select all areas of a contiguous color. Selection areas can even be created by parts of the image or by entirely different images. The selection tools enable you to selectively effect one area of an image, such as changing the color of a shirt or a sky without disturbing the rest of your picture.

Color Calibration Issues

Adobe included a plethora of new features in version 5 of their flagship, including editable text layers, layer effects, nearly unlimited undo’s, but the default color settings have caused some confusion with users.

The sRGB colorspace was created to be a default standard for the Internet, representing the "typical" PC $300 VGA monitor. Although Microsoft has made output to sRGB a requirement to receive a "Designed for Windows 98" sticker, and it is fine for Web and multimedia, sRGB is too limiting for graphic artists who are designing for a variety of output media. Many colors that are reproducible on anything from a desktop inkjet printer to an offset press are outside the gamut of sRGB, namely some cyans, greens and blues.

To change the default settings in Photoshop 5, go to the File Menu select Color Settings>RGB Setup…, and change it to one of the other options, or create your own custom setting. For more information on the web on color management in Adobe Photoshop 5 check out http://www.adobe.com/support/techguides/.

Conclusion

If I were stranded on a desert island with a computer and an unlimited power supply, the one program that would be a "must have" for me would be Adobe’s Photoshop. With its powerful tools for creating, modifying and translating graphics, there are an unlimited number of possibilities for making images for business or fun. There is a reason that Photoshop is the tool of choice for practically all professional computer artists and designers, it has it all!

Paul Vaughn is the Director of Digital Services at River City Silver, the premiere photographic and digital imaging laboratory in San Antonio and South Texas. Mr. Vaughn is a graphic artist and all around swell egg, he can be contacted at digital@rivercitysilver.com. This article was written with the invaluable help of Peter Loxsom, RCS’s principal restoration artist.
 

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