Use Photoshop Elements to Edit Photos
As you learned earlier, the portion of Photoshop Elements that enables you to edit and create graphic images is called the Editor. Although you can use the Editor to create buttons, banners, and other graphical gadgets for your Web pages, its main purpose is to edit photographs. You can use the Editor's tools to retouch photographs, add text and other objects, and apply special effects. You'll learn how to start the Editor in Use the Welcome Window, later in this chapter, and to use the Editor's tools in 43 About the Editor. Right now I want to show you how a graphics editor such as the Editor can make your images look better.
What You Can Do with a Graphics Editor
With the help of a graphics editor such as the Photoshop Elements Editor, you can fix errors in your photographs such as bad lighting and red-eye. You can also perform some special effects wizardry. Here are just a few of the tasks you can accomplish with the Editor and a little help from this book:
Restoring this old photograph involved lightening it, filling in a missing area, and removing several scratches.
There are a few things you can't do with the Editor, at least not easily. For example, as I noted earlier, although you can sharpen a slightly blurry photograph, you can't restore focus to one that's completely out of focus. To sharpen a photo, the Editor simply increases the contrast between pixels along the edges of objects, making those edges more distinct. However, extreme digital sharpening can reveal details that weren't obvious before, such as the texture of hair or skin, small spots, and background objects.
You cannot easily create animated images in the Editor, although it does enable you to preview and save simple animations such as a ball bouncing up and down.
You cannot restore extremely damaged photographs; for such wizardry, you should use a high-end graphics editor such as Photoshop CS.
When to Use Layers
While editing or building an image, the Editor enables you to place data on multiple layers. The key purpose of layering is to give you a way to isolate multiple, individual parts of what will eventually comprise a complete image. For example, you might place a subject on a separate layer so that you can apply brightness and contrast changes just to it and not the entire photograph. Also, placing an element such as a photo caption on its own layer enables you to resize, recolor, or reposition it without overwriting portions of the photo beneath that element. In addition, data on upper layers can be used to obscure data on the layers below. For example, if you copied a person onto a lower layer, you could place him behind other people or objects in a photograph. After using layers to manipulate different elements of an image individually, you merge them together to create a flattened, single-layer image.
You can build a complex image by isolating each element on its own layer.
You can blend two layers together in a multitude of ways, achieving effects you couldn't create otherwise. For example, you might blend two copies of the same image using the Exclusion, Hard Mix, or Vivid Light blend mode to create instant pop-art as the colors from each layer are blended. When needed, you can add a special adjustment layer to test an adjustment on the layers below (such as a brightness change) without making that adjustment permanent, to control the amount of an adjustment or to apply the same adjustment to several layers at once.
The Layers palette shows you which layers are on top of others and which are beneath. Like a series of animation cels, layers of an image are laid one on top of the other, with each layer obscuring the layers beneath it. You can control the capability of a layer to block the data in the layers below it by changing the layer's opacity. A layer that's 100% opaque is like new paint on a wallit completely blocks the wall color beneath. Set the opacity to 50% however, and the layer will cover lower layers only partiallylike a sheer veil. You can also control which areas of an image layer are seen by applying a clipping mask, which you'll learn how to do in 163 Mask an Image Layer. In a similar manner, a mask on a fill layer can block the fill from covering up portions of the layers below. On an adjustment layer, a mask can act as a blanket, protecting selected parts of a layer from changes such as a color adjustment. You'll learn how to create fill and adjustment layer masks in 100 Mask an Adjustment or Fill Layer.
A digital photograph starts out with a single layer; the Editor treats that layer as the background layer, and lists it as such in the Layers palette. The background layer is locked and cannot be moved within the layer stack; its opacity and blend mode also cannot be changed. The name of the current layer is highlighted in the Layers palette; with a few exceptions, any changes you make apply only to the data on the current layer. To select a layer for editing, click its name in the Layers palette. To move, transform, copy, paste, or merge multiple layers, link them together as explained in 91 About Layers and the Layers Palette.
Upper layers can obscure lower layers, depending on their opacity.
Why Select a Portion of a Photo?
The Editor enables you to select a portion of a layer or layers when needed. For example, if you select a portion of a layer and then begin painting, the paint affects only the selected area on that layer and none of the pixels outside it. Here, the selection acts as a kind of painter's tape, preventing the paint from spilling outside its borders and affecting the pixels you don't want to change. This same protection applies to any effect you might apply; for example, if you adjust the brightness after making a selection, only the pixels within the selected area are affected. You might also select an area when you want to copy or move its pixels to another image or layer. Here, the selection helps to mark the data you want to copy or move.
The Editor gives you a variety of tools and methods you can use to select the area you want to affect. The selected area is marked with a selection marquee. The marquee is always in motion (like marching ants) so you can easily see the area you selected and distinguish that area from the rest of the image (the unselected area).
With a selection tool, you define where changes are to take placehere, the head of a mallard duck has been selected.
Filters, Effects, and Layer Styles
Professional photographers often attach a filter to the front of the camera lens to bend the light coming into the camera and create visual effects. In the Editor, a filter can also be used to create a visual effect, but far beyond the capability of a mere lens attachment. For example, you can use a filter to change any or all of your image as though it were rendered by a watercolor brush, sketched with a charcoal pencil on coarse-bond art paper, or burned into a plate of steel with a blowtorch. You choose a filter from the Filter menu and configure its options using the dialog box that appears. You can also select a filter from the Styles and Effects palette by first choosing Filter from the first drop-down list. You'll learn how to apply various filters in upcoming tasks.
If your image doesn't appear crisp or clear, a sharpen filter can detect the narrowest areas where colors appear to contrast and draw out those contrasts to create a sharper image. By blending some color values with others in their immediate proximity, a blur filter can generate the illusion of motion. Other filters can remove scratches, blemishes, and moiré patterns from a photo, especially a photo imported from a scanner where dust specks often abound.
Filters can apply many special effects to your images.
Although some filters exist for the purpose of correcting images, most are, quite frankly, created purely to exploit a new form of artistic expression. Using a filter, you can take all or part of an image and wrap it around a sphere or a three-dimensional box. You can create circular ripples in an image as though it were rendered on the surface of a pond or a lake of mercury. You can give an image the texture of stained glass, mosaic tiles, or a patchwork quilt.
Effects are timesaverstypically, an effect is a collection of several filters and other image adjustments, applied automatically in a particular sequence, to create a special effect. Effects can be applied to an entire layer, to a selection, to text, or to a flattened image with no layers. You can't make adjustments to an effect as you can with a filter; effects are a take-it-or-leave-it kind of thing. To apply an effect, choose Effects from the first drop-down list on the Styles and Effects palette. Then double-click the effect thumbnail to apply that effect. You can narrow the list of effects by choosing an effects group from the second drop-down list. If an effect's name includes the notation (selection), the Editor will flatten all layers first, copy the data in the selected area to another layer, and apply the effect. If an effect's name includes the notation (type), that effect can be applied only to a text layer. If an effect's name includes the notation (layer), that effect will be applied to a new layer above the current one.
A layer style is often applied to the edges of objects or text on a shape or text layer. These "edge styles" are listed in the first grouping in the Layer Style list box on the Styles and Effects palette. For example, you can add a bevel layer style to create a chiseled look for your text. You can also apply a layer style to the object itself, filling that object with a special texture or pattern. For example, using the Orange Glass layer style, you can make an object or some text look as if it were made from orange glass. These "filler styles" are listed in a second grouping in the Layer Style list on the Styles and Effects palette.
If you apply a layer style to a regular layer instead of a shape or text layer, the layer style may replace all the data on that layer, depending on what that data is. If the layer is filled with an image, for example, the "filler styles" typically replace the image and fill the layer. If the layer contains pixels you've painted or drawn with the Brush or Pencil tool, or if it contains objects you've simplified to bitmap data, the "filler styles" will fill only the interior of those drawings and not the entire layer. With filters, effects, and layer styles, it's typically best to apply the filter, effect, or style you're thinking about, and then use the Undo button to remove it if it doesn't work out as you thought.
The Blizzard effect adds a chilly air to this scene, whereas the Angled Spectrum layer style applied to the border adds whimsy.
When to Use the Photoshop File Format
Your digital camera stores its photos in one of the universal image formats: perhaps JPEG (named for the Joint Photographic Experts Group, which devised the format), Tagged Image File Format (TIFF), or a version of RAW format customized by your specific camera manufacturer. Your digital scanner probably uses one of these formats as well. RAW format is uncompressed and can be considered a "digital negative" of your image, provided you have a program that can read the format. (Photoshop Elements can read most RAW formats, but you should check first before recording images in RAW format that you might want to edit later.) Both JPEG and TIFF images can be mathematically compressed so that they consume less storage space than a format that represents the entire image as a bitmapas colored dots in multiple rows, left-to-right, top-to-bottom. (For TIFF files, compression is optional.) But even compressed, a JPEG file is made up of one single image componentthat is, one picture and not several layers of an image laid on top of each other. And although a TIFF file can support layers, a layered TIFF file might not be readable by some programs and might be considerably larger than the format I'm about to suggestPhotoshop format. If you compress your layered TIFF file to make it smaller, you might introduce artifacts if you resave your work often. RAW format is great for bringing all your data into Photoshop Elements, but not good for saving your changes.
The Editor has a special format you use to store works in progress: the Photoshop format. (Files in Photoshop format can have either a .PSD or .PDD extension; the .PDD extension is older but is still recognized by Photoshop Elements. The .PSD extension is assigned to your files when you save them with Photoshop Elements.). When you save an image in Photoshop format, all image data is saved, such as layers, masks, saved selections, areas of transparency, and hidden data. And as long as you turn off the Maximize Compatibility option when saving a PSD image (in other words, you have no need to save the PSD file so that it can be read by earlier versions of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements), the file will remain relatively small even as it preserves all your work. When you complete your work on an image, you can merge all the layers and data into a single layer, and then save the single-layer image in a smaller, universal format such as JPEG or TIFF. If you want the file to be useable on another computer, and you want the layers preserved, you can choose not to merge the layers and save them in a TIFF file that should be readable by most image viewers. Even so, quite a lot of image viewers these days can read PSD files quite easily, so converting your file to a layered TIFF might not be necessary for you.
How to Use a Pen Tablet with the Editor
The prices of digital cameras and digital scanners have plummeted sharply in the last half-decade, making true digital photo processing feasible and affordable not only to professionals but also to hobbyists. Add to this list of more affordable tools the pen tablet. In the Editor, you can use a tablet instead of a mouse to make the same kind of drawing or painting motions on a computer that you'd make with a real pencil or paintbrush. (Although you can use a pen tablet to make selections in the Organizer, its usefulness is more apparent within the Editor.)
Today's tablets, such as the Wacom Graphire, are touch-sensitive; the tablet can record the difference between a light touch and a firm press. Specifically, it senses 255 different degrees of pressure. If you're using the airbrush function of the Brush tool, for example, the degree of "air pressure" in the brush, and/or the radius of the spray, is determined by how firmly you press the pen against the tablet. (You can't make this same kind of variation or adjustment using the mouse to paint.) If you're not accustomed to making precise movements with your mouse deviceand many people aren'tyou might find a wireless pen much easier to learn and control. And that will make it much easier for you to make minute changes to your photographs or drawn artwork. You can even switch back and forth between a pen and a mouse (the Graphire comes with a wireless mouse), so that you can still select menu commands and control Windows with the mouse while you're drawing with the pen.
The Wacom Graphire pen tablet (ruby edition).
With a pen tablet, operations can be a little different than using a mouse. To make an adjustment to a tool setting, for example, lift the pen completely off the tabletthe pointer will stay where it is. Then hover your pen over the spot on the tablet that corresponds with the tool setting location onscreen; the pointer will snap to that spot like a magnet. To move the pointer without actually drawing with it, hover the pen just over the tablet without touching it. To select something with the pen, tap, just once. To draw, touch the pen to the tablet and draw normally, remembering that the degree of pressure you use is registered by the tool you're using.
The process of picking up and moving somethingsuch as a flower petal you've selectedis different with a pen tablet than it is with a standard mouse. You'll see how to do this in proper detail later in this book; in brief, after you've selected the portion you want to move, plunk the pen down right in the middle of it, move the pen in the same direction you want to move the selection, and then lift the pen when the selection is in place. From the point of view of your hand, you might as well have used a real pen to scoot a piece of paper along the top of your desk; it feels pretty much the same.
Believe it or not, many tablets (including the Wacom Graphire) have erasers on the back end of the pen. To erase something in a photograph, you can literally turn the pen around and use the blunt eraser end to wipe away unwanted content in an image. The Editor associates the eraser end of the pen with its own Eraser tool.
When the pen procedure for a task differs significantly from the mouse procedure for the same task, I'll tell you how to do it both ways. But when the procedures are pretty much the same, I'll defer to explaining the task as though you're using the mouse (drag, click, drag-and-drop, double-click). When there's something you can do with a pen that you cannot do with a mouse (for example, vary the radius of an airbrush stroke while you're painting or using the eraser tip), I'll show you how to do that using pen tablet language.