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WORKING IN PHOTOSHOP ELEMENTS almost always involves making selections. Whether you're combining images from several sources into a single montage, or simply replacing an overcast sky with a bright sunny one, you need to make selections within your image.
Elements offers a range of tools for the purpose. Some are automatic, and will find areas of similar color; some involve tracing around an object's edge; some combine the two methods, making complex selections easy to do.
Whether you're new to Elements, or an old hand, it's worth your while going through this chapter to make sure you're up to speed on the selection methods that are available to you.
The Marquee Tool is the basic tool for making selections in elements. Pressing [M] is the keyboard shortcut for this tool: pressing the key again will toggle between the standard rectangular Marquee, and the Elliptical Marquee.
Every elements user should be aware of the ability to hold the [Shift] key to draw a square or a circle, rather than a rectangle and an ellipse, and to hold [Alt] [??] to draw a selection from the center out.
We're not limited to just one selection at a time, however; by holding combinations of the [Alt] [??] and [Shift] keys, we're able to add and subtract additional selections - and we can even create intersections of the old and the new.
More selection tools
We looked at the Marquee tools on the previous pages - but what if you want to make a selection that isn't rectangular or round? There are several other tools we can use for this purpose.
Here, we'll look at the lasso, Magic Wand, and selection Brush tools. While the Magic Wand selects a range of colors, the other two select only those regions you trace. They're three quite different tools, but they each have their uses, as we'll see here.
We're going to use all these tools to remove the sky from this photograph of the statue of liberty, beginning with the Magic Wand to select the bulk of the sky.
The Magnetic Lasso Tool
Although the lasso tool is useful for tracing outlines, it can be tricky to draw accurately with it. There is another method: the Magnetic lasso is a variant. As its name implies, this tool sticks to the edges of shapes as you draw around them, making the process of cutting objects or people from their backgrounds very much simpler.
The tool isn't perfect, by any means; it's almost impossible for any computer program to figure out the difference between foreground and background objects with any degree of accuracy. But it's a real time saver, and can be used to make quick selections with ease.
To choose the tool, click on its icon in the options bar when the lasso tool is selected, or simply select it from the pop-up lasso icon in the toolbar.
Quick selection + refine edge
The quick selection tool may well be the fastest method yet for cutting a person or object away from the background.
We've seen several selection methods already in this chapter, but they all involve a fair amount of work on the part of the user. The quick selection tool can help the process of lifting a complex subject from a complex background, quickly and painlessly.
The companion to this tool is the refine edge dialog, which processes the image after a selection has been made. Here, we can adjust the selection for an even better fit.
The image we'll work with here is of a boy reading in his living room. It's a tricky selection to make: both the boy and his surroundings include a range of colors and tones, making it harder for automatic selection to take place. But even in cases like this, we can perform the function with ease.
Some types of image are just too complex to cut out with the quick selection tool, or the Magic Wand; photographs such as this accordionist, with his complex instrument photographed against a busy background, would be tricky to trace with the lasso or selection Brush.
The Magic extractor, however, offers a relatively quick and painless solution to this problem. It works within its own dialog, using a range of tools that combine to make difficult object selection far easier.
The precise order in which you use the tools depends on the image you want to cut out, but you always start with the foreground and Background brushes, before moving on to fine tuning. Begin by choosing Magic extractor from the image menu.
Working with selection 1
So far in this chapter we've looked at how to make selections using a variety of methods. Here, we'll look at what we can do with those selections when we've made them.
As well as being used to extract areas of an image from their background, selections can be used to contain, isolate and protect an area; for painting and filling localized parts of the image with color, for example. They can also be used in conjunction with filters and other effects.
Note: Each of the steps on these pages are individual actions to demonstrate the different methods of filling the selections. After trying each one, go to edit > revert to restore the example image back to its default state.
Working with selections 2
We explored the many ways to fill areas using selections on the previous pages. In this project we'll put them to practical use and create a shadow that's directly attached to an object. We'll also look at another feature of selections: the ability to duplicate the selected object on the same layer.
This technique is great for creating repeating patterns and effects and keeps the document tidier than if you were to create the objects on separate layers; particularly useful if you know that you won't need to edit the individual copies at a later date.
Setting up Elements
When you buy most applications, you can just install them and run them straight out of the box. (or out of the zip archive in which you downloaded them, if you prefer.) and so, to some extent, you can with elements; but there are a few tricks you can do to make the experience more comfortable.
It isn't that elements is a particularly awkward program, but that since it involves working with images, it's memory hungry. It will happily gobble up all the RAM (memory) you allocate to it, and then sit panting for more. If it can't find any more real memory, it will settle for virtual memory, using vast chunks of your hard disk to store temporary files while you're working. These 'scratch' files, as they're called, are slotted in around the other files on your hard disk, and are then deleted when you quit elements. The more fragmented your hard disk, the more pieces these files will end up in, and the slower elements will run. In the interlude following Chapter 2, we'll look at the best way of coping with scratch files.
The elements interface can be customized in a number of ways. Normally, you probably wouldn't bother to mess around with the interface of your applications - after all, the people who designed the program probably know it better than you do, so why not just trust their judgment and leave things as they are? Well, believe it or not, the people who designed elements don't seem to spend that much time actually working in it. If they did, they wouldn't have the Project Bin turned on by default. Sure, it gives you access to all your currently open files, but it uses up an inch or more of valuable real estate. And that's an inch you could be using to view your pictures that much larger. Turn it off: you don't need to have it permanently on view. You can always pop it open when you need it.
The Palette Bin, down the right-hand side of the screen, contains your most frequently used panels. Store your favorites here, but collapse them to just their title bars when you're not using them: they take up a lot of space, and you want to give the maximum amount of space to the layers panel. When you have a document with a lot of layers in it, consider reducing the size of the thumbnails (using the pop-up menu at the top of the panel) to fit more in.
When the Move tool is active, the options bar will display a number of choices. Checking auto select layer will mean that a layer is activated when you click on it, but this can happen by accident; when this is unchecked, you need to hold the Ctrl/ Cmd key when clicking on a layer to select it. You can also check the show highlight on rollover box, which will pop up a blue rectangle surrounding each layer as you roll over it. This can help to identify layers, but can quickly become irritating. If you don't find the feature useful, turn it off. Similarly, the show Bounding Box option will place handles around each selected layer. Again, this prevents you from seeing the image clearly; don't use it unless you find it helpful.
The tabbed window view is a great space-saver, giving you as much viewing area as possible. If, however, you prefer to work with the classic floating window setup, you will need to initially enable it in preferences. This is found under general > allow floating documents in full edit Mode.
WHEN CREATING A MONTAGE, layers are probably the most important part of the process. Aside from the design itself, of course. Without them, creating complex composite images would be a slow and difficult process. Think of layers as individual celluloid sheets: each one can be laid on top of (or beneath) another to build up the artwork. These can be manipulated independently without affecting the rest of the picture. There are many different types of layer, too, as we'll see.
We'll be exploring techniques that demonstrate the many functions and abilities of the main layer types. Beginning with the basics and on through to more advanced concepts, we'll see how layers are created, controlled and can be made to interact with each other in a variety of different ways.
Three card tricks
When you create a new document, it consists of a single layer: the background. This is your blank canvas. You can paint on it, run most filters and perform many other operations. But working on a single layer is very limiting, and you'll probably find yourself continuously reaching for the Undo command. although a painter will create his art directly on the canvas, we don't have to. Using layers allows us to add, remove and arrange pieces of our artwork, making as many changes along the way as we need.
The following example demonstrates the fundamentals of building a simple montage of playing cards using layers. We'll see how layout of the artwork can be changed simply by altering the order in which the layers appear and by either adjusting their visibility or hiding them completely.
Divide and multiply
On the previous page, we created a piece of artwork by importing individual images as layers. The composition was altered simply by reordering the structure and changing their visibility. In the following tutorial we'll go a stage further. Using the Move tool and a combination of keyboard shortcuts we'll reposition and duplicate a single layer to quickly create multiple copies of the same object. This is similar to the technique we used in Chapter 1, except when we duplicate the objects here, they are placed on a new layer.
In the most recent versions of elements, multiple layers can be selected to form a temporary group, allowing us to manipulate them as a single item. This is a much better way of working as there is no need to merge the layers into one before duplicating them, as was the case with earlier revisions of the program.
So far we've seen how layers can be duplicated, moved around, and placed over and under one another inside of a single image. These layers have all been included in the example files, however. So, how do we go about getting them into the document in the first place?
As we'll discover here, there are several ways to do this, each with their own merits. To demonstrate we'll build up an image in six stages, each one using a different technique. You'll find the three .psd files used here in their own folder inside the Tutorial files folder on the accompanying dVd.
On the previous page we touched briefly on the subject of smart objects. so what do we mean by this term and what is the difference between them and regular layers?
Outwardly, aside from a small icon which sits in the bottom corner of their thumbnails, smart objects appear to be no different to a standard layer. Behind the scenes, however, is a different story: they are resolution independent, which means they can be scaled up and down and, unlike their raster counterparts, never lose their original integrity.
This is incredibly useful when we're experimenting with different layouts in a montage, as we never have to be concerned about the degradation which occurs when continually scaling an object.
Excerpted from How to Cheat in Photoshop Elements 9 by David Asch Steve Caplin Copyright © 2011 by David Asch & Steve Caplin. Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Getting Up to Speed; Selection techniques; Montage essentials: Layers; Hiding and showing; Image adjustments; Light and shade; Transformation and distortion; Materials and textures; Working with Text; People and animals; Shiny surfaces; The third dimension; Print and the internet; Glossary