Monthly Archives: September 2014

Friday Challenge 4 – A Procession, A Woodworking Shop and A Beach Hut

As regular readers will be happy to discover, this week’s post features three Friday Challenge images.  I know you’ve all been waiting, so lets get right to them.

The Procession
For the 505th Friday Challenge Caplin posted this image:

processionOriginal His comments and instructions were:

“I photographed this church procession in a back street in Cambridge. I have no idea who they were, or why they were in such an incongruous location. Can you move them to a more appropriate setting?”

Wanting something humorous, I created this entry:take shotsProcessionThe caption: “Father Dunphrey had no idea why the tourists were so out of hand this year.”

Caplin’s critique:

“A splendid choice of background from srawland, with crowding camera-wielding tourists pressing right in on the procession. 

The Woodworking Shop
Then, for the 506th Friday Challenge, came this image:


Caplin’s comments and instructions were:

“I visited a remarkable renovated windmill near Sandwich, on the south coast of England, last weekend. In the grounds of the windmill stood a number of workshops, including this rather splendid woodworking shop (as you may know, woodworking is a passion of mine).

It’s a shame the scene is lit by a strip light behind the beam, though, especially since there’s a convenient lantern hanging right next to it. Can you move the light source? And remove that cable? And perhaps add a carpenter to the scene?”

Since Caplin noted his passion for woodworking, I decided to put him in the picture. However, I soon discovered there is a dearth of photos of Mr. Caplin. But,  there aren’t exactly many of myself to choose from either. In any case, I finally found one I could use.  I also decided that, if the tables were turned, I would like it if my head were put on a lovely body. So, I decided to do the same for Caplin and located a very well-muscled woodworker:

Right after submitting the image it occurred to me that Caplin might get the wrong impression as to why I made him look so buff. So, I decided to make him look bad.  And, I have to say it was much more fun making Caplin look bad than it was making him look good. I actually deleted the first two submissions I posted because I felt they were mean spirited.  Finally, I submitted this one:


Caplin’s critique:

“Great shadows from srawland, with the scene now definitely lit by that lamp. The scene seems rather foggy around the light, though; best not to just paint yellow over the lit area – and the light itself could be brighter. I don’t think I’ve ever been depicted quite as musclebound as that – it’s rather impressive. I’m sorry to see you felt the need to delete the later entries, though, as I thought they were progressing really well. Seriously, I wasn’t offended! Always amused to see how I’m treated, and I assure you it’s been a lot stronger than that in the past. I do like the remaining entry, though, featuring one of my sculptures and a rather neatly stained T-shirt. But… who’s going to get inspiration from Red Bull? Every great artist needs Absinthe! Oh, and of course you’re welcome to use the image on your blog. I didn’t know you had one, and it’s not listed in your profile – what’s the address?”

While I was astounded that he actually interested in a blog written by a lowly student, I was also pleased that he cared enough to ask. So of course I gave him the address!

The Beach Hut
Next up, the 507th Friday Challenge image:


As always, Caplin posted comments and instructions:

“I spent the weekend in the charming seaside town of Whitstable recently. On a stroll along the beach I noticed a long series of colourful beach huts, which may be a peculiarly English phenomenon: people fit them out with little gas stoves and sit outside them on deck chairs, drinking tea. This newly-renovated example has yet to be painted. Can you brighten it up? And perhaps open the doors so we can see inside.”

Apparently, people in the UK buy these tiny buildings in order to have a a place to change at the beach.  They tend to be very spartan, but some do have electricity to ensure water can be boiled for the all-important tea. Anyway, here is my submission:

One of the apartment houses I lived in Providence, RI, was painted with this color scheme. I had originally intended to find some images of children peaking around a corner as I wanted it to look like they were playing hide-and-seek.  However, when I googled “sneaking around” the gentleman on the porch popped up.  I decided to use him, but then I needed an explanation for why he was sneaking out of the beach hut.  Since he might be eluding the police, I went in search of an appropriate police officer by  googling “back to wall with gun.” This netted me the woman with the gun (at the back right corner of the building), which I knew would make for a much more interesting picture.

Apparently Caplin liked the paint job a bit more than the cloak-and-dagger additions:

“Dazzling colours from srawland – I think there are probably rules preventing this sort of outbreak of enthusiasm! I like the picnickers, although the woman with the gun does confuse me slightly. As to the interior – yes, plain wood is usually the right approach, but isn’t yours rather too brightly lit for an inside view?”

Despite Caplin’s ding on the interior wood lighting, I was amused enough by my creation I decided to make it into a birthday card. Here is the image from the front of the card along with the message I put inside:


Hopefully it gave you a laugh, too.

Next: Heads and Bodies  – Part 1

Light and Shade – Part 4: Explosions, Neon and Day-Into-Night

In this, the last of the posts on Chapter 7 of Steve Caplin’s fantastic book How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed., I’m going to cover 3 “special effects” tutorials.

Explosive Effects
In this tutorial Caplin shows how to make a fireball by starting with a white shape.

176 - Fire without SmokeBothFirst, the rays are pulled out of the shape using the Smudge tool. The he blotchy colored effect is created using the clouds filter and setting the layer mode to Linear Light.  When the resulting shape is placed on an appropriate background, it really comes to life.

Neon Lights
In this tutorial Caplin shows how ordinary block text can be turned into a stunning neon sign.  It’s the technique I used to create the flashing neon banner for this blog.

178 - Lighting up neonBothFirst the text’s corners are rounded using the Refine Edge Dialog box. Then the neon tubes are created by selecting the text, making a new layer and creating a stroke by using Edit/Stroke (NOT Layer Effects). Once the Stroke is created, the original text layer is hidden and all the rest of the work happens on the Stroke layer.  Small portions are erased, to mimic the look of the tubes on a real neon sign. Then the inner glow is created by using Select/Modify/Contract and adding a white fill. The outer glow is produced by making a new layer behind the Stroke layer. The Stroke’s pixels are loaded by control-clicking on the layer’s thumbnail.  The new layer is used to feather the selection and then filled with the same color as the Stroke. Finally, a background is added and the effect is complete.

Day Into Night
In the final Chapter 7 tutorial Caplin shows how a daylight scene can be turned into a nighttime one, as seen in the following image pair.  This is the same  technique I used to create my submission for the Friday Challenge: The Rear Window.

180 - Day for NightBothl

First, the original sky was removed.  As you can probably guess, Curves Adjustment Layer Masks feature prominently in this exercise – not only to darken the whole scene, but also to create the lit windows and the street glow.  Learning how to use Curves Adjustment Layer Masks is one of the most useful tools I picked up from Caplin’s book.  (See Throwing Some Curves with Image Adjustments – Part 1)

Next: Friday Challenge 4 – A Procession, A Woodworking Shop and A Beach Hut

Light and Shade – Part 3

A special effect is the highlight of this section in Chapter 7 of How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed. But, first, author Steve Caplin teaches three different shading techniques for skin tones, all of which are now staples in my repertoire.

Dodge and Burn
Although my CS3 course had a tutorial on using the Dodge and Burn tools, they were only for restoring old black & white photographs.  Using the tools on skin tones is trickier, but can have very satisfactory results.  Just one critical note: these tools permanently change an image.  Once done, and the image file closed, the changes cannot be undone.  So, definitely  work on a duplicate of the original layer, just in case someone decides they don’t like the outcome.

As for the technique, Caplin suggests making  using low opacity brushes along with a combination of both the Dodge and Burn tools, set once to highlights and once to midtones.   In the image pair below I used Caplin’s technique to create a more striking appearance:

168 - Shading Dodge & BurnBoth The image on the left was photographed with neutral lighting.  As Caplin instructed, I added  subtle shading and highlights for a more visual interest.

Adding Some Drama With Light Modes
In this tutorial Caplin shows how three light modes  – Hard Light, Soft Light, and Overlay – can produce a Hollywood-style lighting effect.  Much as theatrical lighting creates drama by using colors, Caplin suggests using various color and light mode combinations to do the same for still images.  In the pair, below, I used his techniques to create the image on the right from the neutrally lighted figure on the left.

170 - Shading Light modesBothUsing a dark blue shade for the shadows, a purple one for the midtones and an amber shade for the highlights, Caplin shows how each combination looks with the three different light modes.  The image I created on the right uses Soft Light mode for a muted effect. However, by using Hard light for one or more of the layers, a more dramatic effect can be attained.

Reversing Shading With Curves
The next technique is one I’ve use over and over again in Friday Challenges.  When combining different images to create a new composite, more often than not the images will have different light sources.  A sure sign that an image has been produced by combining two, or more, separate images is having lighting that appears to come from different directions. Such inconsistent lighting is a common error. So common that Caplin frequently dings people for it in his critique of their Friday Challenge submissions.

However, correcting lighting issues has many real-work applications.  For example, creating a balanced image of an individual such as U. S. President Barack Obama:

172 - Reversing ShadowsThreeUsing curves layers, I created to both the neutral in the center and the right lit image of Obama, on the right, from an image that was originally lit from the left. By using Curves as an adjustment layer mask, instead of working directly on the image, the shading can easily be adjusted if you need to go back and do so.

Smoke Without Fire
Now, for the special effect I told you about. In this tutorial, Caplin teaches readers how to realistically add smoke.  Again, using layers in different light modes and the Clouds filter to add texture, Caplin created an image with a lot of smoke billowing from all the stacks in the version he used in How to Cheat in Photshop.  It’s my experience that refineries, at least around here, tend not to  produce copious amounts of smoke during daylight hours so as not to enrage the public.  Thus, my image is more subdued:

174 - Smoke without FireBoth

Next: Light and Shade – Part 4: Explosions, Neon and Day Into Night.

Light and Shade – Part 2

If Steve Caplin had stopped at creating relatively simple shadows in How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed., it would have been far more than most people learn from most Photoshop books.  Luckily, he continues with the art lessons, giving readers increasingly  complex shadow skills. As the great Renaissance painters taught us centuries ago, it’s correct shadows that ensure images look realistic.

Stacking the Deck
Making a stack of cards could require as many layers as cards, but Caplin teaches otherwise as seen in this example:


The original card looks flat and unrealistic.  Note how adding a shadow under each card makes the stack look three-dimensional.   It would be a clever trick, as is. However, Caplin goes further by explaining how to create the whole stack on one layer, thereby making a much smaller file. He also teaches readers how to use QuickMask mode along with the Levels control dialog box to get rid of unwanted shadow areas.

What’s more, Caplin doesn’t just use this technique once and never come back to it.  Nope. In Chapter 10 How to Cheat in Photoshop readers use this technique to create realistic shadows for a stack of bills being cut by a meat cleaver.  But, more on that when we get to Chapter 10.

A Basket of Shadows
When objects are grouped together they will cast shadows on each other.  In the following tutorial Caplin shows how to use Hard Light layers  and the Burn tool to create editable shadows, while making the image  look as if it its a photo of basket filled with toys rather than a photo that’s been altered to include a bunch of images of toys:

162 - Shading on Hard LightBlogFirst the ball, book and blocks layers are selected. A new layer is created in Hard Light mode and filled with 50% grey.  However, since grey is invisible in Hard Light mode, the Burn tool is used on it’s layer, instead of the actual objects, to create the shadows.  Note how realistic the basket on the right looks compared with the original.

Lighting Effects
When trying to convey a lamp lighting a dark room, the light must be hyper-realistic.  A lit lamp just doesn’t look like the example on the left, below:

164 - Visible light sourcesBothThe original image was created using three layers.  Caplin demonstrates how, using QuickMask mode, to selectively blur the light and paint on the shadows. On the right, the image now looks as if the light had been turned on in a dark room.

Turn the Lamp On
The next example was an earlier Friday Challenge that Caplin incorporated into the 6th edition.  The challenge was to make a table lamp in a room lit by daylight look as if night had fallen and the lamp had been turned on.

166 - Turn the lamp onBothAgain,  I am thankful I did not have to work on this challenge without the instructions! Since everything was originally on one layer, it turns out that all of the elements must be copied to separate layers before the light can be added to create the desired effect. On the right is my nighttime lamp with the light “turned on.”

Next: Light and Shadow – Part 3