Monthly Archives: December 2014

Shiny Surfaces – Part 1

We end 2014 by moving on to Chapter 9 – Shiny Surfaces – of How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed., by Steve Caplin. In this chapter I discovered many fun tutorials compared to the workaday Chapter 8 – Heads and Bodies.  Naturally, even fun tutorials have practical uses.

Introducing… Plastic Wrap
If you joined this blog at the beginning, you’ll recall that my previous Photoshop course was a few years ago and covered CS3. The  book for that course had a paragraph on the Plastic Wrap filter, which discussed the technical aspects of the setting controls. However, like so many other Photoshop features, that course didn’t go beyond the obvious to explain the many uses for the filter.  By contrast, Caplin’s book uses this filter over and over. So much so that it seems to be one of his favorite tools.

In the first tutorial Caplin shows how Plastic Wrap can be used to create spilled liquid, but without the mess:

Introducing Plastic Wrap BothFollowing Caplin’s instructions, I first drew the irregular shape using a 50% gray and a hard-edged brush. Then, I used the Dodge and Burn tools to create highlights and shadows. Next, I applied the Plastic Wrap filter and changed the shape’s layer mode from Normal to Hard Light so that the gray would disappear.  Afterwards, I added the tint by using a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer so the liquid would look like syrup.  Finally, to make the image that much more convincing, I duplicated the background layer, applied a wave filter and masked out all but the part of the jar’s rim that would be distorted by being viewed through the liquid.  A convincing spill and nothing to clean up!

Getting Hot and Sticky
You may recognize the next technique as the one I used to create the “hot dog” banner image for this blog.  If you haven’t seen the hot dog banner yet, click the “refresh” button of your browser until you do.  In any case, below is the image Caplin provided and my completed version:

Hot and sticky Both

To begin, I removed most of the mustard on the original dog.  After sampling the color from the mustard remaining in the lower right corner, I painted the lettering with a hard-edged brush.  I actually had to re-do the lettering because it turns out the color I sampled initially was too dark. Also, at the time, I was using a mouse as a drawing device and it took many tries to get satisfactory lettering. Now I have a graphics tablet, which makes this sort of project much easier. (Actually, it makes doing practically everything in Photoshop easier.  If you don’t have a graphics tablet, I strongly recommend you consider getting one. Or, ask for one as a birthday gift – which worked for me.) But, I digress.

After the lettering, I added some mustard drips with a smaller brush.  To make the letters look more three dimensional, I first used Emboss from the Layers Style dialog. Next, I merged the layer and then added a little Gaussian Noise and Gaussian Blur to give the lettering a little texture. Finally, to add a shiny look to the letters, I created a duplicate layer, desaturated it and set it to Hard Light and then applied (you guessed it) Plastic Wrap.

I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles
Originally, this tutorial was a Friday Challenge because there is a trick to getting bubbles to look realistic. In this How to Cheat in Photoshop edition, it’s in the book.  Below is the original image and the version I created following Caplin’s instructions:

Blowing bubbles BothAs in the “spilled liquid” section of this post,  the bubbles started out as gray shapes. However, this time I used a slightly lighter gray.  Similarly, I also used the Dodge and Burn tools to add shading and highlights.  Then I simply painted the colors onto the bubbles and also added four very light gray squares to suggest the reflection from a window.  Next, I changed the layer mode of the bubbles from normal to Hard Light.  Finally, I made a copy of the bubble layer, applied the Spherized filter and created a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to add a little more color.  Not a bad effect.

“Well that’s it for 2014. I’ll see you all next year!”

Next: Shiny Surfaces – Part 2

Friday Challenge – Distorting Mirror

Sharp-eyed readers probably noticed the previous posts discussed Challenge #508 and #510, but skipped #509 altogether. As #509 was more involved than the other two, I thought I’d post it separately. And now the wait is over…

The Distorting Mirror
Caplin must have been in a rush for Challenge #509 because he shot the photo with his phone instead of his usual camera. Here is the image and his instructions:


“I was visiting a hospital this week when I noticed a curved mirror, placed high up in the corner of a corridor. I was intrigued by the extreme distortion of the view.

Can you remove me from the scene, and add someone else who matches the distorted view? I shot this on my iPhone, which was the only camera I had to hand, and that means the images is rather blurry and noisy – so you’re going to have to try to match that as well. It’s not going to be easy. Good luck! “

Well, Caplin was right. Just finding suitable images at the proper angle was difficult, let alone distorting them plus giving them the proper blur and noise to match the rest of the mirror.

After a little searching on Google images I found an image of someone who would work. Almost immediately, someone posted a submission using the very image I was going to insert.  My sister happened to call right while I was stressing out about it. She suggested that I not submit an entry, if it were that stressful. However, I am not one to admit defeat at the first little difficulty.  I took a deep breath and decided to look at this Challenge in a different light.

Right after that, another member posted that she’d planned to insert the same image, but then needed to switch.  Here is my reply to her:

vibeke wrote:
Mine’s pretty boring after looking at the other entries.

When Gordon posted his hint, I decided to find a suitable figure to replace Steve. I found someone right away, but before I could even begin to work on my entry, Frank used the same figure I had found. My sister suggested I just sit this one out, but then I thought, “This is not a contest. I can look at this as an exercise in learning how to remove one figure, replace it with another and match the background.” If I am successful at this, then I have accomplished something. The point is to learn how to do it, not to “wow” anyone.


Ultimately, I came up with the following (which includes the helpful feedback my sister and brother-in-law gave me during the process):


Caplin posted this critique:

I like srawland’s collection of assorted odd bods, who populate the corridor rather well – nicely achieved. I especially applaud your sentiment:

“This is not a contest… If I am successful at this, then I have accomplished something. The point is to learn how to do it, not to “wow” anyone.”

Absolutely. The spirit of the Friday Challenge in a nutshell.

When I made the “not a contest” comments, I’d intended to them solely to help another forum member.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that my remarks struck such a cord with Caplin that he quoted my posting to emphasize the point.

Next: Shiny Surfaces – Part 1

Friday Challenges – A Lighthouse & A Creative Female Builder

Thank you for being patient through the long, and important, chapter “Heads and Bodies” in How to Cheat in Photoshop, 6th ed. by Steve Caplin. Now for what you’ve all been waiting for – more Friday Challenges!! So, let’s get to it…

Oslo Lighthouse
For Challenge 508 Caplin posted the following image and instructions:


I spent three days in Oslo, Norway, this week…on a stroll around the harbour…I chanced upon this rather splendid miniature lighthouse, perched on the quayside next to the boats. Any chance of moving it to a location where it might be of some practical use? And can you get it to work?

Most people submitted lighthouses on a rocky coast.  However, having spent 5 years living in New England, where nautical motifs are very popular in residences, I had a different idea. Here is my submission…OsloLighthouse

…and Caplin’s critique

I like the idea of srawland‘s image, using the lighthouse as a domestic light. It’s surrounded by other nautically-themed interior design elements, making it blend in cleverly. The shadows of the table and chairs work really well, particularly the outstanding shadow of the glass table top. But should it be casting a shadow of itself on the wall behind? Surely not! And the shadow of the left chair does need to be pointing towards the light source.

I still get a thrill  when I read Caplin calling the shadow for the glass table top “outstanding.”   I used the grey brush technique I discussed way back in the “fruit fly” picture for Natural Selection.  On a cultural note, native New Englanders call their living rooms “parlors.” So, I wasn’t lapsing into British English with the word, but I did with the spelling.  I have noticed that spending time on the How to Cheat in Photoshop forum definitely has made my language usage more interesting.

Creative Female Builder
For his 510th Friday Challenge, Caplin posted:


I recently spotted this builder’s van, owned by KimCan – a self-proclaimed “creative female builder.” I realise I might be opening the forum to a gender war here, but can anyone suggest what such a builder might look like? And what might she build?

There were several very funny construction-themed entries for this Challenge. I ran my original idea past my sister, she felt it sounded sexist. So, I took a different tack.  On the KimCan website I  found an actual image of the builder. As an avid reader of The Atlantic, I used it as inspiration and created a magazine called The Pacific from what started out as a grey rectangle:  CreativeFemaleBuilderMagazineIn case it’s difficult to read on your screen, here is what the intro (or standfirst, as they call it in the UK), says:

When unemployed middle-aged administrative assistant Kim Carson decided to follow her passion in 2009, little did the mother of four cats know that blogging about her new remodeling business would inspire women worldwide to leave their dead-end jobs and follow their dreams.

And, of course, here is Caplin’s critique:

I like the way srawland has built her montage into a magazine spread, compete with standfirst and headline. What is the builder holding, though? I can’t think of any tool you’d hold like that other than a sledgehammer! Oh, and small point: on the headline, don’t capitalise every word, only the first one.

Caplin’s comment about the headline perhaps belies a difference between British and American magazine headlines. Or maybe it’s that Caplin has spent so much time working for newspapers that he just doesn’t get around to reading magazines. In any case, as every Atlantic reader knows,  my headline capitalization is definitely correct.

Next: Friday Challenge – Distortion Mirror