25 October 2009

A Photoshop Tutorial? Me?

Tracy P paid me the highest compliment in the comments for yesterday's post.

She said, "Do you have a know of a good tutorial on how to reduce the opacity of the background of the original photo? (Or, you could write one in your spare time. ;-) )"

Firstly she thought I'd actually notice she started with "Do you have a know of a ..." and commented straight after to explain.

I hadn't noticed. I just skimmed that bit, and understood what she meant.

Secondly she thinks I know how to edit photos, most probably in Photoshop. This is high praise of my barely existent skills but I have to tell you: I am so hopeless at Photoshop I can hardly find the end of my nose in it, let alone use it cleverly. Thankyou Tracy, for your confidence in my skills. I am afraid they are slightly misplaced.

Until recently, all I could do in it was write words on photos. Hence:

And see? Even then I used Picasa, not Photoshop. I am so slow and hopeless at Photoshop that when I go to use it, I DON'T EVEN USE IT!

So there's my first Photoshop tip: Use Picasa. For putting text in photos, for saturating colours, for doing B&W, sepia, soft focus, removing blemishes, and cropping.

My second Photoshop tip is to check out the tutorials on Pioneer Woman. She is my guru. My photography guru, my cooking guru, and also my blogging guru, hence my crisis of confidence three posts ago.

It was from her recent posts on adding texture that I got my great idea to put lawn on Anna and make a pretty picture. The specific tutorial that helped me was right here, and this is the first time I've ever been clever with Photoshop, i.e., doing something other than putting text on Photos or making gag t-shirts:

But Tracy asked me about something a little different, and I have no idea how to answer it.

Sadly, I can't use more than 2% of the functions in Photoshop. Maybe less. I am unable to un-select selected sections, I am unable to find pictures I've opened because I haven't clicked the function that makes them all appear in their little windows, and I can never find functions I assume must exist. I can't even re-colour a bit I have selected. Really. I am hopeless.

Sometimes I can teach myself how to use software. With the help of video tutorials by an extremely eager man named Chad, I taught myself Adobe Premiere and edited some videos. With the help of nothing-much-at-all, I taught myself a program called "Ultra Fractal 4" which helped me make this fractal for the cover of a maths syllabus book for my father:
I did that.

You'd think I'd be able to navigate a leetle bit around Photoshop, wouldn't you? But no.

However, I am able to open a few pictures in Photoshop and stick one on top of the other (lawn on top of Anna), change the setting in "Layers" to "soft light" and fiddle with the opacity, just like it says in the Pioneer Woman tutorial. Tutorials are where it's AT!

Unfortunately, you can't write a tutorial for what you can't actually do yourself, as I found out below. Here is my tutorial for decreasing the opacity of a background.

Step 1: Open the picture in Photoshop. I can do that.

Step 2: Using the Magic Wand tool, select the background. See, this is where I lose the plot (in Step 2!) because backgrounds can't just "be selected using the Magic Wand tool." In most cases, backgrounds are so varied that the Magic Wand tool can't select them while leaving the foreground alone. This proves that I don't know how to select anything if I can't use the Magic Wand tool. If I had a real Magic Wand, I'd just wave it and say, "Alla-Kazam, Alla-Kazee, Decrease the Background Opacity!" And it would go *pouf*, and you'd wonder how it was done.
Step 3: At this point I realise that with the background inexpertly selected, the Opacity slider in the Layers Palette (lower right) is grey. Not black. It can't be modified. So at this point, I realise that I will be absolutely no help to Tracy.

Instead, I hit "Delete" to delete the background. Well, as much of the background as I've been able to select. See - this is completely wrong, and not at all what Tracy wanted. She wanted the background present, just decreased in opacity.

I have no idea why the background is now blue, by the way. It's got something to do with one of those two little boxes in the left bar being blue.

How it got blue, I don't know.

How I change it, I don't know.

Why I am writing a tutorial on Photoshop is anybody's guess.
Above is what we have now - a de-stalked pink flower floating in a sea of solid blue with a few odd patches here and there. I wish I could tell you that this is exactly what I wanted.

Step 4: I wanted to show-off to you that I can select the flower, and not the blue. So I went to "Select" - "Inverse." And now I've got the flower. And the odd patches floating in the blue. What are we going to do with them? MOVE THEM! Why? BECAUSE WE CAN! And also because we can't think of anything else to do.
Step 5: Move 'em up there. Because there's a little bit of space up there.

Step 6: If there's one transform I know how to do, it's applying a Gaussian Blur. I like this transform, because it makes everything look like My World Without Contact Lenses. I have chosen a Gaussian Blur of 20 pixels. You may choose more or less blur, according to your own particular visual handicap.
And that's how it looks. My life without lenses - an eternal Monet.
Step 7: Back to work. ("Work!" Ha!) Open a new picture, to show the world that we know how. I have chosen to open Nat's plasticine B.O.B.s.
Step 8: Apply Gaussian Blur to them too. So they match the rose.
Step 9: Use the Rectangular Marquee tool to select the rose and some of the blue around it. Use the Magic Eraser tool to attempt to delete all the blue, but find that it only deletes the blue inside the rectangle described by the Marquee Tool. Once again question one's own credentials for writing a Photoshop Tutorial.
Step 10: Click and drag the Gaussed-up rose onto the picture of the B.O.B.s.

Step 11: Lather, rinse, repeat. Drag it three more times so you have a total of four blurry pink patches on top of the B.O.B.s. Play with the size and opacity of each rose, move them around, and wonder how people EVER get good at Photoshop.

Above: The Finished Product. And that's what we set out to achieve, wasn't it? Wasn't it?

If there's anything to be learned from this Tutorial, it's that I can get a screen grab. Get the screen you want, hit "Print Screen" and this will save it in memory, open MS Paint and press Paste (or the keyboard shortcut, Ctrl-V). Then "Save As."

And this goes to prove what my Crazy Sister has always said - Paint beats Photoshop hands down.

Because I can actually use it.


CGDK said...

Well I learned something - I never knew how to 'screen grab' before!

But I can tell you the background went blue because that what colour you have in the bottom (background) colour box (the top one you have is black (brushes) on the left side bar.

Givinya De Elba said...

Aah, I thought it was that little box. It seemed the same colour as the sea of blue.

Tracy P. said...

Oh my gosh, I am laughing with tears running down my face. You and I are exactly on the same page with photoshop then. I totally want a magic wand like yours. So I'll click on your PW tutorial, but I assure you, I will still like you better.

Surely there is a photoshop for idiots website somewhere that could teach us one very obvious function per day. If not we should start one. We would be famous. Well, if we actually learned how to use it anyway.

Hippomanic Jen said...

Is it a worry that when I was all distressed by the out-of-focussedness of your pictures that I automatically made a grab for my glasses and IT ACTUALLY MADE IT BETTER?!?

Now that I'm finished with the dentist, maybe I do need to go see about my eyes.

Swift Jan said...

Well you can certainly use photoshop better than me!! LOL I open PS look at the screen for a few mins then decide it's all a bit too hard!! LOL

Crazy Sister said...

My favourite phrase here:
"An extremely eager man named Chad"
My next favourite:
"Alla-Kazam, Alla-Kazee, Decrease the Background Opacity!"
And then this:
"A de-stalked pink flower - I wish I could tell you this is what I wanted"

Love it!