Preserving Memories, One Frame at a Time

September 15th, 2007

Saving and Loading Selections

For several weeks, we’ve been learning to make the perfect selection. What happens when you finally have the selection you want and need to quit or shut-down the computer? You certainly don’t want to re-do all that work!

Use the Save Selection command to save as an alpha channel visible an your Channels palette. It’s important to realize that you are not saving the marching ants outline. Photoshop saves it as an alpha channel that controls where the image effect takes place.

Open the Save Selection dialog box, name the new channel and click OK. A new channel is added to your Channels palette. Notice you don’t deselect the selection when you save it.

Another option for saving your selection is to go to your Channels palette and click the Save Selection as Channel button.

To load a selection, there are also two options. First, you can choose Select, Load Selection and selecting the name of the desired channel. The second option is to go to the Channels palette. Click and drag the desired channel to the Load Channel as Selection button or Ctrl-click (Cmd-click) on the alpha channel to turn it into a selection.


September 10th, 2007

Selecting Irregular Shapes


We’ve seen how to select geometric shapes, but life is rarely so simple. How do you select the irregular shapes all around us? Let’s begin with this historic sign.

The most straightforward tool for the job is the lasso tool. You simply click and hold the mouse button, and trace the shape all the way around back to the starting point. You must end where you begin or Photoshop will connect the two points with a straight line to close the selection. This is rarely a good option.

I don’t know about you, but tracing the staight sides is difficult for me. I’m not that steady or accurate. Don’t worry, Photoshop can help. Use lasso tool for the curved areas, then press Option (Alt) to access the Polygon lasso for the straight lines. A little practice going from one to the other will soon pay big dividends in your work.

June 1st, 2007

A Fast and Easy Selection Method


I wanted to change the background on this photo and I needed to select only the bird. Since it had a solid color background, I could use this fast and easy trick.


I used the lasso tool to make a very rough selection. Then I switched to the magic wand tool. A click on the right chose the bottom right corner section. Pushing the Shift key while clicking on the left added that section. Shift and click on the top area finished my selection. However, that selected the background, not the bird. Ctrl-Shift-I inversed the selection.

Three clicks and a keyboard shortcut and I was done!


Here’s a screen shot of the final selection.

May 11th, 2007

Using the Marquee Tools to Make Selections

The rectangular and elliptical marquees are good for basic geometric shapes. But how do you turn a rectangle into a square or an oval into a circle?

For this article, I scanned my nephew’s new CD and CD cover.

epiccd.jpg epiccover.jpg

Working on the CD cover, I chose the rectangular marquee. By holding the shift key and drawing a diagonal line beginning in one corner, I got a perfectly square selection.


Oops! CD covers aren’t square! I have two choices. I can deselect and try again, or I can work with what I have. Go to Select, Transform Selection. This adds handles to your square that allow you to adjust the size. When you’re finished, hit enter or return.

The CD itself was turned when scanned. I used the measure tool to rotate it. For the circle, instead of drawing a diagonal, I wanted to begin in the center. Holding the shift key will produce the circle, holding the alt (option) key allows you to begin in the center. I held Shift + Alt (Shift + Option), positioned my mouse in the center of the circle and drew a straight line from the center outwards.

epiccd.jpg epicstraight.jpg epiccdselect.jpg

If you go too far, like I did, try again or use Transform Selection.

May 4th, 2007

5 Primary Types of Selections

Making accurate selections is sometimes a daunting task, yet of vital importance in much of the work done in Photoshop. Before you pick up a selection tool, look closely at your photograph. What are you selecting? Which tool will be best for the job? Understanding types of selections will help you choose correctly.

1. Shape. Smooth edges and clearly defined forms. A sign, building, pear all have definite shapes that are relatively easy to outline with marquee and lasso tools.

2. Tone and Color. Tone includes highlights, mid-tones and shadows. Color, of course is color. Do you want to choose a shadow area like Byron did previously? This is a more involved selection to make.

3. Edges and Fine Detail. Do you want to outline a person but their wispy hair seems impossible? This calls for more advanced techniques.

4. Translucent objects. How do you select a glass object, or a whisp of smoke? The glass may seem a simple shape, but preserving translucency when changing the background can be a real challenge.

5. Opposites. Select what you don’t want, then inverse the selection. This was used in “Vignetting Part 2.” The baby was selected, then the selection inverted so that the changes affected the other areas leaving the baby untouched.

Over the next few weeks, I intend to go into more detail about each of these techniques. Later, we can see what can be done with the selections. Making accurate selections is one of the most important skills you can develop in Photoshop.

April 27th, 2007

Combining Techniques to Make a Website Header

Have you been wondering, “These are nice tricks, but what do I do with them?” Here is one example of combining the skills you have been learning.


I took this unremarkable photograph of an alligator and decided to make it the basis of a website header background. Now, I know headers are more involved than this, but they all begin with an image.

The first trick from our arsenal was the crop ratio. I wanted a header 80px. high and 800px. wide. I set the 10 to 1 ratio as we did with the “Path Not Taken” photograph. (Shown smaller here to fit the blog.)

I then changed it to a duotone. The picture is taking shape, but looks a little dark.


The next trick, of course, was to lighten the photograph. This could be done either by using curves or our trick for underexposed photos. The results using 45% opacity when blending the duplicate layer was almost identical to using the curves adjustment.


Finally, the healing brush was used to clean up debris in the water.

Webmasters will tell you the image still needs to be made scalable to adjust to different viewing widths, but that’s another trick for another day.

April 13th, 2007

Vignetting Part 2

betsyvignetteblurt.jpg betsyblurblackt.jpg betsyblurwhitet.jpg

Do you like the idea of the vignette but want more defined edges?

With Photoshop, there are always many ways to do the same thing. For vignettes with more definite edges, here is another approach.

I began with an elliptical marquee selection around the baby’s face. The elliptical marquee is hidden behind the rectangular marquee tool. For best results, begin in one corner and draw a diagonal across the picture.

Then go to Select, Inverse (Shift-Ctrl-I). This chooses the outer part of the photograph.

In the first example, I used the Gaussian blur filter. Go to Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur. Use the preview and slider to get the effect you want. -In this case, I used a radius of 21px.

In the second, I filled the outer edges with black and blurred again. In the third, I filled it with white before blurring.

Since I didn’t use layers, I was careful to save each version with a separate file name leaving my original intact.

April 5th, 2007


Byron did a neat thing with one of his re-enactment photos that I just had to learn. I think it’s a great technique for photos I want for my scrapbooking. Technically, vignetting means that the corners or outside of the photo are darkened. I also like when the outside fades to white. Here’s how it can be done. I’ll use the same photo I’ve been working on the last two weeks.


This effect takes a few more steps, but can really enhance the proper picture. It begins, like the duotones, with a new layer filled with a solid color. This can be either black or white. (Try both to see which suits the photo better.) Then choose the rectangular marquee. Center the rectangle over your center of interest. In this case, the baby’s face was above the center of the picture, so the marquee was moved up.

Go to the Select menu and choose feather. The higher the number, the more oval the marquee will become. Now you still see only the solid colored layer with your selection. Hit backspace (delete on the Mac) to reveal the photo. Press Control-D to deselect. If the edges appear too dark, play with the opacity setting to get a shade you prefer.

March 30th, 2007

Color Correction Part 3 – Neutral Gray


Last week’s correction wasn’t bad, but it was still too pink. I hadn’t used the middle eyedropper. Neutral gray can be the hardest part of the photo to identify, yet it has the largest affect on color cast. Is there a trick to help find it? Yes! It is a variation on using threshold.

Open your photo and create a new layer. Go to the edit menu and choose fill. From the dialog box, choose 50% Gray. Now change the blend mode to Difference. Create a new adjustment layer and choose Threshold. Drag the slider left until the photo turns white. This time, the first areas to appear will be your midtones. The adjustment layers can now be dragged to the trashcan. Open your curves adjustment layer and use the center eyedropper on the area indicated.

This works most of the time, but some photos just don’t have a neutral color. Then it’s back to guesswork.

March 23rd, 2007

Color Correction Part 2 – Using Threshold

betsy4mos.jpg betsy4moscorrected.jpg

Using Curves for color correction as I described it still took some guesswork. Exactly where is the darkest or lightest area? Do I just keep clicking until I find what works? Well, I’m sure you know, I found another way Photoshop takes away the guesswork. It’s called Threshold. This photo is 25 yrs. old and the color is pretty bad. I know the baby’s dress was pale green and Mom’s blouse a pale pink. Where do I find white?

At the bottom of the Layer palette is a circle half black and half white. This is the icon for “new fill or adjustment layer.” Click the circle and choose Threshold. Your photo will change and a dialog box will come up to look something like this.


Push the slider all the way to the left. Your picture will turn completely white. As you gradually slide to the right, the first area to show up will be your darkest part of the photo. Make a mental note of this area. Now do the reverse. Pushing the slider all the way to the right will turn your photo completely black. The first areas to show up are your lightest. For my photo here, it turned out to be the flash reflection an the top of baby’s shoulder.

Cancel Threshold and open a new curves layer. You can now find your black and white points with total confidence!