You talkin' to me? Dragan Project.. original & final

Started Jul 2, 2005 | Discussions thread
Pam R Veteran Member • Posts: 3,421
My workflow...

Here you go, Paul. Thank you for the kind words. If any of this doesn't make sense, just let me know and I'll try to clarify.

There are many, many ways to arrive at this "look". I'm sure there are faster, efficient and/or more elegant possible workflows. But I'm describing the path I took. For me, the tools and methods used are less important than the look of the final image.

It's really nothing very complicated. Just tweaking colors, burning and dodging and adding some texture. It's just labor intensive.

First, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the terms, I'll explain. For tweaking colors, here are some methods I use:

For burning and dodging, you can use several methods:

  • Fill layer

Open a new layer, fill with 50% gray and set blend mode to soft light or overlay. Using a soft black brush at low opacity, paint to darken, or "burn". Use a soft white brush to lighten, or "dodge". Hit the "X" key to quickly change from black to white.

The disadvantage of using this technique is that it lightens or darkens ALL tones under the brush. If, for example, you only want to lighten the midtones, there are burn/dodge techniques that are much more precise.

  • PS burn and dodge tools

Gives you more control over the tones you are affecting. Even so, there is some tonal overlapping. Use at very low opacities for best results. They usually give a cleaner result when used counter-intuitively, i.e., dodge shadows by setting the dodge tool to "highlights" instead of "shadows".

  • Burn and dodge using levels or curves masking

This is the method I prefer. It gives the most control over both the amount of b+d and the tones affected. Open a curves or levels adjustment layer. While keeping an eye on the area you're working on (don't pay attention to what's happening to the overall image), adjust the contrast. Invert the mask (it should be filled with black). Now, using a soft white brush, paint the adjusted area. Experiment with blend modes other than normal for different effects.

Here's my workflow as used on Jim's "Blue eyes" image.

1 - Jim Radcliffe's original shot. This is straight out of the camera, no PP.

2 - Adjusted to lighten overall while retaining highlight detail. I try to keep the image somewhat flat to start. I also try to keep the shadows open. This "adjusted" color layer will be used again in another step.

3 - Did some channel blending. I used the green and blue channels to arrive at this result:

To blend the channels, I placed the blue over the green, set the blend mode to soft light and adjusted the opacity.

Other channels might be appropriate to use. Experiment when working on your own images. Another possibility would be to use "Calculations" to blend the channels.

4 - Copied the "adjusted color" layer and placed it over the channel blended layer, set blend mode to color and adjusted opacity to desaturate the colors slightly.

5 - Tweaked the midtone colors a little using a color balance layer.

6 - Increased the contrast a little to add more depth and drama. I also continued to play with the colors. I opened a couple of new layers, filled them with a rusty brown and a yellowish green, set the blend modes to color, added an inverted layer mask and painted here and there with a very low opacity soft white brush.

7 - Added some texture, did a little burning and dodging and continued to tweak the colors.

To add texture, re-size your texture to fit, then paste it as a new layer on top of the stack. Experiment with blend modes and opacity. I used multiply and soft light on the textures for this image. Add a layer mask and mask out areas where you don't want the texture interfering. Experiment with the brush opacity also. Sometimes a very slight sense of texture works well. Here's a great site for textures. I mostly use the concrete, paint effects, walls and metals:

8 - Cloned out some distractions, burned in the edges a little and tweaked the colors yet again. I also adjusted the bright eyes by adding an empty layer set to soft light and using a soft black brush, burned them in a bit. The final image:

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'art is working on something 'til you like it...then leaving it that way'

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