Lighthouse retouch

Started Sep 6, 2007 | Discussions thread
Pam R Veteran Member • Posts: 3,421
Lighthouse workflow...

Hi Kevin,

The sky is actually a blend of 2 sky images. I didn't like either one alone but the blend seemed to work better. I've sent it to your e-mail address.

Here's how I made the mask:

1 - I used the pen tool to trace around the lighthouse, flag pole, and fence. It's very easy as it's basically straight lines. You could also try the polygonal lasso tool if you feel more comfortable with it. Once you have it selected, go to Select> Save selection (you'll do this with each mask-making step and combine them later) and use these settings in the dialog box:

Here's what the lighthouse channel looked like after using the pen tool:

Next is the foreground mask. I choose the blue channel because it had the darkest foreground. To work on the blue channel, drag in down to the "Create new channel" button at the bottom of the channels palette. I wanted to keep as much of the tall grasses/weeds as possible while making the sky area go completely white. So I lassoed everything but the weeds and and foreground, then filled the selection with white. You want to end up with just the black foreground so this step is the first step. Here's what it will look like:

Now you can combine the foreground with the lighthouse. To do this, go to Image> Calculations and use the following settings. Repeat this step once you have the flag selected.

Your mask should now look something like this:

The windows are a light gray so the sky will show through a little. If the masked windows were white, it would look like there were no windows once the image was in place. If the masked windows were black, nothing would show through and it would look unatural. Gray will allow some of the sky to show through. A lighter gray will allow more, a darker gray less. Experiment with shades of gray to get the effect you like.

To do this, make a selection of the windows. If you're using the polygonal lasso, once you have one window selected, hold down the shift key while you select the next one. This will add to the previous selection. With the selection active, go to the channels palette and click on the mask channel to make it active. Click on your foreground color on the toolbar to pull up the color picker and choose a medium gray. Then choose the paint bucket and fill the window selection.

All that's left is to get rid of the gray background around the weeds and darken the rocks to pure black (otherwise the sky will show through them). This is how I do it. Using the lasso tool, select an area of weeds/sky. Hit Ctrl + L to bring up the levels dialog box. Adjust the right and middle slider until the sky has dropped out to pure white but the weeds remain. It's just a small move. Here's a little animation to demonstrate (this setting may not be appropriate for other areas):

Once you have the sky completely white, use levels or curves to darken the rocks and remaining foreground elements. Don't push it too hard or the edges will become ragged and nasty. Get close with levels, then finish with the burn tool, a black brush in overlay mode (easy on the opacity, 50% or less should do) or just a 100% black brush to paint.

This is what the final mask looked like:

And here is how the mask works:

Here's a little trick to set the highlight/shadow points in levels or curves. Open a threshold adjustment layer from the bottom of the layers palette. To set the highlight point, first move the slider all the way to the right. Then slowly move it to the left until you see a small chunk of white appear. While holding the shift key down (your cursor will change to a dropper), click inside the white area. This will lay down color sample point #1. Now move the slider all the way to the left, then slowly move it right until a small chunk of black appears. Hold down the shift key and click to place point #2. This will be your "black point". Point #1 is your "white point". Hit the cancel button on the threshold dialog box. You won't need it any longer.

Here's what you should see when using threshold to find the highlight point. I placed the lighthouse image on top to put the location in context. You will normally see all white/all black:

Finding the shadow point:

Now open a curves or levels adjustment layer. Click on the white point eyedropper (far right). Hit your "Caps Lock" key. This changes your cursor from the standard eyedropper to a precise cursor, making very easy to line up with the sample points on your image. Line up the cursor over sample point #1 and click. You've now set the white point. Change to the black point eyedropper (far left) and click on sample point #2 to set the black point.

Don't forget to reset your cursor (toggle the Caps Lock key)! If you forget, the state of your cursor will remind you ; )

Hope all this makes sense : )

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

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