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Photoshop Advice Megathread

Darth Brooks

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Before we start off on teaching about using Photoshop you need to learn something about design. These principles will guide you when technology fails you. Learning Photoshop without knowing these is like taking the wheel of a Ferrari without knowing how to drive.

Art and design is about communication.

These principles of design are universal across all forms of communication. Art, music, speech, you will find elements of these throughout all of them. We're going to use three very different pieces of art to illustrate how these work. It's also going to require you to do some googling.

The pictures are by Norman Rockwell, Rembrandt van Rijn (looking very cheeky) and Homer Winslow.

Elements of Art


Line is the divsion between spaces. How areas are divided can greatly effect how someone feels. The line can be angry or calm, Rembrandt's line has a lot of action. It's not very static and that's good because he's catching (himself) being very alive.


The general shape of an image. If you squint, you should see a strong outline between the dark and light shapes of the work.

If the shape of an image is strong, you'll be able to make sense of it even when it is far away or small.


Has to do with the overwhelming hue of an image. The Rockwell is almost completely brown except for the father. Winslow's painting is evenly divided between blues and browns.


The overall light and dark of an image. It's what gives Shape from above. Some paintings have very harshly black and white, others are more of a gray, with little difference between the light and dark part of the image.


This has to do with the tactile feel of the image. Patrick Nagel's paintings have a very smooth, crisp texture to them. The Rockwell painting uses a number of textures, from the smooth suitcase to the silky fur of the Collie to the rough feel of the car.


Space refers to the area in which art is organized. Does it feel as though it has depth? The Rockwell image takes place within a small, intimate area but the Homer Winslow is very open. Another artist who makes very good use of space is Thomas Moran.

Principles of art


Repeating design elements, exact or varied, which establishes a visual beat. It's a way of reinforcing the Center of Interest. It can be repeating shapes, textures or colors or whatever. It doesn't have to be exact which brings us to


Rhythm is using that repetition but bring in variation. For example, in the Homer Winslow painting there are three painters but they are all different. The red in the Kid's tie (in the Rockwell) is repeated in the cloth, the lantern, in his shoes and in the banner on his suitcase. Thematically the use of a repeat color (or other element) can give separate elements a connection that tells a story.


Proportion is the size relationship of parts to a whole and to one another. How much of your design is used for an element? If you have a ton of area devoted to something trivial, it's going to make for a weaker design, but open space with a purpose can be powerful.


Balance is the impression of equilibrium in a pictorial or sculptural composition. Balance is often referred to as symmetrical, asymmetrical, or radial.



Pathways determine how and where your eyes go. You want to keep directing people back to the center of the piece but you also want to show them the whole thing. In the Rockwell painting, he's set a path for your eyes to follow. It keeps the viewer from trying to see everything at once and gives them reason to keep looking at it. In the Homer Winslow painting the shape and color of the clouds guide the viewer from one side of the painting to the other, providing a visual "highway" for the eyes to travel.

Center of interest

The place in an artwork where your eye first lands and where it goes back to. It's usually the area of strongest contrast and detail.

Note: I'm going to fill these as time goes on.

Next is some general Photoshop tips and then we're going to have fun with this fellow below.


If anyone else wants to contribute go ahead, in fact I'm hoping that more people join in.

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Now a bit about Darken, Multiply and their do goody goody twins Lighten and Screen.

These are blend modes. They decide how an upper layer blends into a lower one. Hue is decided like so 100%=pure white 0%= pure black.

Darken used the darkest pixel value. If a lower pixel is darker than the upper one, it keeps the value the same. If your top layer is 50% and bottom 25%, it stays at the 25%.

Multiply takes both layers into account regardless of which is darker. If your top layer is 50% and bottom 25%, it becomes 13% (really 12.5%).


Lighten works in reverse of darken. It takes the highest pixel value. If your top layer is 50% and bottom 25%, it keeps the 50%.

Screen Works the reverse of Multiply. If your top layer is 50% and bottom 25%, it becomes 63% (really 62.5%).

What this means is that you will get much more realistic color if you use Multiply and Screen than Darken and Lighten. M&S are much more universal.


If you look at the middle image, some of the shadows on the original image have a darker hue value than the red that is being applied so you have this unrealistic gray in the shadows. With Multiply the red is applied evenly and the shadows that were darker than the surrounding areas still have the same contrast.

Doing the same with a bit of grass from our starter image.


The grass on the right isn't perfect but it's a great deal better than the mess on the left. It needs work, in part because there's color in the shadows that is missing. But for that we'll need to use masks. And that's next.

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Now on to using masks.

Masks are a way of cutting a area of an image without destroying it. Masking a layer is an incredibly flexible way of handling a section of an image. To show you this in action we're going to work with a dandelion. The point of this demo is to show how you can make very fine selections


Wikipedia is providing the dandelion. First, look at the channels tab. We're looking for the one with the most contrast between what we want to get rid of and what we want to keep.


The blue channel is the best for this little demo. The channel you'll choose will vary image by image. Next, increase the contrast as gently as you can. You want the stuff you're going to keep to be white and the stuff you're getting rid of black. Whether you work in black first and then invert the image is up to you. Sometimes that works out best.

In progress.

This is what you want to end up with.

Next, go to Select>Load Selection> whatever you named that channel as, then hit the Add Vector Mask button.
This is the result. The Dandelion is separated with all the little detail preserved.


Because this is a Sports Logo board, here's the Dandelion on a football field.


I did have to do a little adjusting. The exterior edges still kept some of the greens, so I made a duplicate layer. The first layer is cut in a little. Loading the selection again, I feathered the edge, then deleted the selection. This cut in the edge. The layer below was set to Screen. That gave the image that very light edge that Dandelions have.

So how does this apply to football?

We'll take another look at our football player.


I cleaned up the image a little bit, removing the players in the back and cropping it down to where it's focused on the player. The original is washed out so I increased the contrast. First thing up is the grass. I wanted to work on the light and dark parts of the grass separately. The black and white is a division between colors that were lighter or darker and they probably weren't the same colors.

I used the method above to made a mask for the darker colors and below it I did the greens and such. Without the original image it looked like this.


(note that there's a layer for the white lines as well)

Put together it looks like this.


You'll also note that the layers for the grass are in their own folder, which has a layer mask of it's own to keep the grass off the player, which has to be a first.

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One of the very best tutorials I've seen on the forum is for painting logos on grass.

good idea cuz.

here is the long way round for those interested.

this is the sort of thing you should end up with.

heres the step by step (images below):

1. get an image of some grass. i did a quick google search and found this:

2. paste your logo onto the grass, you will need to give it the correct perspective using the free
transform tool.

3. use the 'soft light' transfer mode to give the logo a translucent appearance.

4. i doubled the layer to make the image bolder.

5. i layed another layer of the logo on top of the two 'soft light' layers using the 'hue' mode. this
corrects your colours and makes them more like the original logo.

6. next hit the 'channel' tab and copy one of the channels from your grass layer.
i chose blue as it has a high degree of contrast. create a new photoshop file, paste this greyscale
layer in and call it something like diplacement_map.psd.

7. next select one of your 'soft light' layers and hit 'effects, distort, displacement'. you will then be
prompted to select a displacement map file. choose the grayscale psd you just created. repeat this
process with the hue layer and apply a slight gaussian blur to the remaining 'soft light layer'.
you should get a logo that looks roughened up as in the picture below.

8. you may need to then fiddle about with the transparencies of each layer to get the look, softness
and colours you desire.

9. finally you can add a few effects to bed the logo into the image a little more. here i have used a
small vignette and some curve and saturation adjustment layers.
to make a vignette like below create a radial gradient layer with middle grey in the centre turning
to a slightly darker green at the edge. then make this layer an 'overlay' transfer.

10. see the details in the layers for clarification.


9erssteve added

Hey Davidson,

Thanks for your tutorial, found it really easy to use and was impressed with the results I achieved. I tried it on a few different logos and found that if the logo you are using has a large amount of white in it the whites looked a little like they were floating, as the shadows in there weren't as strong as the shadows and contrasts in the other colours.

So tried a few things and think I might have found a solution. If you copy in the grayscale grass file you used to make the displacement map as a new layer at the top of the stack and set it to colour burn then reduce it's opacity to 20 - 25% it helps bed in the shadows and texture and helps prevent the floating whites. The comparison below shows the same logo with and without this extra layer.


C&C's please and if anyone can think of another or better way of doing this I'm all ears, displacement maps and adjustment layers are new territory for me so keen to learn all I can. Thanks.


And later,

to do the color range:

turn off all your logo layers so that only the grass is showing
select channels
turn off all channels except green
make sure black is the selected color
select>color range>(samled colors - fuzziness 200)
this will select all the dark areas
turn all your channels back on so it is full color again
duplicate the grass layer
now there will be a layer that only contains the darker green
put this layer above your logo layers

basically this makes it look like the real dark black/green areas are not painted...as these area in real life would be towards the soil and not have paint on them

hope this helps

The thread is here: http://boards.sportslogos.net/topic/68101-logos-painted-on-grass/

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Next step on the player is making the uniform colors editable. You need an upper and lower light & shadow level. In English, one layer that looks like what the jersey would look like if it was white, one layer that looks like what the jersey would look like if it was black. You set the darker layer to Screen. This means that the reflections and highlights will show up no matter how dark the jersey gets. The lighter layer is set to multiply. This means that no matter how light the jersey gets, it still has the shadows and definition it would have if it was pure white.

The two layers work together so that you have a natural balance of lights and dark no matter what your jersey color. It was a bit difficult with this one because the image is so crude. This is what I came up with.


This is what it looks like in practice.

I had a few problems with the shine on the shoes. They could have been a separate layer, one that isn't affected by hue changes.

The psd is here if you want to play with it: http://darth-brooks.deviantart.com/art/A-template-using-a-very-old-college-player-442861902

If you want a set of photos to practice with I suggest you look here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/65516705@N00/sets/72157641816748303/ It's a set of photos of the new Buccaneer uniforms and the photos are huge. In case I didn't say this, it really helps to work larger than what you want your final image to be. (It hides a lot of errors)

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Short answer? Use your imagination. Long answer, the method will vary. If someone is using renders, like Davidson's Helmets, then it's a matter of making separate passes. On this image I played with levels. I put a white (or black) layer below the one I was adjusting.

The screen layer is the one that will "take control" when you have a dark color. I took a copy of the original image and masked off the area I wanted to play with, then set it to screen. I put a black layer underneath. On my screen layer I went Image>Adjustments>Layers and slide the er, sliders until it looked like an approximation of what a black uniform would look like. I did the same thing on the multiply layer (only using a white layer below and the Multiply blending mode).

There are other methods to replacing colors and someone may have a much better way of doing it.

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Could you post up the logo you want to adjust? There's probably eight different ways to change colors around.

I am a bit confused on how to get the light and dark layers. also, are you gonna show how to make a photorealistic template?

I posted a link to the new Bucss uni, http://www.flickr.com/photos/65516705@N00/sets/72157641816748303/'>http://www.flickr.com/photos/65516705@N00/sets/72157641816748303/ Pick one and we'll try and turn it into a template.

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Could you post up the logo you want to adjust? There's probably eight different ways to change colors around.

I am a bit confused on how to get the light and dark layers. also, are you gonna show how to make a photorealistic template?

I posted a link to the new Bucss uni, http://www.flickr.com/photos/65516705@N00/sets/72157641816748303/ Pick one and we'll try and turn it into a template.

how about this one?


I could erase all the numbers and team specific stuff if you want.

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If you're going to do something with it make sure to go where you can view all sizes - the original (and one you want to work with) is 7200 x 9600.

I might work with this one myself http://www.flickr.com/photos/65516705@N00/12911844704/in/set-72157641816748303 With Doug Martins face visible it brings in personality to the image. The helmet is still visible, but in an unusual position for templates. It's straight on, as is the jersey, which will made replacing decals, numbers, etc easier.

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Thank you for doing this. When it comes time to make a template, I will probably ask lots of stupid questions, so sorry in advance. Anyway, once I learn how to do it, I will make way too many templates for everything. Also if you want to edit a player (make him wear another teams uni), would you just make a template out of him and then create that teams uniform?

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