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Going on Vacation with Adobe Photoshop and Wacom Intuos 2

Joseph de Leon is the Alamo PC Photoshop instructor. Joseph has worked in the graphics industry for over 5 years and has been teaching for the Alamo Community College District since 2000. He also develops workshops for Alamo PC, Alamo Area Community Information System, City of San Antonio Department of Community Initiatives, and College for Kids (ACCD). Joseph is currently a freelance computer applications instructor, graphics artist and Web page designer. You can view his Website. Photoshop 7 and Photoshop Elements classes will resume January 2004.


Two of the most powerful tools used by computer graphic artists are Adobe Photoshop and the Wacom Intuos 2 graphics tablet. Adobe and Wacom combine to give you amazing control while editing images with both professional and consumer level products. These two tools can come in handy after a family trip where you might gather dozens of images. With the end of summer fast approaching, why don't we have these products take us on a vacation?

We will be working with Adobe Photoshop 7, a Wacom Intuos 2 graphics tablet, an image of a happy couple plus miscellaneous background images to serve as our lover's destinations. The background needs to be removed from the image of the couple. After we combine the couple into a new background, we will blend the two images together. The end result will be a picture perfect postcard suitable to send to your friends and family!

1. Create a Knockout. The most flexible way to remove the background from our romantic duo is to use a Layer Mask. Since Layer Masks use a grayscale representation of a selected area to define hidden and visible regions, we will use the Threshold command to convert a copy of the couple layer into a bitmap (we want the image to be all black (hidden) or white (revealed), no shades of gray; we want to avoid gray areas which represent semitransparency). This will be the start of a Layer Mask. After touching up the white and black areas that define visible and hidden regions of the image, we will load the image as a selection to complete the Layer Mask.

    a. Duplicate the couple layer (Layer>Duplicate Layer...) and label it "Threshold"; click OK.
    b.Apply the Threshold command (Image>Adjustments>Threshold...).
    c. After the Threshold dialogue box appears, drag the slider around until you notice a halo around the foreground image; click OK.
    d. Use the Wacom Intuos 2 (or mouse) to make a selection using the Lasso Tool around the couple, using the threshold halo as a guide.
    e. Once the selection around the couple is complete, choose Edit>Fill... Choose white as Contents and click OK.
    f. Switch to the Brush Tool (tap letter B) and change your Foreground color to black. Paint in all the white areas in the background with the Wacom Intuos 2 (or mouse). What you want is for the foreground to be a white silhouette (revealed) and the background to be black (hidden).
    g. Open the Channels pallet and Ctrl + click on any layer (Red, Green, Blue, or RGB). This will load a marching ants selection in the shape of the white foreground image. The Threshold layer can now be discarded, or hidden.
    h. Switch back to the original layer of the couple. Choose Layer>Add Layer Mask> Reveal Selection. An obvious halo may surround the image, we will take care of this in the next step.

2. Create a Background. Next we will bring in a nice background image reminiscent of a vacation. Pay close attention to lighting, shadows and other details that may conflict with your foreground image.

    a. Drag and drop the landscape image using the Move Tool (tap letter V) into the document of the couple. Label the new layer as "landscape".
    b. Rearrange the Layers so that landscape layer is below the couple layer.
    c. Scale the couple layer down (Ctrl + T for Transform) so that it looks proportionate with the background. Be sure the hold the Shift key as you drag from the corner, to constrain proportions for the couple layer.
    d. Choose the Layer Mask portion of the couple layer and apply a Gaussian Blur, Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. This will take the edge off the halo surrounding the couple, in effect, blending them into the background.
    e. Refine the boundaries of the mask by either contracting (Minimum) or expanding (Maximum) the mask. Choose Filter>Other>Minimum or Maximum. Slide controls how much expansion or contraction will occur. Click OK.

3. Personalize the Postcard. Finally, we will create a simple text message that will add the final touch to the postcard. The text message will be enhanced by using the Styles Pallet to add an attractive effect.

    a. Choose the Text Tool (tap letter T) and click on the document.
    b. Choose an appropriate font, color, size and message.
    c. Choose Window>Styles to open the Styles Pallet.
    d. Browse each of the effects until you find one you like.
    e. Arrange the Text layer by using the Move Tool (tap letter V) and Transform (Ctrl + T) command.
    f. The Warp Text effect can go a long way to add character to your postcard.

Vocabulary
Layer Mask - an editable, grayscale representation of a selected area embedded in a Layer that describes both hidden and visible regions of an image. Black hides, while white displays portions of an image. Shades of gray represent semitransparent areas.

Knockout - graphics term that refers to removing a foreground object from the background, usually by using a mask

Channel - grayscale representation of the color mode any given document uses, one layer for each color i.e. Grayscale = 1 channel, RGB = 3 channels, CMYK = 4 channels, etc. Threshold - The Threshold command converts grayscale or color images to high-contrast, black-and-white images. You can specify a certain level as a threshold. All pixels lighter than the threshold are converted to white; all pixels darker are converted to black. The Threshold command is useful for determining the lightest and darkest areas of an image.

Bitmap - This mode uses one of two color values (black or white) to represent the pixels in an image. Images in Bitmap mode are called bitmapped 1-bit images because they have a bit depth of 1.


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