The Ugly Duckling
Some people consider black and white photography to be a mystery, an art
only understood by people like Ansel Adams. True, professional
photographers can do amazing things with a 35 mm camera and a dark
room, but too few people realize that though the film might be more expensive,
black and white pictures can add drama and variety to your albums.
Color can be a beautiful thing, but sometimes going down to the bare
essentials makes you appreciate color that much more.
So what if you already have
taken the pictures? Photoshop is your darkroom. Not only can black and
white add variety to your collection, but it can also repair flaws. Like
last month, we’ll be going around a digital camera flaw. This one was the
product of going through the machines at the airport.
Notice the red lines running through the picture, particularly at the
top. Whether you have a red-eye problem, or are just unsatisfied with the
way the color works in your picture, give black and white conversion a
try, just to stir things up.
Before we get too far into how
to convert a picture to black and white, there are a few basics you
should know. Image size and resolution are crucial information for you
to know before you begin your work. Size depends on the settings on your
camera and Photoshop. You will always want to scope things out first
before putting in too much time with your editing—it will save you complications
later. I have often heard of design students who work with an image
for hours and then end up having a progressively more difficult time
opening the image file. If you don’t know the file size, you won’t know what
your manipulations will do to the file size. My friend’s Olympus digital
camera was downloading images at 20 x 25 inches—huge files that could barely
be burned on CD.
The above screen shot on the
left is available when you click Image. On the right is the dialog box
that pops up when you click Image Size. Six and 2/3 by eight and 4/5 is
a little unconventional, so you may want to go with 4 x 6 or 5 x 3 unless
you are working on a special project. When you do change the numbers, be
aware of the chain link on the right. This is telling you that your change
will be proportional. If you want to stretch the picture, feel free to
uncheck the “Constrain Proportions” box at the bottom.
You can change the resolution
here, but it is much more advisable to change the settings on your camera
or scanner. Photoshop just works with the pixels, you’ll surrender accuracy
and clarity by changing the data in the Image Size menu. You can change
the unit of measurement on the right.
Now for the fun: once you have
opened the picture in question, click on Image > Mode > Grayscale.
Photoshop likes to verify your
choices every so often to make sure you really want to take a big
step like discard all the color information. These boxes are usually there
for a reason; you may want to save the file as two different versions to
Once you click OK, you will
have a black and white photograph with hundreds of shades of gray. In fact,
the picture may be a little washed out. Here’s where things can get dramatic.
To give the picture depth without surrendering the subtle gray tones, go
into Image > Adjustments > Levels.
You can adjust the levels in
a color photograph, and the effect is similar.
You can enter in specific numbers,
load a previous curve, or experiment with the triangles and the bases of
the graph. If you move the farthest left and right triangles, you will
be adjusting the amount of dark and bright areas in the photograph. By
keeping the Preview button checked on the bottom right hand of the box,
you can watch your picture build contrast. If you want to compare with
the original, just uncheck the box. You can also save your curve, if you
discover it to be effective.
Below you’ll see that the trouble
lines that ruined a picture completely are gone now, and this picture is
a lot more appealing than the vague, commonplace picture above.
way to add drama is to adjust the brightness/contrast, available through
clicking Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast.
The reason why we went with
Levels on the first picture is because you can often lose those subtle
shades of gray that give a picture depth if you get too carried away. Too
much contrast and the picture begins to look like an inkblot test.
Ogres) have Layers
Mastering the pen tool takes going over a time or two. You can never have
too much practice. Last
month, we got to the stage where we had completed a tracing of the dog’s
head. Beginners should try to adhere to the original picture as closely as
possible, zooming in for greater accuracy.
Next we’re going to give his face a few more characteristics and explore the
amazing and complex world of layers. We touched upon layers a bit in
last month’s article, but we’ll be jumping in with both feet this month.
Short review of last month:
- To work in a layer, make sure that layer is highlighted before clicking
on the appropriate tool.
- Each layer has a corresponding color for the pen paths and “guides” so
you know which layer you’re working in.
- You can add a fill or stroke to the area you are drawing, in whatever
color you so choose.
- The layers are arranged in descending order. The top layer is going to
be the most visible.
So far, we should have two layers: one is the original picture, labeled “Layer
1” and the second is the silhouette of the puppy’s face. Before we continue,
lock both layers (by clicking on the second box from the left) and hide them
by clicking on the eye in the first box on the left.
You can name a layer anything by double clicking on the layer name. I named
my next layer Puppyeyesandears. It doesn’t matter, just as long as you know
the contents of each layer, because in the midst of hiding and locking, you
can lose track mighty fast.
The more you adhere to the photograph, the less the image looks like a cartoon.
The key to layers is maintaining organization. You can use your own naming
conventions, have 15 layers or two. Regardless, the more comfortable you
are with layers, the more freedom you have to experiment.
Fido, however, needs some distinguishing characteristics. Above, you’ll
see the same process we used to outline the dog’s silhouette—use the pen
tool to “draw” around color areas. Here it gets a little tricky. You will
want to start with the largest areas first, draw them out and then hide them.
If you work from the smallest area first, let’s say the whites of his eyes—because
you want to be able to see what you’re doing as you go, instead of having
to hide the filled in area—you will find your layers jumbled up. Whenever
you put in a shape, that shape takes precedence over all previous shapes
in the layer. If you make a mistake, you can change the order by going through
a different route: Object > Arrange. The difference between Bring to Front
and Bring Forward is subtle—Bring Forward only brings the shape forward one
place in the arrangement of shapes. Let’s say I have the order in the picture
above as pupils, black fur around the eyes, eye whites, irises, and eye lids.
You wouldn’t be able to see the eye whites, irises, or eye lids because they
would be obscured by the shape of the black fur around the eyes.
To fix this problem, you would select the shape within the layer and click
Send to Back. Note: if this shape is in another layer, you don’t have to
worry about arrangement, you can just click and drag the layer into the lineup
wherever you need it.
Take each shape one at a time and the illustration will build up slowly.
You can manipulate the color to your liking.
By hiding all the layers, you can see your progress: a detailed puppy face,
complete with different fur colors, wet, black nose, and floppy ears. Next
week we’ll add background and begin text manipulation. Until then, maybe
try out some black and white film (or change the settings on your digital—it’s
in that pesky manual somewhere…) and a few extra pictures for practice next