Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Finally Figured Out Refine Edge

I have to admit that Adobe Photoshop CS5’s Refine Edge (or Refine Mask) has been vexing me. On straight line images, like June 30th’s panorama of the Inner Harbor in Baltimore Maryland, it worked like a charm. On wispy or feathery edges I was falling down fairly miserably. I was trying the Smart Radius Brush and setting the Radius at about one pixel. I just wasn’t having any luck. I took a look at a tutorial by Dave Cross over on the NAPP member’s site and finally show the error of my ways. Dave was much more generous with the radius value. His examples ranged from 5.5 to about 7.5. Aha! Today’s image didn’t have much of an interesting sky, so I thought it would make a good candidate for a test. I took the Quick Selection Tool (W) and swept across the sky. It did its usual good job of getting the desired object (the sky) pretty well isolated, but it didn’t give the fine detail of the trees. One of the biggest tests would be the bare branch sticking out of the top of the pine on the right border. It’s just a couple of sticks rising out of the top of the tree, just the type of thing I’d give up hope on in the past. I figured, if Dave Cross uses 7.5 for a Radius, so will I. I’ve got to say, I think it worked pretty darn good. There are a couple other tricks that were applied to today’s image. To find out what tricks were employed, hit the “read more”.
I knew I’d be putting in a sky and the sky in the original was grey rather than a blown out white. So, a simple Darker Color Blending Mode replacement was going to work. Also, because of the haze in the sky the tree line to the left of the building was almost as blah as the sky. In order to create some separation between the sky and the tree line I took the Burn Tool (O) and breathed a little life into the trees. The Opacity setting of the Burn Tool was set reasonably low (27%) to give more control. Painting the same area several times resulted in the desired depth. There’s nothing magic about the 27%, it’s just a low number. It could have been 13% and I would have had to over paint several more times.

The Burn Tool (O) was also used on the fence to make it a little more visible. In the original it faded into the grass. By going over the poles and fence pieces with CS5’s Protect Tones check box ticked the browns in the fence were deepened. One more area where the Burn Tool was used is on the trunk to the tree.

Another trick was an oldie but goodie. Saturating the individual colors (Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue, and Magenta) using a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer for each color had to be doubled up in the case of Yellow and Green. The tree on the right needed a different set of adjustments than the overall scene.

Rather than using CTRL ALT Shift E to make a composite of the steps below, the newer technique of making the Layers into a Smart Object was used. Makes everything adjustable and accessible. Very handy.