Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Adding Drama To A Face Using Photoshop Curves

We had dinner with some friends last night (she's an excellent photographer and photoshopper) .  They're moving to Florida at the end of the week and it was our last time to get together.  During the course of dinner the subject of adding drama to a face came up and the fact that I routinely "enhance" a person's face using Scott Kelby's Curves Adjustment Layer "trick".  I've been playing with it since hearing SK explain it not too long ago.  She asked if I would let her in on Scott's secret.  It wound up too hard to explain just verbally, so I said I'd make today's post about it.   The easiest way I could come up to clearly show what was going on was to "cartoon" it.

Figure 1 is the little cartoon I made up in Adobe Photoshop CS6.  I'm a photographer, not a sketch artist, so don't laugh about my crude cartooning ability.  Hey, it's got two eyes, a nose and a mouth (sort of).  Think of it as a model with little to no makeup, flat lighting and a straight on shot.

Figure 2 shows the finished toning.  If you take a look at any of the shots with the Layer Panels showing you'll see that I copied both the shadows Layer and the highlight Layer.  In a real situation you wouldn't duplicate the Adjustment Layers.  I just had to do it so the highlighting and shading would be visible.  If you do it right (on a human) you won't see the changes unless you turn on and off the visibility of the Layer.  So, don't freak out about the copy Layers.  It's just so you can see what happened.

Figure 3 just proves that I did it in PSCS6.

Figures 4 through 7 is where the magic happens.  In Figure 4 we're looking at the Properties Panel for the Curves Adjustment Layer.  You can see that the Curve has been brought up very high in the highlights area.  This will give the overall image a really blown out look.  The Layer Mask is then Inverted (CTRL I [eye]) making it black and getting us back to a normal look to the image.  The "trick" is to use a small (5 or 6 pixel), hard (I was at 96%) brush and draw lines where ever the highlight needs to be emphasized.   In this case I went under the mouth, along the centerline of the nose, the cleft of the chin and above the eyes.  Since this is an Adjustment Layer of the original image you'll see variations based on the lightness of the shot.  I parts of the shot that are bright already the lines will look pretty faint.  In the highlights of darker areas of the image the lines will be pretty pronounced.  Because you're taking the cues from the images itself everything will match up well.

Figure 5 is just the opposite.  The Curve is pulled way down giving deep tones.  The same principle applies.  Anywhere you need to emphasize a shadow, put a line on it. 

Now here's "the secret".  Feather the Mask.  In CS6 you have a Properties Panel for every (I think it's every one of them) Adjustment Layer.  You can control either what you're adjusting and its Mask.  Click on the Mask icon and you have sliders for Density and Feathering.  Keeping an eye on your image, slide the Feather Slider until those lines are blurred enough so they become either shading or highlights.

A few of the recent posts here have used this technique.  You can see it used in the post of the girl blowing bubbles, where it was used to define her chin and her cheekbone.  Others were in the 6/25 post and the 6/27 post putting emphasis on the uniforms