Deke's Techniques 334: Straightening and "Uncropping" a Photograph

Deke's Techniques 334: Straighten and "Uncrop" a Photograph

In this week's free Deke's Techniques video, Deke takes a problematic but once-in-a-lifetime family vacation photo and "uncrops" in Photoshop: straightening the horizon, filling in the background, and even restoring missing detail. Here's the starting point, a wonderful moment atop the pyramid at Coba, a Mayan ruined city in the Yucután peninsula:

An epic photograph with some fixable problems

If you've ever straightened a photograph in Photoshop, you know that the rules of geometry require that you'll crop away some part of your image. So after straightening the horizon, Deke sets out to restore those areas. In the process, he also makes some room at the bottom of the image to allow for the restoration of his younger child's toes. Along the way, you can see how he uses Content-Aware fill to fill in the gaps, then fine tunes with the Healing Brush to cover his tracks. 

For members of, Deke's got an exclusive movie this week in which he actually restores the cropped off bit of Sam's right foot. (The trick is to steal it from another photograph.) Here's the finished project, suitable for commemorating this epic adventure:

Epic photo "uncropped" to restore missing detail

If you're not a member of, you can get a free week's trial to check out the members-only movie as well of the rest of Deke's Techniques by going to and signing up. Read more » 

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Deke's Techniques 333: Selectively Converting Parts of Your Image to Black & White

Selectively Make Part of Your Image Black & White

In this week's free Deke's Techniques episode, Deke shows you how to convert part of your image to black & white, whilst leaving the remaining part distinctively colored. Like this: 

A selective black & white conversion leaves the cherries redder than ever

The effect is achieved reasonably quickly and efficiently thanks to the fabulous Color Range command, which allows you to make selections based on color (or, naturally, a range of color). During the course of the video, Deke claims that you can use this approach for your non-cherry-based photographs. To test this hypothesis, I applied Deke's method to something as un-cherry-like as I could find---a Brussels sprouts image by Brent Hofacker from According to the photographer, they're organic. 

Brussels sprouts from Brent Hofacker at Fotolia

The verdict? I'm happy to report that the technique works for vegetables as well. One caveat, the masking wasn't quite as quick and easy as it was for Deke's cherries. The sprouts were in a brownish bowl sitting on a beige-ish background. The Brussels sprouts were less exclusively green compared to the cherries' unabashed redness. So, I ended up having to make my Color Range selection a little rougher---avoiding anything too yellow, so as not to include the background, then hand-masking the brownish-yellower bits of the sprouts with the standard Brush tool. Still, a relatively easy effect with satisfying (and nutritious) results:

Everything but the sprouts

If you'd like to try this technique on an image of your own, but you don't have any produce handy, you can get 25 free images by going to and signing up. Remember, life is a bowl of Brussels sprouts! Read more » 

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Deke's Techniques 330: Create a Penrose Triangle of Cubes in Illustrator

Draw a Penrose Triangle in Illustrator

In this week's free Deke's Techniques episode, Deke follows up his mesmerizing möbius strip technique from last week by making yet another impossible figure, a penrose triangle:

A penrose triangle of cubes created in Adobe Illustrator

Deke's approach is to break the figure into these orthogonal cubes, a system which, according to Deke, keeps your brain from exploding while you're trying to figure out which edge goes where. Basically, Illustrator does some of those mind-bending calculations for you. 

Check it out, and if you're a member of, there's an exclusive video this week in which Deke shows you how to add shading to the cubes to create this effect

Shade the penrose triangle for a reverse effect

If you're not a member of and would like to check out out this exclusive movie or any other of the over 300 quick yet sophisticated (sometimes) dekeTips, you can get a free week's trial at more » 

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Deke's Techniques 328: Draw a Möbius Strip in Illustrator

Draw a Möbius Strip in Illustrator

In this week's free Deke's Techniques video tutorial, Deke shows you how to make a double-looped intertwined Möbius strip in Adobe Illustrator. You don't need any special files, this starts as a hexagon, gets rounded, is blended into a double-ribbon, is next rotated and duplicated, and finally the thing gets painted with the Live Paint feature. Only the basic Illustrator skills are required, as I can attest to because I actually managed to do it myself (note the green color to prove that I didn't just copy Deke's version):

Here are some observations I made along the way: 

1. The initial outlines of the ribbon are extracted from a standard hexagon, to which the round corners feature has been applied. You can draw a hexagon, can't you. (Yes, I apparently can.) 

2. The aforementioned outlines are created by setting up copies of the segment and then using the Blend feature in Illustrator. What I discovered here is that Blend doesn't actually blend as I would define the word, but rather, it makes incremental duplicates between designated thing one and designated thing two. I'll give it to you that Blend is a much pithier name for a command though: 

3. Once a one third of the ribbon pattern is outlined, the other two thirds can be created using the Rotate command to make rotated copies at 120 degree increments. 

4. The fun (although mind-twisting) part comes when you use Live Paint to fill in the parts that are actually the ribbon and delete specific strokes to imply interweaving. 

5. For members of, Deke's got an exclusive movie this week in which he shows you how to apply these gradients and twisted edges: 

Not a member of You can get a free week's trial for watching this and over 300 other Deke's Techniques videos by going to and signing up. Read more » 

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Deke's Techniques 326: Masking a Caricature against a New Background

Masking a Caricature against a New Background

In this week's free Deke's Techniques movie, Deke shows you how to quickly mask last week's caricature against a dramatic new background. Appropriately, this quick technique employs the Quick Mask mode in Photoshop, resulting in our bug-eyed creature finding a new home in a background that's as suitably exaggerated as he is:

Before and after masking the character on a new background

The technique employs the aptly named Quick Mask mode. (Well, it's suitably named this time; some masks are more work to create than others.) In this case, the Color Range command does the heavy lifting, and the good ol' Brush tool set to Overlay mode does the fine-tuning. 

But I wonder, does this technique work on characters as well as caricatures? What if one's subject wore most of his whimsy on the inside? What if mystery man's hair was somewhat, er, wispier and, uh, hoarier than our thickly coiffed dark-haired model? Is this technique still viable? 

Mystery Man Mask

Well, if you overlook the lighting inconsistencies, I would say, yes. With a few adaptations, you can easily use this approach to mask this particular character against a background that enhances the color of both his eyes and his favorite sweater: 

Mystery Man revealed against a new background

For members of (and those of you who feel Deke's forehead is a bit shiny in this photo), Deke's got an exclusive movie this week in which he shows you how to dramatically shade and sharpen the caricature now that it's in its new background. If you're not a member of, you can get a free week's trial membership at Where you can check out over 300 other adaptable Deke's Techniques as well.  Read more » 

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