Friday Fundamentals: Understanding Selections and Layers in Photoshop

Did you ever start a class feeling like everyone else had been meeting for a couple weeks behind your back? Starting out with Photoshop gave me flashbacks to freshman calculus where the engineering students in the front row constantly jumped out of their seats to correct the flustered grad student T.A. 

If you're just starting with Photoshop (I mean just starting) or if you've managed to eek out projects, but feel like you're getting by with luck and guessing, then this Friday Fundamentals installment is for you. It features a video from Deke's new course at, Introducing Photoshop, called "Understanding selections and layers." And it's chock full of basic Photoshop concepts that a beginner might overlook in their overwhelmed-ness:

In this movie, you'll get a quick background on, well, the Background (which is technically not a layer), actual layers, and how to make a simple selection (the blue ball-face above) and stash it on a layer. These are all critical concepts to understand, especially when you're using Photoshop in the service of graphical design. Try it out. It may answer those questions you missed when we all secretly got together without you during the summer. 

If you'd like to see more of the course, or recommend it to a friend who might benefit, you can get a free week's trial at more » 

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HDR + ACR in Photoshop CC

My guess is that many of you already appreciate the wonders of HDR. But just in case, here's the idea: Armed with a digital camera, you capture multiple exposures of a single scene. (Most commonly, you set your DSLR to rapid-capture three or more "bracketed" shots, which can be accomplished handheld or with the aid of a tripod. Check your manual.) Then you use some form of software to merge the exposures into an astonishing work of highly detailed imagery.

If you live and breathe HDR, the best tool is a program called Photomatix Pro from HDRsoft. It costs $99. Which is only fitting this time of year. You deserve a gift, am I right? Yes, I'm right.

Meanwhile, for you Adobe enthusiasts, there's Photoshop CC. It offers the ability to merge multiple exposures into a whopping 32-bit-per-channel composite and then develop the result in ACR, better known as Camera Raw. Photoshop CC costs considerably more than Photomatix. But, of course, Photoshop has other jobs to do.

Here's an example of HDR in Photoshop CC:

Skyline Arch in Photoshop HDR

That first image is the initial HDR merge of five exposures that I caught of Skyline Arch (high atop Arches National Park, Utah). The second is my development of the 32-bit-per-channel image in Camera Raw. In the third image, we start tripping with Motion Blur set to the Luminosity mode. And fourth, the best use for Radial Blur I've come up with in years, set to 70% opacity.

The overhead is huge. A typical 32-bit 22-megapixel ACR-HDR composite weighs in at close to 1GB. (Seriously wtf?!) But what you can do, you would not believe.

I reveal all in next week's Deke's Techniques. Read more » 

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Deke's Techniques 277: Painting an Eye in Photoshop

Create an eye with iris and pupil in Photohsop

In this week's free Deke's Techniques video, Deke shows you how to create an eye---replete with iris, pupil, and jaunty highlight---from scratch in Photoshop. Using nothing but some custom brushes and some layer styles, you too, can create this striking effect:

Along the way, you'll learn some very useful Photoshop skills, including: 

Aligning two layers while keeping one stationary: the Align commands don't allow you to choose a key object for reference as they do in InDesign or Illustrator, but Deke's got a workaround for you. 

Adjusting brush Angle and Roundness: See how to take an existing brush and alter its attributes. 

Selecting, scaling, and rotating a custom brush: There are a bunch of brushes you already have access to inside Photoshop. See how to load them and adjust them for your project. 

Painting with layer effects: Layer effects like outer and inner glow can quickly help give dimension to a flat object. 

Locking transparency: Lock down your transparent pixels to keep your brush strokes confined to a particular location. 

All this and more. And by more, I mean: Read more » 

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Introducing Introducing Photoshop: Design (No Experience Required)

The repetition in the title above is not an indication that I've started the martini hour early today. Actually, it's an indication that the current state of the dekeBlog doesn't allow for the use of italics in the header. Thus, I can't cleverly and clearly, entitle today's post "Introducing Introducing Photoshop: Design." And yet, that is what I'm prepared to do.

Over at, today marks the release of Deke's new course Introducing Photoshop: Design (which will be followed in the next several weeks by more dekeHandshakes to various denizens of the Adobe Creative Cloud). This particular course is designed to take you from square one---as in, never having used Photoshop before---to practical knowledge of Photoshop's everyday tools for designers. (Gosh, italics sure are useful.)

Introducing Photoshop: Design, No Experience Required

Sure, for many sophisticated dekeOpolitans, this course will be too basic. But we know darn well that there are people out there, we like to call them dekeOlytes of the Future, who are a) full of creative design ideas b) lured to Photoshop, but then c) abruptly scared away by its sheer complexity and the time it must take to acquire a functional knowledge of the program. 

This course is for those who want to get something done, get their hands nice and dirty with pixels, but don't have time for an encyclopedic approach like Deke's One-on-One series. It explains basic Photoshop concepts that beginners with a design project need, like understanding layers and selections or how to use the brush and pen. 

(Of course, if you do want the comprehensive approach, Deke's Photoshop CC One-on-One: Fundamentals is the place to start.) 

So if you are (or if you are acquainted with) someone who could use this kind of quick up-to-speediness, point yourself (or your aforementioned acquaintance) toward Introducing Photoshop: Design. And if you need a free week at to check it out, you can sign up for a trial subscription at more » 

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Deke's Techniques 271: Tracing Hand-Drawn Art with Uniform Strokes in Illustrator

I know you think you've heard the story before: artistically talented Photoshop guru shares love of drawing bizarre creatures with equally artistically inclined son. Yes, in this week's free Deke's Techniques episode, we once again revisit Deke and Sam at the kitchen table, drawing yet another alien come to take over our creative world, play some golf, and metaphorically eat our brains (or at least set up an administrative office there). This time, the McClellands make a pencil drawing which they seek to recreate in Illustrator. 

The trick here is to trace the drawing using the Trace feature in Illustrator in such a way that the lines, born as hand-drawn pencil scribblings in the real world, come out as strong uniform digital strokes. 

Pencil sketch becomes uniformly traced line drawing in Illustrator

In the movie, you'll learn three valuable lessons that apply to life as well as tracing in Illustrator:  Read more » 

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