Deke's Techniques 340: Select Focus Area and Pseudo Engraving

Select Focus Area and Pseudo Engraving

In this week's free Deke's Techniques episode, Deke takes a photo of his friend ( director Scott Erickson), isolates the portrait from its out-of-focus background, and applies an engraving effect that results in currency suitable for Scott to use to start his own country. He was thinking of calling it Scottland. 

Now, you may not need to produce your own "Scottish" currency, but you'll find a stash of valuable tips in this week's video that you can use for your own projects. Namely: 

Masking the in-focus part of an image with Photoshop CC's new Select > Focus Area command. (You can see another example of how it works in Deke's Photoshop 2014 Creative Cloud Updates course, right here.) For quick removal of the other elements in the photo, Select Focus Area works fairly well (and like any selection you can improve the results with Refine Mask).  In this example, we're gonna apply an edge-tweaking effect anyway so we don't need perfect results:

Before and after application of the Select Focus Area command


Adding a textural element to your composition. You can see how Deke approaches adding a texture (on top of the effect) and fine-tuning it with a Color Overlay style and Color blend mode. (By the way, you can find lots of textures in the same place Deke got this one, at, where you can download 25 free images by signing up for a free trial subscription here.) 


Learn secret handshakes of the Layer Styles dialog box. During the course of the video, Deke reveals these two mysterious areas of the Layer Style dialog box and what they can do for you. 


Incorporate Deke's Techniques of the Past! Finally, Deke adds this currency-like element to add legitimacy, which you may recall was created from scratch in Illustrator in Deke's Techniques 168


And remember, if you want to go back and watch other Deke's Techniques episodes, you can get a free week's trail by signing up at to gain access to older and exclusive-er episodes.  Read more » 

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Deke's Techniques 336: Drawing a Clenched Hand in Illustrator

Drawing a Clenched Hand in Illustrator

In this week's free Deke's Techniques video, Deke demonstrates how to draw a hand (his own) by tracing a sketch (his own). Although the title refers to a clenched hand, a word that normally evokes a fist, you'll discover next week that what our fists are in fact clenched around is one another. 

But first, it all starts with a single hand. Using a photo of a sketch he drew of his own hand, Deke shows you how to place the template, trace with the pen tool, reposition anchor points as you go, switch to Outline mode for precise alignment of points, and apply variable width to your strokes. You can see the results of the trace on the right below. 

Tracing a sketch in Illustrator

Next week, as promised, we'll put four of these hands together in a classic 1970's style emblem of interwoven hands.

Meanwhile, for members of, Deke's got an exclusive movie this week in which he shows you how he got from the "scanned" (i.e. shot with a camera phone in an activity that passes for scanning these days) sketch on the left to the cleaned up traceable image in the center. If you're not a member of, you can check this exclusive video (along with over 300 other Deke's Techniques, and a mountain of other courses from Deke and the rest of the talented lyndaAuthors) signing up at for a free week's trial.  Read more » 

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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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A Hero In No Time: Time Lapse of Deke's Latest Retro Superhero Project

Deke's latest project turns an ordinary mild-mannered gym rat into a classic, if totally made up, Silver Age comic book superhero. Watch the extraordinary video above---created by the editing heroes at and featuring the song "Massive" by Poppy Brothers---to see this Photoshop and Illustrator-empowered metamorphosis happen in just over three exciting minutes. Yes, it's an epic saga of heroic transformation.

Turn an ordinary photo into a classic comic superhero.

If you're ready for a challenge like this, be sure to check out Deke's new course, Designs dekeConstructed: Retro Superhero, to see how each step in this Jack Kirby-inspired creation came about. You'll see how to use Illustrator blends to create the Blue Barbeque's signature human grill marks. You'll see how Deke incorporated photographic elements (the flames and smoke) in Photoshop to emulate the comic books of his youth. And you'll even see how Deke went about creating a custom font (used for the words "Fire Up," below) specially for this project. 

If you're not a member of and would like to check out this course, you can get a free week's trial at Then you can fire up your design superpowers and set off on your own creative adventure.

But remember: Once you're a superhero, there's no going back. 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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