Photoshop Top 40, Feature #11: Opacity and Blend Modes

Feature #11: Opacity and Blend Modes

Welcome to a block of the most powerful options inside Photoshop: Opacity and Blend Modes. These include the options at the top of the Layers palette, not to mention those associated with the brush tool, the Calculations command, and a whole lot more. What these options do is blend pixels together, entirely parametrically--meaning no harm done--using math. Beautiful, lovely, gorgeous math. Read more » 

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #12: Camera Raw

Feature #12: Camera Raw

A couple of years ago, I petitioned a group of 50 or so photographers to seed me with raw images for some Camera Raw videos I recorded for The project went swimmingly, but I was troubled by the number of photographers (12? 15?) who told me they didn't shoot raw, even though they owned digital SLRs. Why not? Because the few raw images they had captured didn't look as good as the equivalent JPEGs.

Fair enough I guess. But it's rather like saying that your film negatives don't measure up to your Polaroids. The first are waiting to be developed and the second are processed by robots. Initially, you may marvel at the work of the robots--machines are a clever lot!--but in time you'll discover that you can do a better job yourself. Read more » 

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #13: File Info

Feature #13: File Info

This week comes Lucky Feature #13. A feature so great, I forget to use it all the time. Seriously, don't be like me: Every night as you go to bed--right after you finish saying "Good-night, Mary Ellen" and "Good-night, John Boy"--I want you to promise yourself, "I will remember to use File Info." Because if you're sending files out to clients or posting them on the Web, you need to document them. Complete with author and contact and copyright and, best of all, URL. Otherwise, when that image makes its rounds (as it inevitably will), who the hell will know who (you!!) made it? Read more » 

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #14: Gaussian Blur

Feature #14: Gaussian Blur

Hello, friends. I just today set down in the relatively warm embrace of Southern California. (Relative by comparison to Colorado, which has been anywhere from brisk to cheek-freezing cold.) Which means that after a lovely string of trips to such faraway places as Avignon, Amsterdam, and Big Sky, Montana, I have arrived--rested and restored--with the intent to record more videos for my beloved online training provider, Although the nature of those videos is Top Secret, I can assure you: They will be authoritative, comprehensive, and multitudinous.

While you await those flicks (they won't be available for months), I have this one for you. It falls under the heading Photoshop Top 40 and goes by the name Gaussian Blur. Someone new to Photoshop might be tempted to dismiss Gaussian Blur as something that makes stuff blurry. But the stalwart GBlur goes to the heart of what makes Photoshop Photoshop. The term Gaussian might be best described as the thing that makes another thing drift eventually and incrementally into oblivion. Gaussian Blur underlies the Feather command, the Drop Shadow layer effect, and even Unsharp Mask. Simply put, it is the heart of detail-, depth-, and focus-enhancement in Photoshop. Read more » 

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #15: Alpha Channels

Feature #15: Alpha Channels

UPDATE: The good folks at have replaced the bad old corrupted version of this video with a new one that plays properly. Thanks to everyone who let me know that the old one was messed up!

Masking an image is like poking a hole in the background to reveal the foreground. I use this analogy because A) I'm growing a bit weary of the "white reveals, black conceals" line; B) I'm just coming off a ski vacation in Big Sky, Montana, at the end of which I wiped out on a bunch of rocks at the top of the 11,166-foot Lone Peak (see diagram) and poked a purple-looking hole in my knee; and C) masking is exactly like that, except not so purple. Read more » 

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