Deke’s Miniaturization Technique Takes over the World: Ireland Edition

Each week, when I write up my thoughts about the Free Deke Technique of the Week on the blog, I like to consider how these often whimsical techniques might actually be used on files other than the ones Deke provides. While trying to think of a project appropriate for the week leading to St. Patricks Day—a day when we here in the states turn the solemn observance of the death of the patron saint of Ireland into an excuse to drink copious amounts of Guiness—I stumbled back over the Photoshop “miniturization” effect that Deke created last year.

And I thought, “If I could apply this to a travel photo from a trip to Ireland, I could make some sort of tenuous connection between that awesome tilt-shift video of Rio de Janeiro that made the viral rounds during Carnivale last month and Johnathan Swift’s story in which Gulliver encounters the Lilliputians (you know, the only part of Gulliver’s Travels that I ever even knew about until I read the book in grad school, because up until then, I’d only seen the cartoon).”

What does this have to do with St. Patrick’s Day? Well, I’m applying the effect to a photo I took in Ireland, of course. And Mardi Gras is another holiday we use as an excuse to drink. And Swift was Irish. All of this should be obvious. Plus check out the mundane before and delightful after of my formerly banal photo of Listowel, County Kerry (a place where, as far as I know, St. Patrick was never alleged to have worked any miracles):

Listowel before and after miniturization

Here’s a step-by-step of how Deke’s technique applied to my particular photo:

So first, a little advice. You’re going to be applying a bunch of filters. Don’t start this technique with an image that’s still in its unprocessed raw format from your trip to Ireland in 27. A flat, medium res will do nicely. And better. And faster.

1. Turn the image into a smart object so you can apply a bunch of filters nondestructively.

Everyone knows that small things are made out of plastic, and this technique involves the application of a bunch of smart filters to make the scene look more toylike. Smart filters require a smart object. So in the Layers panel, right click in the layer next to the image and choose Convert to Smart Object.

Covert to smart object

2. Apply the Reduce Noise filter.

The first phase of plasitization comes from the Reduce Noise filter. Choose Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise. For my image, the settings Deke suggested in the video work just right. (Strength: 1, Preserve Details: %, Reduce Color Noise: %, Sharpen Details: 75%.)

Apply reduce noise

3. Apply the Median filter.

To strengthen the plastic coating effect, choose Filter > Noise > Median. In this my case, Deke’s suggested Radius value of 2 worked great.

Apply Median filter

4. Apply the Smart Sharpen filter.

Plastic is good, but melted plastic gives off fumes. To sharpen back up the edges, choose Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen. I used the settings that Deke suggested. (Amount: 2%, Radius: 1 px, Remove: Gaussian Blur).

Apply smart sharpen

5. Create a mask in the Channels panel.

I needed to create a mask that would allow the close foreground and distant background to blur while leaving my little subjects sharp. Click the page icon at the bottom of the Channels panel to make a spot to build the mask. It will fill with black initially. We’ll fix that next.

6. Apply a gradient to the mask.

I wanted the horizontal line where the truck and cars are parked to be the part of my image that is “in focus.” So with the gradient tool, I created a white area that fades to black above and below. In my case I started drawing about mid-truck and extended up to the top of the stone ruins in the background. Here’s what my particular mask looks like in the Channels panel and in overlay on the full-color image.

Create blur mask

7. Duplicate and rasterize the layer.

The final filter, Lens Blur, isn’t available as a smart filter so I needed to make a duplicate layer that I could apply it to. Pressing Ctrl-J (Command-J) creates said duplicate. Right-clicking in the empty part of the layer and choosing Rasterize Layer makes a layer that includes all the filters applied so far to which Lens Blur can then be added. (By not rasterizing the original layer, I left breadcrumbs back to an earlier stage of the process, just in case.)

8. Apply the Lens Blur.

To apply the final filter, choose Filter > Blur > Lens Blur. I set the Source to the blur mask I just created and moved the blur focal distance to 255 (i.e. the white areas of the mask that reveal my desired focal subject—the trucks.) Click OK, and suddenly, I’m a modern Gulliver looking down on the tiny little cars and trucks. (You all look like little tiny little ants from here.)

Apply lens blur

9. Increase the Vibrance and Saturation.

Finally, to give my toy-like subject a bit of a color boost, I duplicated Deke’s advice and created a Vibrance adjustment layer. (Either start with the black/white icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Vibrance, or click the Vibrance icon in the Adjustments panel.) I bumped both Vibrance and Saturation up to 3. I like the way it makes the truck cab and the tail lights on the cars pop. And voila, my miniaturization is complete. 

Final miniturization effect

I’m admittedly enchanted by this technique, in part because it adds a touch of magic to an otherwise ordinary picture of a city street. And it even works on city scenes that are already magic and not even streets like this canal in Venice.

At this rate, I’ll shrink the whole world down to size. Safe and wondrous travels, dekeIputians!

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Next entry:Deke’s Techniques 62: Making Synthetic Lightning in Photoshop

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