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Deke’s Techniques

Your weekly quick-fix of Deke, with ideas you may inspire or inform your own projects.

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #17: Layer Effects

Yes, layer effects let you make drop shadows. But they also let you create credible compositions, render simple layers in dimension, and add ambient lighting. I cannot imagine working in Photoshop without them.

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #18: Smart Objects

Smart objects aren't all that smart. And they aren't objects. What they are is envelopes. The kind that hold things and keep them safe. The result: nothing you do can cause the image harm. This is Photoshop at its best.

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #19: Luminance Blending

Deep inside the Layer Style dialog box are two slider bars, This Layer and Underlying Layer, that let you blend pixels by brightness. Despite their dull names, these sliders rank among the most powerful features in Photoshop.

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #21: The Gradient Tool

Every app offers a gradient tool. But Photoshop's is special. Not only can you paint a soft transition from black to white. But you can soften the transition from one image to another. It fades, swipes, and more.

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #22: The Healing Brush

Pits, pock marks, pimples. We all suffer blemishes that we wish we didn't. Or so we would were it not for Photoshop's healing brush. This amazing tool grafts good skin onto bad and heals the seams in between.

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #23: Color Range

If you use the magic wand tool, stop what you're doing and switch to Color Range. This outrageously useful command lets you select an image as easily as the wand. But with more flexibility and much better results.

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #24: Curves

Where luminance is concerned, no feature gives you greater control than Curves. It lets you reign in highlights, open up shadows, and reveal all points in between. Curves takes a bud of an image and makes it blossom.

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #25: Selection Calculations

Press the Shift key to add to a selection. Press Alt (or Option) to subtract and Shift+Alt (Shift+Opt) to find an intersection. Helpfully, these tricks apply to layers, channels, and paths. They're a power user's dream.

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #26: Dodge and Burn

Photoshop offers two tools that paint with luminance: The dodge tool paints in brightness, the burn tool paints in darkness. They're crazy useful, and they've gotten so much better in Photoshop CS4.

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Photoshop Top 40, Feature #28: Hue/Saturation

Hue/Saturation not only spins colors and intensity values, it lets you modify one color independently of all others. And it does so in such a credible way, you would never know it was there. Perfection.