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Cool Effects

Friday, September 8th, 2006 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography

Cool Effects

Everyone loves to upload their photos online. It’s just a cool and fun thing to do and with the advent of so many free photo sharing Web sites, this has become somewhat a part of today’s pop culture. The aim of the photo is no longer to be printed out and saved in big photo albums. Now, we are uploading them to our personal Web pages, using them as our avatars and signatures and we just want the whole world to see them. With all this happening, it only makes sense to make your photos look as cool as possible. Today I am going to share a few tips with you that can make your pictures look like they came straight out of a fashion photographer’s bag.

For this tutorial, I am going to use the following picture:

The first thing we are going to do is convert this image to black and white. To do it quickly, go to Image, Adjustment, Desaturate or press Shift + Ctrl + U. To bring out the edges a bit and lighten up a few dark areas, we will adjust the image levels. The idea is to bring out more detail so that everything doesn’t look too dark. Adjust this according to your taste. As I always say in these tutorials, play around with it until it starts to look good for you. You can always undo something that looks awkward, so play around until you figure out what each function does. To tweak the levels, go to Image, Adjustments, Level.

Now, starting with the steps to create the cool effect, we are going to call upon the “cutout” function, which can be accessed from Filter, Artistic, Cutout. This effect ends up giving an image a bit of a ziggy comic effect. The settings I have used for the image are shown here:

Is it already beginning to look cool?

Now is the time to throw in a bit of texture. Nothing enhances a black and white image like some monochromatic texture. Create a new layer on top of everything and fill it with gray color by going to Edit, Fill. Make it 50 percent gray. Now, let’s add some noise from the Filter, Noise, Add Noise function. Make sure that the monochromatic check box is checked. Under distribution, select Gaussian. You can also add motion blur from Filter, Blur, Motion Blur. Make the angle 90 degrees and the distance to the max, which is 999. Now your image should look like a bar code. Worry not. Straight lines don’t look half as good as diagonal ones, so let’s go to Edit, Transform, Skew to angle the lines a bit. Make it look something like the screenshot below:

Change the blending mode of this layer to Linear Light and the opacity to about 10 percent. If you want two different patterns, simply repeat the above steps starting from Fill 50 percent gray or duplicate the texture layer and skew the lines the opposite way or in a different angle to get a nice random lines pattern. Then adjust the opacity. The lines shouldn’t look like they have been forced upon the image.

Now, create a new layer and fill it with black. Click on the add layer mask button at the bottom of the layers palette and select Gradient.

Use the setting given below and click OK.

Impressed with the results? Well, it should look pretty complete now. This is what I ended up with:

You can do a lot more to this too. The trick once again is to experiment. For example, you can add some color to this image as well. It’s extremely simple. Select the layer that you filled with black and again, go to the Layer Mask button, but this time, select the option of Gradient Map.

In the Gradient Map pop up box, you have a few preset gradients. However, you also have an option to create a new one of your own. The trick in this image is to use a gradient that goes from black to the color with which you want the image to be “shadowed” by.

To edit the colors of the gradient, click on the bar where you see the colors and a new pop up box should appear. This box looks complex at first, but it’s pretty simple to deal with. You can do most customizations using the tabs at the bottom of the color bar.

To explain this better, I have highlighted the tabs by drawing colored squares around them. The tabs that have the orange square around them can be used to select the color, as well as, define the amount of that color in the gradient. To select a different color, just double click on the little tab box and a color selector should open up. To define the amount of this color in the gradient, slide the tab to the left or to the right. Play with it and you will realize how simple it really is. The Color option at the bottom that I have highlighted with a blue colored square lets you select the color too. Try different combinations of the colors in the gradient to figure out what suits your image the best. My final image is given below:

Try this with different images to see how it comes out and feel free to play around with the different options, especially the filters. Different combinations will give you varied results and it’s extremely important for you to know how these options work. The more you know about them, the faster you will be able to process your images!

~ Yogesh Bakshi

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