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Thread: Photoshop Tip of the Week #18

  1. #1
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    Arrow Photoshop Tip of the Week #18

    Beyond Undo

    Photoshop includes the usual "Undo" and "Revert" commands. The "Undo" command in the Edit menu allows you to remove the previous change that you made to your image. The "Revert" command in the File menu allows you to restore the image to its last "saved" state. It is the same as closing an image without saving any changes and re-opening it.

    Nowadays, these are considered fairly basic commands that most programs are expected to have. If you do a lot of image editing like I do, you may find that you need more capability and Photoshop doesn't disappoint. It provides a variety of powerful features that allow you to manage the changes you make to an image. We'll look at three: Histories, Fades and Layer Comps.

    Note: I apologize for not providing lots of illustrations for this "tip". With limited time, I thought our readers would appreciate it more if I focused on the "meat" (i.e. the descriptions). Besides, this tip is more about how to use the Photoshop workflow than how to edit an image. Thanks for your understanding.

    The best "Undo" feature in my opinion is the "History" feature. It is like a multi-level "undo" and you get to control how many previous steps (or "states") are stored in memory. Use the "Preferences > General" command of the Edit menu to open the Preferences dialog and set the "History States". I usually have mine set to "20" but sometimes I'll increase it when I work on an image that requires repetitious steps.

    The "History States" setting tells Photoshop how many "undo" steps to remember and each step is listed in the "History" palette. The oldest states are at the top of the list and the most recent state is at the bottom. Just click on the last step in the "History" palette that you want to jump back to and your image will be transported back in time to that point. Caution: After you've used the "History" palette, all of the edit states after (below) the selected one will be lost if you make any new changes because a new History timeline will issue from the selected state.

    Can you set the "History States" too high? Yes. Each "state" requires memory. If you're running Photoshop on a marginal computer (say, with only 512 MB of memory) then you should set the "History States" to a lower value. Also, if you're working on extremely large images, then you may need to use a lower value. And if you normally have many images open at the same time then you may also need to use a lower value. (Note: At the time of this writing, my main computer has 4 GB of memory and I normally work with multiple 5 Mp images from an E-1.)

    Believe it or not, we're just getting started because Photoshop also provides other ways to use the History feature. The Edit menu includes a "Step Forward" and "Step Backward" command underneath the "Undo" command at the top of the menu. Each of these "step" commands will step you forward or backward through the History in one-step increments.

    But probably the most powerful History feature of all is the History Brush Tool. It is way cool and works like this: Select the last state in the "History" palette that you want to keep. Then use the History Brush Tool to "paint" out the changes in your image. This ability to selectively "undo" changes in parts of your image is awesome. For example, you can use one of Photoshop's "sharpen" filters to sharpen the entire image then use the History Brush Tool to go back and remove the sharpening from select portions of the image (like the background or the smooth areas of a person's face). And because you're working with a "brush" tool, you can set the brush size, edge hardness, mode, opacity and flow so your changes are subtle and nearly impossible to detect. I can't recommend this tool highly enough.

    And we're still not finished. At the bottom of the "History" palette are three powerful buttons. The first button lets you create a new document from the currently selected history state. This provides an easy way for you to "save" a version of your image at any point as a new file. The second button lets you take a "snapshot" of your current state. Unlike the normal history states which are temporary---each change you make pushes the list of steps up and only the number listed in your "History States" value are remembered during a work session---a "snapshot" is remembered for the entire duration of your work session. They are listed at the top of the "History" palette and you can give them descriptive names so they are easy to remember. The last button at the bottom of the "History" palette is the trashcan which is used to delete the currently selected state or "snapshot".

    Finally, since maintaining a lot of History States can quickly consume memory, Photoshop provides a way to easily sweep the entire History clean. This is accomplished with the "Purge > Histories" command in the Edit menu. I frequently use this command when I've finished editing an image but I want to keep it open as I work on another image. I'll purge the histories before I begin to work on the next image so that I don't waste memory on the already-finished image.

    A couple of things to know about history states: (1) They are not saved with the image. When you close the image, they are forever lost. This also includes the "snapshots". (2) Each click of a tool is considered a single history state. This means that you can quickly fill up the "History" palette when you do repetitious work like cloning away blemishes in a subject's skin or painting many small details in an image. This is when you need to take "snapshots" at key points if you anticipate a need to "undo" all of the repetitious steps.

    You'll often notice a "Fade" command is added to the Edit menu underneath the "Undo" and "step" commands immediately after you've made a change to an image. Clicking the "Fade" command will open the "Fade" dialog so you can adjust the change you just made. Instead of completely removing a change like the "Undo" or "History" features, the "Fade" feature allows you to dilute the change. Use the "Opacity" setting of the "Fade" dialog to reduce the strength of the change. You'll also see a "Mode" option. It allows you to adjust the mode of the change in very powerful and creative ways. Don't be afraid to experiment! This is a great alternative to the "Undo" and "History" features. Note: The "Fade" feature only operates on the most recent change.

    Layer Comps
    While a "composition" layer or "comp" layer isn't really an "undo" feature it can be used like History "snapshots" to remember key states of an image. I consider it to be a very close cousin of the "History" feature. Here's how layer comps were originally designed to function: When working with a variety of layers and effects in an image, you may want to "save" a state so you can easily return to it. This is done by creating a layer comp. You can read about them in "Chapter 14: Layers" of Photoshop CS2's PDF Help file. You'll see the "Layer comps" section listed after the "Smart Objects" section in the chapter.

    The idea behind layer comps is to provide graphic designers with a way to save multiple layouts of a Photoshop file so they can easily show multiple versions to a client. Although I haven't done much wedding photography, I can imagine that this would be a great feature to use when you want to show different versions of a custom photo to a client so they can select which one to purchase.

    Here's where layer comps can be helpful as a quasi "History" feature: Since layer comps are "layers" they are saved as a part of a Photoshop PSD file. This enables you to create different versions of your image within the same document and then save them. Then when you want to show a client the different versions, instead of leafing through separate images, you just click on the various layer comps that you've created. It also provides a tidy way to keep multiple versions within a single PSD file.

    That's it until next week. Happy photoshopping...
    Best regards, FL

    Pursuing excellence...

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Photoshop Tip of the Week #18

    To add to this "history", there is some means of getting old historical data that most do not know about. I wrote it up elsewhere, so I'll repeat it here...

    Photoshop has been criticized for some "history" in-abilities, but that doesn't mean there are none. So what do you do if you want to know more about what you did inside Photoshop?

    This bit of an educational rant may help you understand what is there, and what is possible. This should be true in PSCS and above. If you have lower, or PSE, let us know if this is possible.

    Once inside Photoshop, in the Edit menu, there is an option for Preferences - General. Once you go there, you will see a screen that looks like the one below. On your version, the part with a RED line around it may be faint and gray. Click the check box beside "History Log" and it will all be enabled.

    Attachment 5606

    There are choices for "Save Log Items To:", as you can see. You can attach the data with your Metadata, a Text File, or Both. For ease of looking and checking, I choose Text File as shown. Choosing this allows you to use the Choose button to specify a file and location for your history.

    In the "Edit Log Items" drop-down list, you will see Sessions Only, Concise, and Detailed. Quick explanation is the farther down the list you go, the more data you will get.

    Sessions Only will only log when image files and Photoshop are opened and closed. Nothing exciting, but shows date and time of open/close, so you do have a time stamp of how long it was open. An example of this file is below:

    2007-04-28 15:09:50 File PB230196.JPG opened
    2007-04-28 15:10:16 File PB230196.JPG closed
    2007-04-28 15:10:17 Photoshop quit

    Concise gives a bit more info. In the example below, you can see what steps were done to the image. You still get a time stamp on each image and on PS itself. Might help you to know what you did, and how long it took to do stuff. This might be the best option, as it gives more info, but not too much.

    2007-04-28 15:10:56 Photoshop launched
    2007-04-28 15:11:29 File PB230196.JPG opened
    Rectangular Marquee
    2007-04-28 15:11:41 File PB230196.JPG closed
    2007-04-28 15:11:42 Photoshop quit

    Detailed gives the most information. As you can see in the example below, Detailed still shows the timestamps images were open and closed. It still shows the steps that were done. But look below the Rectangular Marquee step, and you can see even more detail on what was done. In this example, it shows the actual size and location of the marquee. Might be a lot of help for some users, but it might be too much information for others.

    2007-04-28 15:12:11 Photoshop launched
    2007-04-28 15:12:30 File PB230196.JPG opened
    Rectangular Marquee
    Set Selection
    To: rectangle
    Top: 435 pixels
    Left: 521 pixels
    Bottom: 1311 pixels
    Right: 1688 pixels
    2007-04-28 15:12:42 File PB230196.JPG closed
    Saving: no
    2007-04-28 15:12:43 Photoshop quit

    So, there you have it. History Log. It might be a good thing for you to look into. Hopefully this shed some "light" on your photo retouching.

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