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5 Photoshop Cheats You Won’t Learn Anywhere Else

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Photoshop is a great tool. It can be used to silhouette, fix imperfections, change colors or even alter a someone’s looks substantially. Yet all of these things take a great deal of time to do the right way. As an advertising art director with looming deadlines and demanding clients, I’ve taught myself a few cheats that reduce the amount of time some of the more arduous aspects of the program take.

Cheat #1 — Silhouetting

To do this the right way, one would blow up the image and then use the Pen Tool to go around the perimeter of the area they wish to silhouette out. All well and good as it achieves great results, but it takes a lot of time. My method uses the Quick Selection Tool and little else. (Image 1) First I blow up the image, then starting inside the area I want to separate out of the background I use the Quick Selection Tool to highlight the area I’m interested in silhouetting. (Image 2)

Note: You may have to use your option key to take away areas you don’t want included or your shift key to add to your selection, but pretty soon (seconds compared to minutes) your area is marqueed and ready to be silhouetted out. (Images 3 & 4) Simply copy and paste the area onto a separate layer, turn off your master layer and it is ready to use. 



Cheat #2 — Color Adjustment 

Yeah, you could spend a lot of time using the Brightness and Contrast Adjustment Filters in tandem with the Exposure Filter to get your image picture perfect. (Image 5) I do this too, when I have the time. But sometimes a quick fix is enough to make your photo look so much better. For this, I use Curves (Image > Adjust > Curves) and simply pull the diagonal line on the graph either upwards (to lighten) or downwards (to darken). (Image 6) You can also add more than one point to this graph and pull on it to achieve all kinds of different color adjustments. (Image 7) It only takes seconds and the results can be pretty spectacular. 


Cheat #3 — Color Replacement

In nature as well as in life, your subject isn’t always wearing a color that works well with the ones around it. And in order for it to be more pleasing to the eye sometimes you need to swap out that offending color. (Image 8) Yes, you could go in and spend a lot of time playing around with Selective Color and Replace Color but what I do is so much easier.

Using my silhouetting technique above, I highlight the area I want to change. I copy it, then paste it directly over the original by going to Edit > Paste Special > Paste in Place (which will put it on a separate layer right above), then use the Hue/Saturation slider to find a color that plays well with its neighbors. (Image 9) And once you’ve found a color you like, you can also use the sliders below it to make it darker or lighter, more or less saturated and in seconds you have that perfect color replacement. (Image 10) 


Cheat #4 — Removing an Object from Your Image

You know how there is always that leaf in the wrong place, the trash can that mars an otherwise perfect streetscape, or a section of hair on your model that has suddenly been blown out of place by a gust of wind? When you can’t control your environment, you can always change it. To get rid of an object, I used to spend a great deal of time copying and pasting similar areas from other parts of the photo, stretching or shrinking them to cover the annoying area and then finally using Curves to create a perfect match (which usually wasn’t so perfect after all). (Image 11).

Then I discovered Content Aware Fill. (Image 12) Simply draw a marquee around the area you want eliminated and then let Photoshop do the heavy lifting. Go to Edit > Fill > then pulldown to the Content Aware line item. Keeping all defaults as they are, simply click ok and voila, your offending object is gone - filled in perfectly by one of the sophisticated algorithms within Photoshop. (Image 13) And please bear in mind that if this doesn’t work perfectly on your first attempt, just try it again. Photoshop will pick up pixels from a slightly different area of your image every time. 


Cheat #5 — Adding an Object to Your Image

Sometimes that perfect photo isn’t so perfect after all. Maybe there’s negative space where you don’t want it. Or the model blinked when everything else was set up just right. Or the dog just happened to jump out of the picture right at that exact second you snapped it. Well, all is not lost. It’s just as easy to add an object into a photograph as it is to remove one. I always take multiple shots of images solely for this purpose.

Your model isn’t always going to blink and even though it might have been shot at a slightly different angle, you just may have that family dog in another photo. Simply silhouette the image you want to add (using my technique above) then copy and paste it into your photo to cover up the odd space or the imperfect pose. (Image 14). It may not cover perfectly but using Edit > Transform > Scale to change the size or the Content Aware Fill which I described above, you can get rid of any areas that peep through. You can also use your Brightness/Contrast slider to match the light in the existing photo (which I did here). (Image 15) 

So now that I’ve shared some of my best-kept secrets, I hope you get a chance to play around with one or two of them. They’re fun, easy to do and best of all they don’t take up a lot of your precious time. Happy Photoshopping. 

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Check out our Photoshop: 60 Tips Every Photoshop User Should Know  course!

Elaine Ashburn

Elaine Ashburn | Articles by this author

Elaine Ashburn is an advertising creative director/art director. She's worked with Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign since their inception. She also has a number of unpublished novels and short stories to her credit and enjoys writing as much as she does art directing. Her focus is to make these programs as easy for the layman as they can be by creating a 'simple steps' approach. Her goal is to have you using the programs to achieve your goal in a matter of minutes. Elaine's work can be viewed at elaineashburn.com and elaineashburnart.com.


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