Actions & Automation in Photoshop® for Beginners

Lesson 5/11 - Targeting Layers


Actions & Automation in Photoshop® for Beginners


Lesson Info

Targeting Layers

Now let's talk about targeting layers because often times I end up doing an effect and there's more than one layer that's been created when I made my action and there can be some oddities when it comes to changing layers. So I'm just going to open a different picture, just gonna kinda pick a random one here. And I'm gonna make an action that does something called Frequency Separation. Frequency Separation is a way of retouching a picture where you separate the fine details that are in your image from the overall shapes and colors that are in your image. And it allows you to be able to go in and if you have a shiny spot on somebody's forehead that's blown out in solid white, you can go in and just grab some of the texture from around it and put it in and it lets you work on the fine details separate from the overall tone and color. But it's a technique that I don't know of anyone that enjoys remembering the steps to do it, okay? So first, why don't we look at the steps and then when I'm...

creating the action that does these steps for me, you'll see why I am changing up how I create it. So the first thing that you end up doing to do Frequency Separation, at least the way I do it, is you duplicate the image that you have twice. So I'm gonna type Command + J twice. Watch my layers panel. We have a total of three copies. Then I usually hide the top copy and I click on the middle one. And I'm gonna blur that middle one. And you don't have to write down these steps necessarily, well if you're not gonna have the class, you might want to write 'em down but we're gonna make an action for this. So the moment you make the action, if you just follow along when I make the action, you don't need the steps. Photoshop will have 'em right in the Actions Panel. So anyway, I got this middle layer selected, I'm gonna blur it. What I want to do when I blur it, I'll use Gaussian Blur, is I want to get rid of any fine detail. So let's just say this was skin, I'd want all the pores to disappear. I'd want all the little wrinkles on the skin to disappear but I'd still want to be able to recognize what I'm looking at so I can see that it's a face. Or in this case, I can see it's a building. But I can't see the texture of the stucco that's there. See there I can see that's stucco? I want to get rid of the stucco, that's the fine detail. And what's gonna happen, is any fine detail that I blur away here is gonna get transported to the layer that's above through a special technique, pretty crazy technique. So what doe we have so far? Well we got the original image at the bottom. In the middle we got a copy of it that we just blurred. We got rid of the fine details. Now we're gonna work on the top layer. I'm gonna turn on it's eyeball. And what I want to do is that top layer is a copy of the original. I want to compare it to the blurry version. So that blurry version has had all the fine details blurred away. With this top layer active, I'm gonna come over here and choose a choice called Apply Image. Now this is the kind of thing you don't want to remember. You don't want to think about because look at these settings in here. Well you only need to do this once if you're making an action. Because then this technique becomes simple, easy and fast. Whereas if you don't use actions, every time you do it your mind melts. And so that's why this is great for actions. So let's take a look at this briefly and figure out how to set it up. In fact, this is already set up for most of it. Most of the stuff you can ignore. We mainly need to look right here where it says Layer and we need to choose the version that has been blurred. Now it's hard for me, just looking at that menu to figure out which version's been blurred so it would have been nice if we named our layers, wouldn't it? But wasn't it the middle layer that I blurred? And if I look on my layers panel, I can see that's called Layer 1. Then down here, for blending, Subtract is not the default. I think Normal is but Subtract is what we need. What that does is when you choose Subtract, it means let's compare these two layers and let's take away whatever's in this layer from this one. Well if we have a blurry version of a picture and we compare it to a sharp version of the picture, what's been blurred away? What's missing on this layer is the sharp details, the fine stuff, the stuff that got blurred away. And that's what shows up if you use Subtract. Over here on the right, we do need a setting of two and a setting of 128. If you actually want to know what those mean, 128 means what should the main area in here look like. You see how there's a lot of gray in here? If I were to type zero, you get black. That means no light whatsoever. If I were two type 255, you'd get white because that means as bright as you can possibly get. The numbering system goes between those two. And if you want to be right in the middle, halfway between zero and 255 is 128. That gives you exactly 50% gray. I'm gonna use that because we're gonna use a blending mode that can make that gray go away. In the setting called two, if you forget to put that in, instead you have the number one, 'cause you can only put really low numbers in here, then the effect will be too strong and you'll just have to lower the opacity of the layer. So anyway, two and 128's what works. But is this not, just looking at it the kind of thing that you never want to think about again? That's what actions are good for, okay? So I'm gonna click okay. That's the fine detail that got blurred away from the other layer. Whatever blurred away, whatever disappeared, that's it. So that means that if we have a blurry version of the picture here in the middle, and we have all the details that got blurred away here, there should be some way to get those two to combine together again. Well it can. All you have to do is with that top layer active, you change the menu at the top of your screen to a choice called Linear Light and you've just reconstructed the picture. But now we can retouch these two layers and when we do, we're thinking only a fine detail here. Whatever we do up here, it can not shift the color of the picture, can not change the overall brightness of the picture. That means if I need to add texture to some area that didn't have it, I could be working up there. This area down here will not affect the fine detail in our picture at all. That means I could just grab the Paint Brush tool and if I have a shiny spot on somebody's forehead, grab the color from right around it, just paint right over it. And the fine details up here, so I wouldn't be covering up the fine detail. So it's a cool technique. But boy do I not enjoy remembering the steps. That's why I practiced right before we started and the numbers were already in there so that I didn't have to freshly remember it. It's harder to remember settings where you're teaching. So anyway, got all that. So that's the technique that I want to record in an action. Let's think about some of the complexities of what would happen here. First, do you remember when I went through the technique? I'll do the beginning of it again, I'll revert. I duplicated a layer twice by typing Command + J. Then I hid the top layer, just so when I blurred the middle layer I could actually see it and I switched the middle layer. Well the problem is, when you record an action, if you ever switch layers like I just did, what gets recorded in the action is it'll say select layer and it'll have that name in it, Layer 1. What happens if when I test this action on a different picture, this layer down here was called Subject of Photograph. When I type Command + J, this'll be called Subject of Photograph Copy One, or something like that. Won't it? If so, that action simply will not work because there's a step in the action that has the name of that layer in it and if you apply it to an image that didn't start with a background layer, instead it started with something else. That layer would have a different name, okay? So let's record this as an action and I'll give you an idea of what I'm doing on the way. Alright, so here goes. Actions, we'll create a new action. We'll call it Frequency Separation, or Sep and I'm gonna hit Record. First step of my action, I'm gonna type Command + J to get my first duplicate. But then I'm gonna name it by double clicking. Therefore the name will always be consistent. In the way it records me changing the name is it just means, change the name of the active layer. So it won't matter what it was named beforehand, it won't be part of my action. So I'm gonna call this Low Freq, that meas low frequency. Then I'm gonna duplicate that layer by typing Command + J and I'm gonna rename it, so that if I ever have to target it by clicking, they'll always be these names. And I'm gonna call that High Freq for high frequency. And now, when I do this and I turn off the eyeball on this layer and I click on the one before, it's always gonna work. Why? Because I defined within the action, the name of that layer. And therefore, when it writes down the name and it says that's the one that I chose, it'll work. Does that make sense? Alright, now that's when we blurred the image. So let's go to the Filter menu, let's choose Blur, Gaussian Blur. I'll use whatever setting was in there, click okay. The next step was to work on that top layer and this is again where had I not named it, this would mess up this point. Because when I click on the topmost layer to make it active, in the action, it would have the name of the layer as saying that's what we're targeting and it wouldn't always be the same unless I'd named those. I turn on the eyeball on that layer and then we go up there to Apply Image, the thing we really never like to work with. And in here, what is it that we choose here? Now I can tell which one is which. Low Frequency means the basic detail, High Frequency means the little fine details. So I choose Low Frequency there. Because I named that layer, it'll always be the same name. We still have the same settings in here. Subtract, two, 128. Click okay. Now we need to change the blending mode of the top layer. That was the final step. We use the choice called Linear Light. None of the steps there do I want to remember, right? Actions will remember it for us. Then finally, let's clean up the end result. To clean up the end result, I might put both of those layers into a folder. I think it's known as a set or group. Adobe can never call something that looks and acts like a folder, a folder. But I'm gonna do that just to clean this up. I'll hold down the Shift key and I'll click on the middle layer so we get 'em both, top two. And I'll click the folder icon. It's known as a group here. I double click on the name of that to name it. I'll just call it Frequency Separation, our short version. And now we can hit stop and we can just breath a sigh of relief that we should, once we test this, never have to remember those steps ever again in our lifetime unless somebody goes and deletes that action. So we might want to figure out how to backup that action, huh? If you want to backup an action, you can't save an individual action but you can save a folder of actions if I remember correctly. So I go to the side menu that's here and there should be a choice called Save Actions. And so I could save that out and maybe I email it to a friend or whatever it is but there'll be a whole folder of actions and I might probably gonna put that on my backup hard drive, right? But before I do that, I test it. So I'm thinking there's something that I would want to change in my action and that is, when we blurred this image, what you're supposed to do when you blur the image is you blur it just enough that the fine details disappear. But not so much that you can't recognize all the shapes Right? Wouldn't it be nice therefore, when this action plays to first have it ask me for that setting? 'Cause if I open a huge image, I'll need a different amount than if I open a tiny image. So in my list, I take a look and right, here's a step called Gaussian Blur. All I do is I click that little box to the left so it asks me for settings, right? But what if at six months from now is the first time I need to use this action? Or what if I'm gonna email it to a friend and they don't know what they're supposed to do in that step? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to have Photoshop tell me what to do? We can do that.

Class Description

Not only does Photoshop® allow you to create stunning images, it helps you work faster and more efficiently. Ben Willmore will show you how to automate many of the common tasks you do regularly and then apply those automations to large numbers of images in batch operations. In addition to teaching you well-known, simple automations, Ben will also cover more advanced concepts, like using subroutines, adding conditionals and prompting actions from within Adobe® Lightroom®.