Digital Bag of Tricks
The next thing we wanna talk about about this, and this is all kind of related to onset, is what I like to affectionately call the bag of tricks. And the bag of tricks is the, I don't know, like your goodie bits, your actions, your libraries. What you bring to a job. Either you have 'em at home or you have 'em on the cloud or you have 'em on a hard drive. And you make sure you always have them with you. So, for me, I store them on the cloud. I use the library function in Photoshop. I store textures. I store gradient maps. I use them for everything. I absolutely love them. All my brushes. Actions, I'm gonna have you talk about actions in just a second, and I have even set up my comps inside my library. Because I have a few clients that I regularly do work for, and rather than have to find it on Dropbox, I just leave it in the cloud. The base template. With the live to trim the bleed. For companies, you can have your logos all set up in your libraries. So you can be anywhere. You can be ...
in Florence, Italy and get your layouts, get your, your logos and start working. And you don't have to carry 'em around on your box. And you have yours on your box, Mark.
Yeah, I do. And I carry copies on a hard drive with me. I'm not as comfortable with the library.
He's old school. That cloud thing.
I've tried it, it's there, it's coming. But I just like having, like, there it is. It's right there. Everything's fine. I feel fine.
What is that expression you have about one is none and two is done? What is that?
Two is one, and one is none. So have what you need. Have a backup of it 'cause one's gonna go. You're left with one. If you only bring one and that thing dies, you're paddling.
So two bags of tricks. Let's consider it that way. And I wanna say that Simon's workflow, and especially for working on set, he is action man. He has actions for everything under the sun. And that allows him to be really quick. And so he brings, I just gotta tell you, it's pretty impressive when you have to set up all this stuff, and you have a client doing, we call it the dog and pony show, have you guys heard that expression? Oh, I hope that's not a bad thing to say. Dog and pony show where the client is standing over your shoulder, and you're doing your process. And it goes so quickly. And clients find it really impressive when you're quick. So for the onset retouching and home, have your bag of tricks.
Actions, for me, I like actions, and I'm starting to do.. If I do it once, it's once. If I do it twice, I recognize, hey, I did that before. If I do it a third time, I'm like, I'm gonna record it, even if I only use it this afternoon. It might go out of vogue. I might not need it. But I'll at least have it, and then you build up a library of sorts. And you can throw away the ones you don't use. You just gotta house clean from time to time. But the ones you do use year after year. After a decade, they're the keepers. Pretty important.
Can I ask you, what are some of the, like, five or six actions that you most commonly use?
The first one I put down is a lightning adjustment layer, a curves layer. So I take a curves layer, and I lighten up all the darks without it clipping. Without it blowing out the whites. And then I invert the mask on that. And that I paint in. Anywhere that's too dark, I paint that adjustment layer in, and it lightens it up. That's how I used to do my beauty retouching. So anything on--
Yeah, it was. It was essentially dodging. But I did it with a, instead of painting in white paint, I would just paint in an adjustment layer that is lightening the original. So it is nondestructive.
Okay, so we've got lightening.
And opposite of that is the darkening. So those are my two, If I have to sit it down and I have to go on someone else's computer in-house, those are the first two that go down. I immediately re-record those two actions. Lightening, darkening, a curves adjustment layer. Then the next one would be an automatic gray layer. So with just a touch of a button or F4 key, it makes a new layer, it switches it to overlay, and then I have the option to fill with 50% gray. It is a grayed out color so I can see that this grayed out color is on my layer's palette. The thing switches the mode to normal, so it's just a flat gray. And then it's named gray. So I don't have to go through and name my layers. So it's automatically named. It's already color coded, and it's just this gray layer. And so what that is is when I have a very evolved Photoshop layer document, and I bring it in a new scan, a new image. And I start masking it out. Instead of looking at that against everything below it, I hit this one button, and it puts a gray layer just underneath it. Now I'm looking at just the new scan, the new image, on the gray layer. And it just simplifies it. I can see stuff.
I wanna talk about this for a second.
Go ahead and talk about it.
It is the simplest little lame-o, I think, action. And it's phenomenal. So here's the thing. Imagine you're doing a three-part strip, five bodies, and you need to mask out a tree. And you've got 17,000 layers above it and below it, and you just want to see how it's going and what the original, you know how you guys Option click on the eyeball to let it reveal all? Oh my God, and then you hit it again, and then every layer turns on, and you're like oh, I only wanted that one, or oh wait, now, well there's too much on. With this little action, it puts a solid 50% gray layer under it, you can see what you need to see, you throw it away when you're done, and you move on and you don't have to turn on every single layer. It's so fantastic. And it's a gray layer. It's nothing. It's a good trick.
Yes, actions can be very complicated, but the simpler better. So, anything that I do repetitively, again, do it once, eh, do it twice I'm like, I did that before. Third time, I just go ahead and record it there.
And then frequency?
There's a number of frequency separation, but my next will be that solar curve that I showed you on the teapot. So, if I have to make that curve, and it gets kind of twangy. I mean that curve doesn't wanna do that. It'll want to snap back into its original form. So, to make that every time is a little involved. Maybe 20, 30 seconds. But if you have to do that 30 times for every job, some point you're gonna go I don't wanna do it. So, with an action, you just click a button, there's your curve. So, because it's so simple, you'll use it more often--
Good point, really good point.
You will use it more readily, you'll be safer, you'll be checking yourself more often. So that's the other thing I like about actions is that saves you time, and then it's right there, right now for you to use. It's tool at the ready, so you will use it more often. And frequency separation's the same way. So, to set up a good frequency separation can be a whole lot of duplicate these two layers and you borrow one, then you apply 'em and subtract it, da da da. Then you add stuff in between it, then you put it in, and your spelling out frequency separation. So all my actions are all ready. Every layer that I set up is spelled what I want it to be. It's named and spelled correctly, capital letters. It's color coded. You can put it in so if you like your blur layers on the bottom, your red and your sharpening layers on the top of your frequency separation be green, it'll do that for you. And it's, instead of going through and saying that's gonna be two minutes to set up this frequency separation. I know I should do it, shoot. Here we go, two minutes. Or click, poom, and it's right there. So you will use it more often because it's so readily available.
Cool, and bring it on set, again. So, we wanted to talk. Those are just making your own actions that you can do. Freebie. We also wanted to talk to you about some options about knowing where to get extra actions that might be able to help you. They're not expensive necessarily, and they really make a difference in your workflow, so we're going to talk. These are some our favorites. We don't have this on a worksheet, so take note. Alien Skin, Flaming Pear, Creative Market Place, EnvatoMarket, GraphicRiver, and those, some of those are six bucks. You can try it out, if you don't like it, ah, it was six bucks. But sometimes you come up with a gem that is amazing and it's worth its weight in gold. Adobe Stock, I definitely use Adobe Stock a ton. I love Adobe Stock. Texters.com is a fairly inexpensive site where you can get tiled textures. You know the show Rosanne? The Rosanne Show? It's coming out, they're doing the best outdoor campaign. It's awesome. I can't tell you what it is 'cause it's not out yet, but it's awesome, and I got to work on it. But I can tell you is I had to make a train wrap with a wall that looked like their living room. And doing a train wrap is a lot of, it's a lot of real estate, it's a lot of space. And rather than painting and cloning from lousy stock shot, or excuse me, a unit stock of the set, I made a stucco wall and painted in tone. It took about 15 minutes, and it was all because I could find stucco wall textures from Textures.com inexpensively that looked like what I was looking for. You can make your own, as well, but this was just a good resource. Poligon.com is one of yours. I don't know that one.
That was a texture, but they're more of a 3D. They look geared more to 3D.
Excellent. iStock, I don't use iStock much anymore, but it is one that's available, and then NikEffects for doing comping variations is pretty fantastic. Yeah? So we want to talk about a couple things about, for example, Alien Skin. They have a really awesome program and we do have a bonus material for that. There's a program within Alien Skin software called Exposure 3, and it's fantastic. It's kinda, I'm going to paraphrase it, it's kind of like a lightroom, camera raw combined with a topaz filter, like you do effects and textures and lighting combined with Mextures, which is another kind of program. If I could say it in a weird way, it's a way of doing the camera raw processing and collating and culling images and using those effects that you can kind of do on your iPhone really easily, only all in Photoshop. And large. iPhone stuff's rocking cool, but it's this big. No, this is like full-scale size. So, you can do a lot of variations and easily. So it's a great software to check out. It's through Alien Skin, and you are gonna--
Alien Skin also makes another filter called Eye Candy, and it does a number, really it does a really great back lights, it does really good shadows. The thing I use it for most oft is for a chroming. So anytime I have a logo, that's pretty much where I go first. So, okay, here's a logo let's chrome it out and see what we get. Chrome out parts of it, chrome out the inside, chrome out the bevel. But it's just so powerful, so quickly and so easily done.
And it does beveling, so you can actually extrude type. I suck at 3D. Anything that helps do 3D in Photoshop is worth it's weight in gold for me.
Yeah, and I've been using this for 20 years. And it's gone through a couple name changes and stuff, but it's still rock solid.
Do you remember I said he was logo guy, he was known for logo? A lot of that had to do with his understanding of Alien Skin. Another awesome one is Flaming Pear, and it has a plugin called Flood. Flood 2. I love this program. You can make water in two seconds. So, for example, on this one, I have this book cover project I was working on, and the client wanted water, different variations of water and tension, water tension, and yeah, you could get stock and do it. You change a little few of these buttons and voila. That took 15 seconds to make that one. And then I made a really bumpy one, and then I made a really calm one. You can make one that looks like a lake. You can make one that, anyway, there's tons in there. It's definitely worth the $33 that I paid for it, because I did the whole job with it in minutes, and I charged more than $33. I'm just going to say that, for that job. Graphic River has a gazillion actions. Almost too many.
You get in trouble.
Yeah you can get in trouble in there, there's a lot. Some of 'em are great, some of 'em suck, and they're only six bucks, five bucks. It is absolutely worth an experiment. There is a poster, you guys are free to go look and see, for an ABC TV show called, I want to say Notorious. It was a couple seasons ago, and it was this newspaper art. It looked like a collage of newspapers, and that was all based on the designer finding an action that kind of created an image using newspaper art in it. You can look it up on the Internet. And it was a $6 action. Now the designer did it. Here's the good news and the bad news, and this is my warning to you guys when you consider it. Yeah, that worked for an image that was that big. We had to do it for a billboard, and a 14x48 poster. So the retoucher on that job, it was not mine. The retoucher on that job, it took him four days. Four days to reverse engineer the action. But he could do it. And four days and they got it, and it was challenging and fun. So, if you are going to use some of these actions, and you're comping with it, you sure as heck need to know that you can reproduce as hi-res. If you cannot, do not know how to reproduce the effect hi-res, don't use it. You'll get in trouble, you'll get fired. It'll be ugly. But if you can use it hi-res, awesome. And some of your jobs, it's going to be hi-res enough. I use this photo sketch all the time. It's absolutely hi-res enough for my jobs.
On these ones, they'll have a list of 'em and then you can check 'em out by most liked, starred. They'll review 'em, and I think they only want like six or eight bucks. So, boy, for a Friday night, for a $6 investment, you can have a lot of fun and just figure some stuff out.
And again, proceed with caution. Proceed with caution. I find that it's a valuable resource, and I'd say it's professional. It's good to know where you can get some stuff.