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Photo Manipulation by Donn Critchell

Items in parenthesis ( ) are from or in the dropdown lists on the top toolbar of Photoshop. Click in the order given.

  1. (window) (options) and (window) (tools) should already be open with a check mark next to them.

  2. (window) (layers) will let you keep track of layers and will show up in the lower right side of your workspace. In the layers menu; right mouse click on the blue bar with the word "background" in it. From the menu select "duplicate layer" and then click "okay". Layers let you can change one thing you have done and not the whole shebang.

  3. (window) (history) will let you keep track of the things you have done and will show up in the right side of your workspace. You can click on an earlier state to get back to it and get rid of the changes after that point. We are now ready to get started.

  4. Crop tool in the left toolbar (looks like a bow and bowstring with a thin arrow). The options for this tool and all the others are just below the top toolbar. Here we have width, height, resolution, pixels/inch and more. I use width and height to crop for different photo sizes eg. 8 X 10; 8 X 16, etc. .

  5. (Image) (Adjustments) or jump to advanced area Curves

    Table of Contents

  6. Masking
  7. Straighten a horizon
  8. Gradient
  9. Make a border
  10. Sharpening
  11. Color to Black and White
  12. Blends
  13. Fine Tuning Images
  14. Fringing
  15. Content Aware to remove object
            (levels)---histogram -- move side triangles to black mountain         	
    	 (shadow/highlight)---move the sliders to bring up detail in the
    		 shadows and tone down the bright areas.  
            (color balance) is easier than curves, but check the bottom 
    		before moving the sliders.  You have shadows, midtones and
    		highlights.  On the right side you can check and uncheck 
    		the preview to see what is happening to your photo.
            (hue/saturation) will change the overall color and how bright the
    		 colors appear.  You can desaturate and remove most of the
            (brightness/contrast)  more sliders to enhance your photo.
    CS5 (filter)(lens correction) for vignetting; border; straighten with a grid; fringing; distortion and chromatic aberration.

  17. (Free transform)---outside the photo to rotate photo or stretch or compress it.

  18. (Transform)(skew) to align building sides with photo edge or really distort the image.

  19. (Perspective) to get rid of the keystone effect on buildings by transforming both sides at the same time.

Tools in the left toolbar

Hold your cursor over the tool to see it's name. Left click and hold on the tool to see similar tools.

The Options bar across top tells the tool being used and modifications that can be done to it.

See how the shift key or alt key affects the tool.

(layer) (new adjustment layer) (curves) for the daring and more advanced modifications. Start with (mode---normal). Your preset and channel give you lots of options. If you check clipping you can see where there is color information in your photo and this can be used in place of levels. Use the following link for more information:
Layers and Masking by Donn

(File)(Save as) with a new name since you modified the photo. Click the dropdown menu by the word (format) and save as a PSD or TIFF, if you want to keep the layers. This is the highest quality and a large file. If you select JPEG each time they are changed and saved they will lose some information.

      Examples to show how you might save your photos
            original = p100.jpg or perhaps .raw
            modified = p100mod.psd
            for web or email = p100web.jpg---you can also use (File) (Save for Web).

Link for darkening edges around a photo

Do not make changes to the background layer. Harsh light - reduce contrast and then increase saturation.

Layers Adjustments

Use layers for all adjustments. The Adjustment layer has no pixels and this overlays what is behind it. Use the alt key on the histogram. Link layers using or merge layers with a right click on your mouse.
To rename a layer, double click on the layer.
To flip a layer use etc.
Lock a layer to prevent edits.
Flatten layers to make a smaller file, but you will lose the ability to make changes in a particular layer.


Use anti-aliasing. Right click to feather later.
Selections can be transformed.
Right click to grow the size of the selection, change tolerance, feather later
Magnetic lasso-use a new adjustment layer and push up contrast/brightness. When done you can delete the adjustment layer. Low width for low contrast or edge contrast.
High frequency is highly irregular.
(select)(color range) or eyedropper +/- and move the fuzziness slider right to expand the range.

Sky enhancement

  1. duplicate the background layer
  2. select the entire sky
  3. (select)(color range) choose black matt
  4. Hold down the shift key and click on different parts of the image, until all the black in the preview window disappears from the sky. To select a greater range of colors, move the Fuzziness slider right. The ground should appear black. Click OK.
  5. Click add Layer Mask button at the bottom of the layers menu.
  6. At the top of the layers menu get the blend mode and select .
  7. To fix where the sky meets the land
  8. slide the radius to the right until the haloes disappear. Sony workshops

Changing a sky in a photo

  1. Go to the upper menu: and check the layers term. This opens a box probably at the lower right of your screen where you can select the layer to work on and change it's opacity if needed. Going to the upper menu you can select and down the list change their order.
  2. Open the landscape photo and make a copy of the background layer.
  3. Put the original background layer in the trashcan at the bottom of the LAYERS BOX.
  4. Select the sky region (you may hold down the shift key to select more areas when using the magic wand) and then go to edit and cut.
  5. Open the Clouds photo
  6. Get the move tool at the top of the side toolbar.
  7. Using the move tool left click on the clouds and move it over the landscape photo and release the left button. Check to make sure it covers the entire photo.
  8. Go to Layers in the top menu and scroll down to and select
  9. Use the eraser with the opacity and flow at 100% in the top toolbox to get more of the new background after using the LAYERS BOX and selecting the opacity wanted so you can see both layers.
  10. Push the opacity in the LAYERS BOX back to 100%

Moving and Resizing Objects

  1. Change all files to the same image size and resolution.
  2. At the top of the original file select and then . Save with a new name; then continue.
  3. Use the quick selection tool - second column and second tool down from the top - to select what you want from a picture. To get more coverage hold down the shift key and left click on the mouse.
  4. and then . The object will be pasted on top of the original. Next, use the move tool from the top of the second column. If you want to resize continue below.
    To change the size select the layer the object is on and then select and move the little black squares in the box around the object. When happy with the size hit . This will affect the quality of the image in that area. OR A. Go to and left click. Make sure the image size and resolution are the same as your original picture.
    B. Go to and change either the width or height with all the following checked:
    scale styles
    constrain proportions
    resample image
    C. Move the image from the new file back to the old file.
    NOTE: You can a photoshop psd file to retain the layers for later modification. This will be a big file. Or you can select to make one layer for printing or saving as a smaller file.
Curve Adjustment Layer

  1. Open up a photo.
  2. From the menu on the top click on and then check . This will bring up a layers menu on the lower right of your screen.
  3. Go to the bottom of the layers menu and click on the half black and half white circle. This will bring up the adjustment layer and choose curves.
  4. Select preset ; channel ; and check . Click on the curve display options and check everything except pigment/ink%.
  5. Click the white triangle at the bottom of the histogram and move it left until colored dots appear on your photo. Move it right to the point where there are no more dots. Now move the black triangle to the right until dots appear and then move it back until there are no more dots.
  6. Now uncheck the show clipping box. Move your cursor over the image which will become an eyedropper and control/command click on an area you want darker. A point will appear on the histogram. You can move this point on the histogram by putting the cursor over the square on the diagonal line which will change the cursor to a 4 pointed arrow. To darken the image hold down the left mouse button and move the cursor to the right. To lighten move the cursor upwards .
  7. Click OK and you are done. You can vary the effect by moving the opacity or fill sliders at the top of the layers box. Since you made an adjustment layer by clicking on it sometime in the future you can change the adjustments by double clicking on the half black and half white circle in the adjustment layer or an icon that has a grid with a curvy line in it.
  8. Curves to modify color
  9. Do steps 1 - 4 above, but at the top select the color you want in the channel dropdown menu.
  10. In the curve the bottom left is dark shadows, upper right is highlight and the middle of the curve are the midtones. Go to the middle of the curve and left click and hold while moving the line up or down. Down will reduce the amount of color by adding in it's opposite.
  11. You can add more points on the diagonal line by left clicking along it to modify dark, midtone and light areas separately.
  12. To restrict adjustment to shadows or highlights, the following curves are useful.
    Shadow Compensation Highlight Compensation

    Improving shadow detail, or shadow compensation, is achieved by increasing brightness in dark areas, leaving light tones untouched. To restore highlight detail, decrease gain in light areas. An extra point or two is required to anchor the straight portion of the curve and ensure that only the desired areas are altered.

    For this technique we will make a selection, then apply Levels or Curves to change brightness levels. For example, to lighten shadows, select dark areas of an image and use a Levels adjustment layer to lighten selected pixels. Selecting dark pixels first effectively forces Levels to target dark pixels only, and any adjustments made will apply only to the darker portion of the image.

    The simplest way to make a selection based on pixel density is to use the "Claw" command, so-named because you must shape your hand like a claw to reach all the keys! To execute the Claw command press Ctrl-Alt-~ and light-colored pixels will be selected. To select dark pixels, do the Claw command followed by Ctrl-Shift-I to invert the selection.

    For more control when making a selection choose Select > Color Range. In the Color Range dialog box light areas indicate selected pixels and gray areas indicate partially selected pixels. Be sure Invert is unchecked, then click in the shadows to select dark areas, or highlights to select light areas. Adjust the Fuzziness slider to control the range of tonal values selected.

    After making a selection, bring up a Levels or Curves adjustment layer to adjust selected pixels. You can always adjust your selection in the Levels/Curves Layer Mask. Alternatively, you can duplicate the layer (Ctrl-J) after selection. This will place the selection on a separate layer. Then apply Levels or Curves to the new layer. The latter technique is not as flexible since it's difficult to modify the selection at a later time.

    Using Quick Mask to sharpen, change saturation, colorize, etc. part of an image.


    1. duplicate the layer.
    2. hit the letter "Q" to get into quick mask or the second icon on the bottom of the layers menu.
    3. Go to the top toolbar and click on "Edit; Fill; Black". This provides a red color over the entire image, which is the mask.
    4. Going to the left toolbar, towards the bottom are two large squares that overlap. Rapidly click twice on the top square and set the foreground color to black (#000000). Rapidly click twice on the bottom square and set the background color to white (#ffffff).
    5. Select the paintbrush and on the top toolbar you can set it's size just to the right of the word (brush). You have other choices on that horizontal toolbar that can be used. Be sure the mode is "normal" and the opacity is "100%".
    6. Black foreground (of the two large squares on the left toolbar) will paint with red and hide or mask the image. Hitting the letter "X" will switch the squares so white is on top and white will reveal the image. You can toggle back and forth between the two just using the letter "X".
    7. To get out of quick mask hit the letter "Q" again or the bottom box on the tool toolbar. Now you are in "standard mode" with marching ants. You can paint, etc. over this area and only the part revealed during masking, will be affected. Select the opacity, etc. wanted before painting.
    8. To eliminate the marching ants and get back to normal click on the top toolbar "select" and in the dropdown menu "deselect".
    To straighten a horizon.

    1. Going to the left toolbar, click on the eyedropper and then select the "measure tool" which looks like a ruler.
    2. Click on one end of the image horizon and holding the mouse button down go all the way to the other end of the horizon before letting to of the button.
    3. Now go to the top toolbar and click on "image" then "rotate canvas" and finally "arbitrary". Click "ok".

    Using the Gradient tool to darken or lighten corners, etc.

    1. After opening your image go to the top toolbar and click on "Layer, New, Layer". Be sure this layer is highlighted before continuing. Click "ok".
    2. Going to the left toolbar, towards the bottom are two large squares that overlap. Rapidly click twice on the top square and set the foreground color to black (#000000) at the bottom. Rapidly click twice on the bottom square and set the background color to white (#ffffff).
    3. In the left toolbar select the "gradient tool" which is located between the lollipop "dodge" tool and below the "brush" tool.
    4. Select the type of gradient (the five small rectangles), mode and opacity from the top toolbar. To the left of the 5 small rectangles is a long one. Click on the long one to bring up a menu to modify the gradient in the gradient editor. Click on the color bar sliders to change size of each color.
    5. Most people start in the center of the image and holding the mouse button down go up and off the image. Hitting the "shift" key while you do this will straighten the line and set it to a 45 degree angle starting with zero that is straight up.
    6. When you let go of the mouse button the corners will be darker if the mode was normal. If you reverse the color of the squares in part 1 then the corners will be lighter. You can also use colors.
    7. To smooth out the transition click on "Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur". Move the radius until you get the desired effect. Click "ok".
    8. In the Layers menu move the "opacity" slider to get the desired effect.
    9. The last thing I do is highlight the background layer and adjust the contrast by going to "Image; Adjustment; Brightness/Contrast". Move the sliders to get the desired effect.

    Border and frame

    Interesting borders - numbers are variable

    Make canvas size  0.2 inches
    Magic wand with a tolerance of 10, contiguous, and click inside the 0.2 inches
    Paint bucket to drop the color you want in the 0.2 inches (dark green)
    	You can use any color you want.
    (select) ( modify)  ( border)  from the top menu bar.
    Paint bucket to drop the next color you want in the 0.2 inches (black)
    Deselect using the magic wand again


    Use the paint brush with the color you want, hold down the left mouse button in the first corner and then the shift key. Keep the shift key down the whole time. Next, release the mouse button and go to the next corner and left click. Repeat for the remaining corners. Release the shift key

    ************ you can stop here or continue *********************************

    Do it again with a different color
    Use the magic wand and select one of the colors
    Hold down the shift key and select the other color
    Get the blur tool, make it larger than the selected areas and run it back and forth over the selected areas. To tone the color down select the paintbrush with a black color and set the opacity to a low number like 20.
    Deselect using the magic wand again


    1. duplicate the background layer
    2. go to filter, sharpen and use the unsharp mask
    3. at the top of the layers menu, change "normal" to "luminosity". Then move the opacity slider to get the correct effect.


    1. duplicate the background layer
    2. desaturate the background layer
    3. and move radius upward until you just barely see the image's edges in the gray preview. <5 pixels.
    4. change the copy layer blend mode from Normal to Overlay
    5. Hard light will make the effect sharper, linear light with be too much.


    High-Pass sharpening barely adds any noise to your photo, and it’s a short and quick process.

    1. You’ll need to have a flat image for this, so if you have multiple layers, merge them together by selecting “Flatten Image” from the “Layer” menu.
    2. Create a duplicate layer of your image by selecting “Duplicate Layer” from the “Layer” menu.
    3. Go to the “Filter” menu, and go all the way to the bottom until you get to the submenu labeled “Other,” and then click on “High Pass…”
    4. The goal here is to select a pixel radius large enough so it outlines the edges of your photograph and shows a little bit of color (make sure the “preview” box is checked!). Usually values between 4 and 10 work very well. Here are a few examples of radius values that are too small, too big, and perfect:
    5. Click “OK” to apply the filter
    6. In the “Layers” window, click on the blending mode listbox, and select “Overlay”
    7. Your photo should now look like it’s too sharp. But, don’t worry, the next step is to fix that! Right next to the blending mode listbox, there’s an “Opacity” slider. Click on that and lower the opacity until your photo looks sharp, but not too sharp. I usually set it between 30-45%.

    Color to Black and White

    Start by making a copy of the background layer.

    In CS5
    1. Next to Black and White is a dropdown menu presently listed as Default. Click on the arrow and see the effect of various filters. 2. (Image) (Adjustment) (Levels). In (levels) move the outermost triangles in until they touch the histogram mountain. Adjust the middle triangle until the photo looks okay. 3. (Layer) (New Adjustment layer) (Black and White). Click ok. In the Adjustment menu try using the (auto box). If more work needs to be done click the (finger with two arrows) and it will become a dropper over the photo. Moving it left darkens and right lightens. 4. On to the sliders for various color capture. 5. Back near the top is (Tint) so you can monocolor the entire photo. Click on the color box to the right to change or modify the color.

    OR in older versions

    Go to Image --- Adjustments --- Black and White. With the preset you can choose various filters. If you just move the sliders the preset will change from none to custom and various parts of the photo will become brighter or darker. Click OK and you have your black and white photo.

    Colors close to those of the filter will appear lighter and thus increase or decrease the contrast between them and other tones. This can be a significant advantage when you want to increase the contrast between two colors that appear close in tone. A red flower against a pattern of green leaves will have a more dramatic contrast if the red channel is emphasized over the green, for example. This is because the red flower will be lightened while the green will darken, thus increasing the contrast.

    If you have a strong red element in the scene that you want to render as a dark tone, you would increase the percentage of the green channel, for instance. While that seems counterintuitive, remember that if you emphasize the red channel, the red lightens the scene. The same goes for green colors if you emphasize the green channel and blue for the blue channel.

    Lastly, make sure that the sum of all three channels doesn’t exceed 100% if you want to keep the exposure consistent with the original. Higher numbers will result in a brighter image, and lower numbers will darken a photograph.


    For black and white click on the saturation tab, and set all sliders to -100. The results will be cleaner than other methods. As an experiment try setting Clarity to 50% and boost sharpening Amount until the grain is well defined. Then adjust Exposure, Brightness, Contrast, and Blacks. Especially Blacks. To convert a color image to a toned black & white image, add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Enable the Colorize checkbox and drag the Hue and Saturation sliders. The Sepia Toning action that comes with Photoshop sets Hue to 30 and Saturation to 25.

    Introduction to Blends

    Before reading this section, be sure to read the material on Curves.

    Create blends with two layers: a top blend layer and a bottom image layer. Select blend mode in the Layers palette, or as an option with the Clone and Pattern Stamp tools.

    All blends operate on each color channel individually. For example, the Lighten blend chooses the lightest color between the blend and image layers. This is done by examining pixel values for each channel, and choosing the lightest value for the red, green, and blue channels. For example, if you blend pixel (96,128,192) with image pixel (190,128,96), the final result will be (190,128,192). Blending modes are grouped by functionality in the drop-down menu.

    A Catalog of Blends

    Blends are grouped in the Photoshop drop-down menu by category.
    Type Blend Effect

    Darken Darken
    Color Burn*
    Linear Burn* Blend values less than 255 darken.
    White or transparent blends have no effect. 
    Lighten Lighten
    Color Dodge*
    Linear Dodge* Blend values greater than 0 lighten.
    Black or transparent blends have no effect. 
    Darken & Lighten Overlay
    Soft Light
    Hard Light
    Vivid Light*
    Linear Light*
    Pin Light
    Hard Mix* Blend values less than 128 darken.
    Blend values greater than 128 lighten.
    Gray (128,128,128) or transparent blends have no effect. 

    For all blends, adjusting the Opacity slider controls the amount of the blend. For blends marked with an asterisk (*), adjusting the Fill slider controls the intensity or contrast of the effect. The following section examines several blends in detail.

    For each pixel, both layers are examined and the pixel with the lightest value is chosen. Lighten is a good choice when retouching blemishes in a portrait. After selecting the Clone tool, choose a Lighten blend in the Options bar so that the stamp will lighten darker areas around the blemish and leave lighter areas untouched.

    For each pixel, both layers are examined and the pixel with the darkest value is chosen.

    Pin Light
    A combination of Lighten and Darken blends. Values greater than 128 Lighten and values less than 128 darken.

    Color Dodge
    Grayscale values in the blend compress tonal values to lighten the image. The effect is similar to changing the white point in Levels. Colored Dodge simultaneously lighten and passes colors to the underlying image layer.

    Color Burn
    Grayscale values in the blend compress tonal values to darken the image. The effect is similar to changing the black point in Levels. Colored Burn simultaneously darkens and passes colors to the underlying image layer.

    Hard Mix
    A combination of Color Dodge and Color Burn. Values greater than 128 dodge and values less than 128 burn. This blend is used in conjunction with grayscale values for the Paint with Light action.

    Multiply darkens an image. A white or transparent blend has no effect. Paint the blend with shades of gray or black to darken the image. A black blend produces pure black in the final image. Most of the effect is confined to high values that are mapped, in a linear fashion, to lower values. For example, a blend filled with tonal value 192 will depress the right side of the curve to 192.

    Blend an image with itself for a nonlinear decrease in brightness. Alternatively, add an Adjustment layer (any will do) with default settings. Change blending mode to Multiply and adjust Opacity to control brightness. The latter technique results in smaller files as we're just saving adjustment instructions rather than duplicating the entire image. Although tonal values are compressed, they are not truncated so detail loss is minimal. Multiply, with equivalent curves adjustments, is illustrated below.

    Screen lightens an image. A black or transparent blend has no effect. Paint the blend with shades of gray or white to lighten the image. A white blend produces pure white in the final image. Most of the effect is confined to low values that are mapped, in a linear fashion, to higher values. For example, a blend with tonal value 64 will raise the left side of the curve to 64.

    Fine-Tuning Images

    Begin with Levels, which includes a histogram that reflects the entire tonal range of your image. By adjusting the black and white point indicators, you can establish the darkest and brightest points of the image. A strong black-and-white image requires establishing a solid black and solid white point (unless, of course, your image consists of only gray tones). Adjust both the black and white point indicators to the extreme edges of the histogram. If you want a natural-looking image, don’t bring them in too far; if you do, the image will suffer from clipping, which results in the loss of the highlight and shadow details. Even with a slight adjustment, you’ll likely see an improvement in the overall contrast of the image.

    If you want to increase the contrast even further, the best tool is Curves. The Curves control has a line that runs diagonally through the graph. By creating a slight S-curve adjustment and bringing the lower portion down and the higher part up, you’ll increase the contrast with minimal loss of detail in the highlights and shadows. The more dramatic the S curve, the stronger the contrast will appear.

    Another way to improve things now is to go to image—adjustments—Variations. In the upper right corner is a box called “show clipping” so uncheck it. Dial the effect down to fine. Work the shadows and then the highlights.

    Since you made a copy in the beginning now you can play with the opacity to let some of the background show through. Use the history brush or eraser to show the background in selected areas or use masking or selections for better control.


    Purple stuff is fringing and two color is chromatic aberration. In RAW use the lens correction tab (fourth from the right) use the Defringe pulldown menu to select Highlight Edges.

    In photoshop use (filter) (distort) ( lens correction) and uncheck the show grid option. Magnify the troublesome area and use the chromatic aberration sliders to get rid of it.

    If discoloration remains duplicate the background layer and type the letter O for the sponge tool which may be hiding under dodge or burn tool. In the options bar choose mode: desaturate. Paint over the purple to start cleaning up the branches. You can use a mask to protect leaves, etc.


    Select the fringe color and then (select) (inverse) with a decent amount of feathering.

    CS5 Content Aware Fill

    For a small object use the (healing brush) and cover the area you want to remove. If it ends up blurry do it again and that might solve the problem. For larger areas use the (lasso tool) and outline the area, then go to (edit)(fill) and at the dropdown menu select (content aware) and leave the other menu as (normal) and opacity at 100%. You may have to go back and use the (healing brush) to get the overlap correct. Sharpening of the selected area might need to be done.

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    website page last modified on December 16, 2010 by Donn Critchell