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Commercial Photoshop Retouching: In the Studio by Glenn Honiball

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Chapter 4. Something from Nothing

One of the most difficult challenges of retouching is creating something that doesn't already exist. There may be a portion of an image that is missing and needs to be redrawn or made up. For example, sometimes a person's leg or finger is outside of the original shot and needs to be added in. It might be necessary to add or change a reflection to make an object look more appealing. The techniques described in this chapter will help you create something from nothing!

Creating Smoke or Steam

One common request I receive from clients is to add smoke or steam to an image. Sometimes the desired effect is wispy, floating steam to make a muffin look fresh from the oven; sometimes it's a strong, forceful stream to indicate an iron's wrinkle-fighting power. Knowing how to make steam is a handy tool.

Giving Your Coffee a Warm-up

Adding steam to a food item can immediately make it more appetizing. In this example, we'll add steam to a cold cup of coffee. By the end of this exercise, the coffee should appear hot!

Let's start with the cold, unappetizing cup of coffee in Figure 4-1. Once we add some steam, we'll be serving the much tastier looking cup shown in Figure 4-2!

Before: a cold cup of coffee

Figure 4-1. Before: a cold cup of coffee

After: once we add steam, our java will again be suitable for drinking

Figure 4-2. After: once we add steam, our java will again be suitable for drinking

First, you'll want to create a new layer. Next, select the Brush tool. Set the brush opacity to a low amount, such as 30 or 40, and set the foreground color to white. Now, brush S-shaped white vertical lines where the top surface of the coffee is, as I've done in Figure 4-3.

Brush S-shaped lines onto the layer

Figure 4-3. Brush S-shaped lines onto the layer

Once you have a few lines drawn in, select your Smudge tool and set the opacity to 50%. Shape and distort the lines with the Smudge tool, massaging the lines and pushing them around like putty until you get the look of wafting steam, as in Figure 4-4.

Modify the painted in white lines with the Smudge tool

Figure 4-4. Modify the painted in white lines with the Smudge tool

Feel free to create more layers and additional lines of steam, reshaping them differently each time. You do not want any two lines to look the same. You may want to set the opacity levels of the various steam layers at different levels so that the steam will appear more natural and have more of a 3D effect. You can also distort or change the height and width of the various steam layers. Figure 4-5 shows the final effect.

Note

You could keep this steam image on file in case you ever need steam or smoke again for another image. Steam or smoke can easily be sized up to a variety of sizes. Smoke doesn't really show any scaling effects, especially if you throw it out of focus a small amount for larger sizes.

Our cold cup of coffee has now been revived

Figure 4-5. Our cold cup of coffee has now been revived

Directional Steam

Sometimes you, or your client, may want to make steam appear as though it is blasting out of something, like a steam kettle, for instance. To achieve this effect, we'll add some motion to a steam layer.

Note

Other situations in which you should add motion to steam include car exhaust, airplane vapor trails, and when making someone or something appear as though it's moving quickly, creating a motion trail behind.

Figure 4-6 shows a picture of a kettle. We'll add steam in such a way that it appears to be shooting out of the kettle, as in Figure 4-7.

Once again, the first thing I would do is add a new layer to my file and set the attributes to normal; let's call this layer "Steam." Start by adding white lines to this steam layer coming from the kettle holes and project them in such a way that they are on the correct angle to the kettle, as in Figure 4-8.

Before: kettle without steam

Figure 4-6. Before: kettle without steam

After: whistling away

Figure 4-7. After: whistling away

Start with direct white lines

Figure 4-8. Start with direct white lines

Note

For the steam to appear natural, the angle of the steam must match the hole angle it's coming out of. For instance, if you were adding steam to a picture of a steam iron, each puff of steam coming from each of the little holes on the face of the iron may vary slightly in angle. You can change the angle of the steam by selecting the appropriate steam layer and transforming it with the Edit Transform tool. Remember, though, that when you select the Transform tool, there is a little pivot point that shows up in the middle of your Transform box. Be sure to move this pivot point with your cursor to the point on your steam (or any image, for that matter) that you wish to keep stationary, and any positioning change will pivot from where you have placed the pivot point. Repeat the positioning for each puff of steam.

The next step is to add some white puffs to the straight beams of steam to give the impression of the steam diffusing as it leaves the kettle. Add a new layer and brush in some white puffs. I'll use my Brush tool, set the foreground color to white, and set my brush opacity to about 20% and a maximum brush softness. The size of the brush will change as you brush in the steam, and you'll have to try a few different sizes so it won't be too perfect looking. The idea is to have it appear as though it is billowing out. So, add little blobs of white color in and around the white lines you just created, as in Figure 4-9.

Add blobs to the ends of the streams

Figure 4-9. Add blobs to the ends of the streams

Reshape the steam puffs with the Smudge tool, like we did with our coffee steam, so that they look like the puffs are diffusing as they dissipate from the kettle, as shown in Figure 4-10. Remember, the farther the steam travels from the source of projection, it loses its velocity and diffuses into puffs or cloud-like formations.

Use the Smudge tool to reshape the steam puffs

Figure 4-10. Use the Smudge tool to reshape the steam puffs

Now use the Erase tool to selectively erase portions of the steam, to create some transparency, as shown in Figure 4-11. I typically set the Erase tool to a low opacity of about 20%. I find this a good starting point for erasing portions of my steam very gradually without any hard edges developing.

If the steam looks too thick, change the layer opacity to make it appear more natural, as in Figure 4-12.

Then, duplicate the steam layer to give some fullness to the steam. Doing this also allows you to change the two steam layers so that they are different than one another, giving a more three-dimensional appearance to the diffused steam, as you can see Figure 4-13.

Note

Have some fun when creating steam or smoke. Use the Smudge tool and the Erase tool to selectively go through the steam and massage it into shape.

The Erase tool helps add transparency

Figure 4-11. The Erase tool helps add transparency

Change the layer opacity to make the steam look more natural

Figure 4-12. Change the layer opacity to make the steam look more natural

The final steam kettle image with duplicated steam layers

Figure 4-13. The final steam kettle image with duplicated steam layers

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