Thursday, May 27, 2010

Photo Thursdays - Masks- How to do focal black and white

Now that we're getting good with Photoshop and/or PIXLR, it's time to learn a new technique. One of the most popular photo enhancements today is the focal black and white, where most of the picture is in black and white except for the focus of the picture, which is in focus. Hence the name focal black and white. It seems like it would be incredibly difficult to do, but it's actually quite simple.

To get started, select a photo you love that has some element in it that is really unique. Maybe it's some sort of unique color, maybe it's a specific person, maybe it's a flower. Whatever it is, your picture needs to have some sort of focus that you really want to draw attention to. Now, go ahead and open this picture in Photoshop or PIXLR.

Next, go to your Layers palette and right-click on the default layer. In the menu that appears, select "Duplicate Layer." You now have two identical layers.
To avoid confusion, we should name our layers. To name a layer, simply double-click on the layer name and rename the layer. Rename one layer Black and White and the other Color (or choose something more creative if you want).
Next, select whichever layer you named Black and White. Go to the Adjustment menu (Image menu, Adjustments submenu in Photoshop) and select "Hue & Saturation." The shortcut key in both programs is Ctrl+U. In the dialog box that appears, drag the saturation to as low as it goes. Your layer is now in black and white. Don't worry, you still have a color layer.
Now it's time to create a mask. A mask is fancy way of cutting out parts of a layer without actually cutting out the layer. This allows you to "add" back parts of the layer if you accidentally cut them out.

This is where things get tricky depending on which system you are using. If you're using PIXLR, make sure the color layer is on top. To move a layer, select the layer you want to move and press the up and down arrows at the bottom of the Layers palette. You can also drag the layer to where you want it to be. This works in Photoshop as well.

If you're using Photoshop, you want the black and white layer on top.

Make sure you select the top-most layer. To apply the mask (in either program), go to the bottom of the Layers palette and find an icon that looks like a circle inside a square. This applies the mask. You'll notice an additional icon has been added on the same line as the top layer. This shows you that a mask has been applied.
Unfortunately, we have another problem depending on which program you're using.

If you're using Photoshop, you will now select your eraser tool and start erasing the part of the picture you want in COLOR. You use the eraser tool because you're erasing the black and white layer and that allows the color layer below to shine through. You will likely have to zoom in close and use smaller brushes to get the tiny edges.

If you make a mistake, don't worry. Select the Brush tool (B) and then go over the area you want to "add" back. Because you added a mask, you can do this. Pretty slick, huh?
If you are using PIXLR, you will use the Brush tool (B) to erase the part of the black and white picture that you want to appear in color. For some reason, PIXLR works backwards from Photoshop. So, if you erase to much, you will use the eraser tool to "add" back parts to the picture.
When you have finished removing the black and white that you don't want, you should see your picture developing nicely. You'll also notice an outline in the layer mask in your Layers palette. This shows you how much of the picture you have erased using the mask.

One important note is that even though you're using a mask, you still have two separate layers. This is nice because it allows you to really fine-tune the adjustments for the black and white layer and the color layer. Just make sure you select the correct layer in the Layers palette before attempting to adjust the color.
Once your image is complete, you need to flatten your image. You have two separate layers and a mask. That's a lot of stuff going on with a picture. You need to combine it into one picture. Go to the Layer menu and select "Flatten Image." All your layers will now combine into one complete picture. However, be warned that once you do this, you can no longer edit each layer individually. Any adjustments you make now will be to the picture as a whole.

The final product can be seen below. I boosted the richness of the color of the blanket and increased the highlights on the black and white layer. I also added a film grain effect on the black and white layer.

This is such an easy technique that every wedding photographer is probably cursing me right now for giving away their dirty little secret about how simple it is. While it may be easy, it is time consuming. But the final product is well worth the time and effort.

Show off your impressive use of the mask by uploading your masterpiece here.


Lu said...

I love focal BW and I love masks! Seriously, the day I learned about Photoshop masks was the day I knew I could learn to love Photoshop. Happy day. :)

Steve and Ashley said...

I love that picture! The blanket is awesome! Kiss that sweetie for me!

elliej said...

I'm your newest follower from FMBT. Please visit my blog and return the favor.

Have a great week,

Megan Harmeyer said...

Wow - this is the best find of the week!! Thank you so much for posting this. I have Photoshop and know just enough to frustrate the heck out of myself. Now I can make my pics look great!

kelly said...

this was awesome, first day with photoshop and i schooled it! you are great!