Dan Johnson

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So far Dan Johnson has created 98 blog entries.

Good news, everyone!

By |October 26th, 2013|Uncategorized|

I had been putting it off for a while, but the deadline is coming up at the end of the month. I finally took and passed the Photoshop CC recertification exam. So I am now an Adobe Certified Expert in the latest version of Photoshop. It actually wasn't ...

Just a few updates

By |October 16th, 2013|Uncategorized|

You may (or may not) have noticed the change in the title of this blog. I'm now teaching CS6 and sometimes even CC and I now have it myself, even though I'm still doing most of my professional work with CS5. I'll be switching over fully when I feel it'...

A new commercial illustration

By |July 22nd, 2013|Uncategorized|

It has been a while since my last post. I've been busy doing film effects work, but I still take time for my freelance projects. This is one I finished recently. It was a bear to do because of all the detail and elements that had to be included. It was...

Some recent work

By |April 15th, 2013|Uncategorized|

If any of you have been wondering what I've been up to in the long silence of the past few months, I'll let you in on it. Much of it has been not that interesting from an artistic point of view; I've been reworking past images for application in new la...

Catching up

By |April 11th, 2013|Uncategorized|

Followers of this blog may have noticed that things have been very quiet this year so far. Things have been quite chaotic and busy for me, and a lot has changed. My teaching career has practically ceased for the moment, although I did teach a weekend c...

Working non-destructively in Photoshop

By |January 8th, 2013|Uncategorized|

Have you ever been working on an image in Photoshop and needed to go back to an earlier version? Maybe a photo was sized too small or a filter was applied with too much intensity. After a while you changed your mind, or maybe the client wants something different after the job was supposedly finished. Especially in professional work, the more flexibility you have with your image editing, the better off you are.

Many of the tools Photoshop offers edit pixels in a destructive manner. That is, they permanently change pixels. Image adjustments, transforming, filters, erasers, brushes, and more usually work this way. Destructive editing is like killing pixels: once they are dead, that’s it. Sure, you can undo or go back in the History, but this is very limiting. The more non-destructively you work, the more options are open to you. In the past, we had to duplicate layers before making a change to have access to the original content. Photoshop now offers four better methods to do this: pixel layers, adjustment layers, masking, and smart objects.

Layers are pretty obvious. Believe it or not, back when I first learned Photoshop in school, it didn’t have layers at all. Everything had to be done with active selections and Alpha channels. You may know that you should paint on new layers, but did you know you can also use cloning and healing tools on blank layers? Just be sure to check their options to sample Current & Below or All Layers and get to work non-destructively covering up the stuff you don’t want.

Masking is another way to work non-destructively that has been in Photoshop for a long time. To remove a background or other unwanted areas, make a selection, then instead of deleting or copying and pasting, add a layer mask. The unwanted content is gone, but still there. You can paint white on the mask to bring it back. The new Properties panel in CS6 allows you to feather the mask edge, reduce its density, and refine its edge. None of this is possible if you erase or delete. You may never need to use an eraser tool again. Photoshop offers pixel-based layer masks, vector masks, and clipping masks. You can even group layers and add masks to the entire group. The possibilities are endless!

Most image adjustments should be done with adjustment layers. They don’t add much to the file size and can be edited over and over. If you have a selection active beforehand, the adjustment layer gets a mask automatically. They can be clipped to only affect one layer and you can even change their opacity and blend modes.

The newest and most powerful way to work non-destructively is with Smart Objects. Back when they were first introduced, they were pretty cool, but by CS4, they got even smarter. Like any other layer, you can mask them and change opacity, fill, and blend mode. But what is really great is how they protect the content on a layer. Any changes you make only affect the Smart Object, not the content. Now filters are smart. You can re-edit them, add multiple filters, change their order, and mask their effects. Transforming is also better. You have the full range of scaling, rotating, skewing, warping, and the rest. You can apply a transformation, then go back and do some more. All the values from the last time will still be there; they don’t reset. So, before doing any image editing, try converting each layer to a Smart Object as a first step. This works for more than raster content. Smart Objects can hold multiple layers, vector shapes, type, 3D objects, and even other smart objects. Just double-click the layer thumbnail to access the original, untouched content. And remember, don’t kill pixels if you don’t have to.

Photoshop, Resolution, and You

By |December 28th, 2012|Uncategorized|

Resolution is a topic that is misunderstood by many, including some professional artists and designers. The problem lies in the fact that it can refer to different concepts: the number of pixels in a monitor’s display, the quality of a printer’s final output, and the amount of detail in a raster image that is prepared for printing. The last definition is what we want to cover here.

In this case, the issue of resolution only pertains to raster images that are to be printed, nothing else. It is common to think of resolution in terms of DPI, or dots per inch, but as we will see, this is incorrect. Photoshop has a command just to take care of this issue, Image Size. All images that are prepared for print should pass through this dialog box. It is divided into two sections: Pixel Dimensions and Document Size. A quick look at its options shows that resolution is connected to the printed (or document) size and is actually measured in PPI, or pixels per inch. Inches (or centimeters in most of the world) are a real world measurement and only apply to printing on paper. Monitors, mobile devices, and other screens measure increments in pixels, not inches. We often think of high resolution as 300 PPI and low resolution as 72 PPI. This is true, but remember that you only need to worry about it when printing. Since your monitor measures images in pixels and your printer measures in inches, you need to translate pixels to inches when printing. That’s where Resample Image comes in. Resample means to add or remove pixels. No matter what resolution an image has when you open it in Photoshop, you can change it here in Image Size. Uncheck Resample Image to lock the Pixel Dimensions. Only the print size changes; the number of pixels stays the same. Therefore, resolution is relative. Using Photoshop, you can adjust it to what you need. Just make sure you have a large number of pixels to start with.

It is a common misconception that you need to work in 72 PPI on images for web. The truth is that browsers, monitors, and other screen devices don’t use resolution because they don’t see inches. You can work in whatever resolution you want; just keep the pixel size in mind. It is actually a good idea to work larger than your final image because you have more detail to work with. You can even work in high resolution or print size. To make the final web image, the best way is to use Save for Web. With this dialog box, you can choose the format you need, adjust compression (if applicable), and resize the image. Notice that here there is no resolution, only pixel dimensions. No matter what resolution your image has, if you make a JPG, PNG, or GIF with Save for Web, then open that image up, its resolution will default to 72 PPI.

With these few points in mind, the mystery surrounding resolution can finally be solved. Just remember, you only need it when going to print. For the web, think in pixels and you’ll be fine.

What’s new at the end of the year

By |December 26th, 2012|Uncategorized|

Classes are over and I'm in the middle of grading projects, working on my own, and looking for more work. I'm also preparing to recertify in the latest version of Photoshop, CS6. This has never been my favorite thing to do and I have three tests to tak...

Fun Photoshop projects

By |December 13th, 2012|Uncategorized|

I've been doing a few little projects for the past few days. Some of them were inspired by things some of my students were doing for class projects. This first one is based on the usual Photoshop miniature effect. I was showing some examples to a frien...

The illustration is completed (I hope)

By |December 7th, 2012|Uncategorized|

Well, I think I finally have it. All the changes are taken care of and I went through and fixed little areas that had been bothering me. As you can see, the main foreground pipe is now green, whereas it had previously been white. Before that, it was gr...