Using Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0
Uses Color Fill, Levels, Brightness/Contrast
Level of Difficulty: Beginner
As part of a challenge to create a contrasted saturated icon, I came across this relatively easy method of getting it done. I would suggest having some basic knowledge of Photoshop before trying to work with the tools that this one uses, but I will try and help by structuring the tutorial for a beginner.
1 - As I always first say, after you have your basic picture configured into a blank icon, take a good look at it. What does it need? If you're reading this tutorial, you may have had a problem similar to me: the image is very desaturated. Everything is drab and pale. So my focus centered on saturating and creating focus on the icon. Focus first. I duplicated the layer twice. With the first duplication, you will first establish the foreground and background by creating a catching subject. Personally, I've found that breaking the subject and the background helps. Here is where something like the poly lasso tool helps. Circling the subject and then inversing to select the background.
From here, I desaturated the background quite a bit. Do not worry, it's not going to completely be without color later. Now, with the background still selected, cut it off from the other duplicated layer. Get rid of the background from that one. This will leave your subject behind as its own layer. Here's a quick recount of your current layers:
1. Generic image.
2. Image with the desaturated background.
3. Image with subject stand alone.
2 - Select your third layer. Is there something on it that you particularly wanted to be saturated? I wanted the scarf's color to pop out, so using the Sponge Tool I went over with saturation over that specific area. Not too much. You're going to be saturating the entire icon later, and if you overuse the tool right now, it's going to completely take over if you do not keep it in check.
Now you can focus on the images as a whole. Start with a Color Fill (Layer->New Fill Layer->Solid Color). What did I need? Well-defined skin tones, centering around reds, oranges and yellows. Warms. Problem is, where do you focus? Setting the layer to Overlay at half-opacity will give you room to work around. Here's a couple of examples of focusing the Overlay on different warms and their effects.
Here's what you do NOT want:
- Too red.
- Too yellow.
- Too orange.
What purpose did that serve. You need to know which warm you want to work with. Each image is different, and you need to know which one serves you more. For mine, orange was the answer. Just not that orange, as seen above. In the end, I chose a far paler, almost grayer orange. We tend to be over excited to get progress too fast. You'll establish your saturations later. This just helps start it off.
3 - Next, create a Normal Levels Layer (Layer->New Adjustment Layer->Levels). This is probably your most important layer and the most important step of this tutorial. You will see how that Overlay Color Fill helped. You've established your warmth, and now you can use Levels to emphasize on it. What do you need to focus on? Channels RGB, Reds, Greens, Blues.
My image did not need so much focus on lights here (you can work with it later in Brightness/Contrast). In fact, I went ahead and established my darks with the black input arrow. Beginners, you have noticed that if you move it to the right, your icon will cast overall shadows in the image. Does your image need it? Or does it need the white input arrow to be moved to the left? You know. I don't. I am merely trying to tell you that my simply telling you what I put in won't help you with your particular image. I needed to adjust accordingly, and so will you. Apply that to your other channels.
Focus on the warms. Your reds. That is what that white input arrow is for. Move it to the left, and your reds are washed and intensified on your icon. As I keep stressing, do not go overboard. I really only had to barely move it, because that Overlay layer did so much work for me so that I only had to use the Red Channel on Levels to help it a bit more.
I tend to stay away from Channel Green, unless I need to work with green itself. It's not a good part when you need to work with warms. It's opposite, Magenta (black input arrow), is so powerful that when set to Normal it can quickly give off a purple tone. Green is usually reserved for green (a cool) so unless you have green in your picture, I would not stress using it.
Blue is important, because it holds the other warm color you're looking for: yellow. Under Levels, that is the black input arrow (also, the white output arrow, if you really need it). As with reds, I really did not have to shift it to the right so much. If you skipped over that Overlay Color Fill, you might have to push it a bit more. But, really, it's a very powerful tool when establishing saturations. It's underrated, and you can see as you work with your icon how well it works.
4 - What a difference that created. To do what you set out to do, the only other step I used was Brightness/Contrast (Layer->New Adjustment Layer->Brightness/Contrast). This tool, set to Normal, is simple but effective. The concept is simple, beginners. Move the arrows to the left, the darker and less contrasted the image will be. To the right, the brighter and more contrasted. My image was actually bright enough that I had to only up it a pinch. The same with Contrast. I only used it to put more distance between the subject and the background, which was one of the purposes of this tutorial.
That ends this simple tutorial.