Speed effects for photos

Do you know this situation? You just shot a really nice pic and you don't really see any reason why you should retouch it and just want to make it look even cooler without spending hours of work. So here I will come up with some VERY quick methods to make some pics look neat. As always it depends on the actual image and your taste which one fits to your shot or even if any. I will show all of them with the same pic so that you can clearly distinguish the different effects these methods have on the images. The shot was taken by Cara Gutman. The different methods must be done independently. So with every new point you should start with a vanilla image.

1. Duplicate the image layer twice, select the top one, increase its brightness by 60, desaturate it(luminosity) and set its layermode to screen. Select the middle layer, increase its contrast by 60 and set its layer mode to value:

2. Duplicate the image layer, add an layer mask that contains a greyscale copy of the layer itself and duplicate the layer with the mask again. Set the top layer's mode to screen and the middle one to multiply and invert this ones layer masks colors. Increase this mask's contrast by 100. Now select the other layer mask and increase brightness by 30 and contrast by 80. Finally apply "Filter" -> "Noise" -> "RGB Noise" with "correlated Noise" activated and an amount of 0.35 to the layer mask of the "screen" layer:

3. Duplicate the image layer, add an layer mask that contains a greyscale copy of the layer itself. Now increase tha masks contrast by 40 and colorize the layer with the settings you want. You have got to fiddle a bit around to find some fitting settings:

That's it for now. Thanks for reading this very little guide.

Creating a dirty and cool background

You might have seen them on some music covers or concert posters. Often they have got a very grungy and dirty background that looks soooo cool. Often you can't distinguish the different parts of the images because they are somehow composed together very good and only by looking at it very closely you see the components of the background. I will try to show you some techniques how to achieve an effect like that:

Therefore we need some material to start with since we won't start from scratch. You can find a very huge amount of photos on CGtextures.com. I picked the following ones as an example. I recommend you to always download the biggest format available but in this guide I used the medium sizes to be able to get some more material since it isn't for print anyway. The free 15MB/day are more than enough to start with. So these are the pics I chose from CGTexures.com: (again these are not my photos and copyright is at their website.)

Now we can open up a blank image at the size of 1200x1600 and open our whole material as layers via "File" -> "Open As Layers". In this dialog you should be able to select more than one image and they will be loaded at once one after another. Now make all layers invisible except the one you want to have as the background layer. Move this one to the bottom and duplicate it:

Move one of the two upwards until its top edge touches the upper edge of the image. But this looks rather crappy because the lower part of the moved up layer creates a very hard edge. So wee need a layermask to hide this part of the layer. But first duplicate the upper layer again and make the duplicate invisible. We will be needing this one later on. Now create the layermask and select the gradient tool. Choose the colors black and white and apply a linear gradient to the layermask that it looks as follows:

But still the blending does not look really good. Now we need our invisible and duplicated layer. Make it visible, desaturate it(Luminosity) and boost the contrast a bit, that the scratches get out even clearer.

Select the gradient tool, set its mode to Multiply and apply a cradient that the layer looks as follows:

Press "Ctrl" + "A", "Ctrl" + "C", select the layer mask and hit "Ctrl" + "V" and set the "Floating Selections" mode to "Substract". Now you can anchor the Floating Selection via rightclicking on it and selecting the entry. When you look at the layermask you see that the gradient now also contains some scratches from the layer and the blending doesn't look that smooth anymore. You can delete the greyscale layer if you want but you dont have to. Just make it invisible. Make sure that only the background is visible and create a new layer containing this background via rightclicking and selecting "New from visible". Now rename this layer to background and make all the others invisible.

Lets move on to the next component. Select the layer that contains the splatter, rotate it 90 degrees and size it up proportionally until the width is about 850px. Apply a layermask with the greyscale copy of the layer and invert the layermask:

Use the curves tool on the layermask to tweak the mask your needs. Now select as layer mode "Multiply" and use the "Hue-Saturation" dialog to lower the saturation a bit and the lightness pretty much until you can clearly see the splatter.

For now we can put in the next part and you should select the "RustScratches0003..." layer and move it above our splatter if it isn't yet. Again we should use basicly the same method to blend the layer into the rest of the image. We create a layermask that contains the greyscaleversion of the layer, invert is and tweak its tones. But this layer has got the bad property that the lower part of the layer has got the same value as the scratches. this might lead to the following result:

But there are basicly two methods to get rid of this problem. First: manual work -> sucks. Second: Flipping the layer vertically and moving this edge to the top of the image, or above -> rules:

I think you got the basics now. What we need to do now that we assembled the parts together we need to somehow forge them to one whole piece sind the different parts not really fit to each other. This can be achieved by applying some color corrections to the layers, rearanging the layers, duplicating them and playing with the different mixing modes.

This is what I got after some playing around:

Here you can download the *.xcf file.

Retouching a portrait - Part 3: Eyes and final touch

The second part of this series can be found here.
This time we will be fokusing on the eyes. On a portrait they are always the eyecatcher hence we should deal carefully with them and try to get the best out of them. Since we already created the appropriate layers we just have got to apply some filters color corrections and set the proper layer mode. At the end we will be applying some extra sharpening to the edges and add some general color adjustments.
This is what we got for now:

Set the layer mode of "Eyes #1" and "Eyes #2" to screen and you will see that the eyes will get brightened as hell. It is a bit to much but first we want to sharpen the eyes a bit. To do that we make a selection around the eyes so that we dont have got to wait that long for the filters to be applied:

Now we apply th following filter to "Eyes #1": "Filters" -> "Enhance" -> "Unsharp Mask" with the following settings:

Select the other eyes-layer and apply this "Unsharp Mask":

You can leave the opacity of the "Eyes #1" layer as it is and decrease the other eye layer's to about 50%-60%. It is a matter of taste and you should try it out on your own. So we are finished with the eyes. Again: this is the very basic stuff you can do. There are A LOT of further possibilities to tweak a face even further! Maybe I will pick up some special aspects in later articles.
This is what we got so far:

Now we right click on the top layer and select "New from visible". Now clear our selection and duplicate this new layer and invert its colors. Apply to both layers the following filter "Filters" -> "Edge-Detect" -> "Neon":

Now set the top layer's mode to "Addition" and again rightclick on the top layer and select "New from Visible" and then delete the two layers we used to create the third one. Desaturate this new layer (lightness) and blur it with the Gaussian Blur Filter with radius of 25px. What we have now should look like something like this:

Make this layer invisible and again create a new layer from visible. We now want to sharpen this layer and apply our blured layer that is invisible as layer mask. First we use the Unsharp Mask as follows:

Now add a layer mask to this layer and copy the b-w layer that contains the edges into the layermask via first right klicking onto the sharpened layer and selecting "Add Layer Mask" and clicking add second selecting our blurred edge layer and pressing "Ctrl" + "A", "Ctrl" + "C" selecting the layermask and pressing "Ctrl" + "V" third rightclicking onto the floating selection and choosing "Anchor Layer". You can adjust the amount of sharpening with the opacity of the layer that contains the sharpened image. If you want you can now create another layer that contains the whole image and apply some color corrections. But I am rather satisfied with my example image. So I will skip this step.
For now we are finished with our little workthrough in photo retouching. I will be covering some special parts in later tutorials. So stay tuned!

Colorizing a greyscale image

Some people tend to apply a greyscale filter to their pics while taking the photos. So they don't even have got a colored version of their shot. Sometimes this is a pitty since you can always convert it to greyscale on the PC afterwards with nearly every simple imageviewer. So first I would recommend that you always shoot just in color mode and convert it afterwards to greyscale. But now we want to discuss some methods to colorize a greyscale image. But don't expect to much since we have got to add all color manually and it won't be looking realistic at all.

This will be our example image during the whole tutorial:

1. Colorize with layers
First we create at least two white layers on top of our greyscale layer and add a layermask to them. Into these layermasks we paste a copy of our greyscale layer. This will have the effect that only certain parts of the image will be colorized with a certain color. We have control over this by manipulating the layermasks. Now we need to set the layer mode of our white layers to "Multiply" and colorize both white layers with two different but still matching colors. this can be done via: "Colors" -> "Colorize" and now you need to lower the lightness below zero since we want to colorize a white layer. By now you should have something like the following:

But both color layers apply to the same region of the image. You can change that by simply inverting one of the layermasks. So one layer will colorize the shadow parts and the other one the brighter parts. But the mids are still affected by both layers. We can avoid that by applying the following curves tool to both layer masks:

This will seperate the layers' areas of effect from each other and increasing the color contrast a bit more. this is the basic setup. Now you can start to fine tune both layers colors via "Colors" -> "Hue-Saturation". You can also try different layer modes or add some more colors by adding more color layers. Moreover you can tweak the layermasks to your needs. What I really like about this method is, that it is completely non destructive except the modifications you apply to the layer masks. You simply revert to the original by deleting the layers or making them invisible and you can tweak and change every step afterwards. This is my result with no more additional tweaks:

2. Curves Tool
As you might know you can use the curves tool to edit the RGB channels seperately. And as soon as one of the three channel contains at a certain location a different value than the other two it gets colored. So if you apply different curves to the channels you can achieve a colored image. This might read more complicated than it actually is. Let's start with a new image and duplicate the "Background" layer since this method is somehow pretty destructive and you will need a lot of testing and fiddling around. What comes in handy is that Gimp now keeps track of which settings you used with the curves tool and you can reselect them based on the time you applied them. You can also store them permanentely in the curves dialog. There is just one simple step: "Colors" -> "Curves" and then select the appropriate Channel with the dropdown menu and go for it.
This method is not very complicated to follow technically hence I will just show some results with the curves settings I used:

Especially the last pic shows that it's rather easy to even include several colors with one step but it's hard to keep control over the three channels. It would be easier if one could see all five curves for the channels at once while editing them. Both methods explained need a bit of experience until they do what you intend but this applies to many stuff so keep testing!

Retouching a portrait - Part 2: Skin

The first part of this series can be found here.

The most important part of a portrait is the skin. Our next goal is to achieve a very smooth and perfect look that still does not look articial. Therefore we need the two skin layers with those fancy masks we created in the first part.

We created two different layers for the skin to vary the intesity of the bluring we are going to apply now. Select the "Skin #1" layer and apply a gaussian blur with 15px radius. Select the "Skin #2" layer and apply the gaussian blur with about 25px radius. You might find that especially the left edge of the nose is a bit to blurry so select both layer masks and paint them on this line black with a fuzzy brush. The sharp edge should reemerge. Do so for any other area you might find being blurred to much or being unneccessarily blurred at all. Afterwards you might have a result similiar to this:

As you can see there are some light spots that are a bit distracting. We can get rid of them by applying the curves tool to the "Skin #2" layer with the following settings:

This step makes the skin a bit paler but that should be okay since lighter skin looks a bit cleaner. But it is a matter of taste. You can also leave out the last step if you don't like the result. Next step will be to add a little color to the cheeks. To do that create a quick selection:

Go to "Select" -> "Toggle Quick Mask" or simply hit Shift + Q. We are going to blur the selection very much. I would recommend about 250px with the gaussian blur filter. The selection might have gotten a bit to small. But we can increase its size with the curves tool and the following setting:

Now we blur again with the gaussian blur with about 150px radius. Hit Shift + Q again, create a new transparent layer, rename it to "cheeks", place it at the top of our layer stack and select the "Color Picker Tool". Now select the "Skin #2" layer and pick a color that lies in our selection and modify it as follows:

Select the "cheeks" layer again and fill the selection with the "Bucket Fill Tool". You might realize that this is far from being optimal. You can use the following "tools" to improve the result:
-change the opacity of the layer
-play around with "Color" -> "Hue-Saturation"
-play around with "Color" -> "Curves" while modifying the alpha channel
This is what I can come up with:

I just lowered the opacity to 65% and boosted the saturation a bit. Now we need to apply some structure to the skin. Therefore we need to duplicate our "Skin #1" layer, move it on top of our stack and fill the whole layer with plain white. Then we blur the layermask a bit let's say with about 40px radius. Now select the layer and apply a noise via: "Filters" -> "Noise" -> "HSV Noise" with these settings:

Now your image should look something like this:

We should duplicate the "Skin #3" layer. Now apply the gaussian blur to the "Skin #4" layer with about 2px radius. Now we need to apply the Embos filter to this new layer which can be found at "Filters" -> "Distorts" -> "Emboss..." with the following settings:

Since the image looks rather messed up by now we need to change the layer modes and opacities of the two new layers. I put the two setting together in one screenshot:

That's about it for now. You can see that there are still many rough edges all over the pic which just can be removed with a lot of manual work and fiddling around which I just left out for times and spaces sake. To be continued...
The third part of this series can be found here.

LAB color space experiments

A pixel in an image mostly has the following information stored: 2D coordinates for the location and a 3D or 4D vector for the color/alpha value it has. The color is often described by the amount of red, green and blue the color contains. So we are in the RGB color space. But there are other methods to describe the color a pixel has. For example the LAB color space (wikipedia). You might wonder what sense it does make to switch from the familiar color space to another that is harder to get a grip on it since the filters and color manipulation tools stay the same. Well if you read through the wikipedia article you might realize what is special about this color space. Especially for optimizing the light distribution in the image the LAB color space is the most powerful way to do that. But let's start some tests. We will compare the results of the same operations in the two different color spaces.
We are going to start with the following pic as an example:

First we create two duplicates of the layer and select the top one that is visible. Now we apply the following color manipulation: "Colors" - "Curves" and something like this:

Make the layer invisible and select another layer and do the following: "Colors" -> "Components" -> "Decompose" and choose these settings:

The created image contains three layers "L", "A" and "B". The important layer for us is the "L" layer. Select it and apple the same curves tool settings to this channel as you have done before. You can choose the last settings from a dropdown menu in the curves tool dialoge. Now let's recompose the image via: "Colors" -> "Components" -> "Recompose". Now you can close the LAB image without saving and return to the original one and see the result of our work in the LAB color space:

(After curves tool in RGB color space)

(After curves tool in LAB color space)

As you can see there is a huge difference in the results that we achieved. Both versions are somehow way to extreme but you can clearly see what the difference is. I recommend you to repeat this experiment with some more pics to get a clue what you can expect from this way of working with the images. As usual the best way to get to a certain impression on the image varies a lot with variing pics. I will soon be writing some more really useful stuff on how to efficiently using the LAB color space. So stay tuned!

Selective Coloring In 5 steps

Finished work

1. Open up the image you want to selective color. I'll be using this rose photographed by HAMED MASOUMI

2. right click on the rose layer and select "duplicate"

3. Go to the "colors" tab on the top and select "desaturate" (we have a great tutorial on desaturation here if you're interested, but the technique is not needed for this tutorial) select any of the modes you like, I chose "luminosity" make sure the desaturated layer is on top of the color one.

4. Apply a layer mask with the "white" setting...

Then select the object you want to leave colored. You can do this with the pen tool or whatever method your comfortable with.

5. I like to feather my selections with .2 percent so go to select>feather>.2 after this is all done, select the layer mask and fill with black. You should know have your standout colored! you can use the fuzzy brush to rough out some spots but all in all, you should have a nice picture.