Photoshop is an essential tool for good web design. You can use Photoshop for rendering high quality images from scratch, color correcting and enhancing photos, really the sky is the limit. Rather than provide you with a specific tutorial that walks you through the creation of a specific style or design, my goal is to show you several tools that you may not know about that can be used many different ways:
- Copy Merged
This one’s really a no-brainer. Make a selection, go to Edit > Copy Merged and voila, you’ve copied a a composite of all visible layers and effects, blended, merged and ready to paste. Open a new document and paste it in. I never slice anything anymore.
Note: If you’re Photoshop is older than CS2 you will need to have a visible layer selected or nothing will happen! This can be very confusing, so if you can afford an upgrade, do so!
The mysterious menu item that seems to never be enabled. Go ahead. Open up a photo, go to the Edit menu. See Fade…? It’s grayed out so that you can’t select it. Now scale your image down to a width of 120px. It probably got a bit fuzzy so let’s sharpen it a bit. Select Filter > Sharpen > Sharpen. Before you do anything else, go to the Edit menu. Now you’ll see Fade Sharpen… is available. Select it. Sharpen is a powerful filter. Too powerful if you ask me. Set the opacity fader in the Fade window to 30%. Depending on your image, you may need less or more, but 30% is about as high as you’ll ever need to go with Sharpen.
Fade can be used with pretty much any action in Photoshop, and in addition to the opacity fader, you can use it to change the blending mode. Think of fade as taking the current state of the highlighted layer and blending it with the immediate previous version. This can be a great tool for softening or changing the way that Photoshop renders anything raster based.
Levels is a quick and easy way to improve the depth of color of your photos. This one is also very powerful, and has some tricks you may or may not know about. One that I’ve found invaluable is setting your black point and white point in an image. Open up a photo that is too dark, low contrast or generally poorly lit, and select Image > Adjustments > Levels. You’ll notice there are there three little eye droppers on the lower right portion of this dialog. If your image’s blacks are to light, select the one with black in the dropper. Now click on the pixel in your image that should appear to be black. If there isn’t any area that should appear fully black, don’t use it. If your images white areas are too gray, select the eye dropper with white in it, then choose the whitest point on your image. Make sure you have the Preview box checked so that you can see what the effect will be. If it comes out too harsh, you can always Fade it.
Curves is pretty tricky to do well, but if you’ve never used it, give it a shot. It’s a much finer control over color and value than you can get with the more basic Hue/Saturation or Levels adjustments. Go to Image > Adjustments > Curves and check it out. A little goes a long way.