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Photoshop Q&A

by | 2 years ago

Q: I want to save a photo inside a hexagon (with the remainder transparent). What’s the best way to do that? 

A: Activate the Polygon tool (under the Rectangle tool [U]) in the Toolbar and, in the Options Bar, change the first setting to Shape and the Sides to 6 (the Fill color doesn’t matter). Click-and-drag to draw the hexagon and create a shape layer. Drag the photo above the shape layer (you may have to unlock the photo layer first by clicking on the lock icon). Then, with the photo layer active, go to the Layer menu and choose Create Clipping Mask, and the photo will only appear within the hexagon. To preserve the transparency, save as either a PSD or PNG, depending on what you’re doing with the image (PSD works well with other Adobe applications such as Illustrator or InDesign, while PNG works best for web-based graphics). 

Q: I have some flames on a black background that I want to blend into another photo. Changing the blend mode to Screen worked okay, but the flames weren’t vibrant. What other options do I have? 

A: One potential solution is the Blend If sliders. In the Layers panel, double-click to the right of the flame layer’s name and you’ll bring up the Layer Style dialog, displaying the Blending Options. At the bottom, you’ll see the Blend If sliders. Drag the left-hand This Layer slider to the right just a bit and you should see the black disappear. It usually helps to hold down the Option (PC: Alt) key and click on the slider to split it into two halves—this helps create a smoother transition between the pixels that are transparent and those that remain opaque. This function is considered a layer style, so you can continue to edit the settings by double-clicking on the symbol that appears beside the layer name. Also, as shown in this example, you can always add a layer mask to help edit the effect.

Q: I went to the Preset Manager to organize my patterns and shapes, but the only categories there are Contours and Tools. What gives? 

A: In Photoshop 2020, new panels were introduced to display and work with patterns, gradient and shapes, and that eliminated the need to have these presets in the Preset Manager. Now you can manage brushes, patterns, gradients, and shapes in their own panels.

Q: I need to create 100 documents that will share some elements but need a different photo and name in each case. Do I have any option other than lots of copying-and-pasting? 

A: Photoshop has a function called Variables that’s made for situations like this. You create a “template” that contains all the elements that will change, as well as those that will remain unchanged. After indicating what the variables are, you marry it all together using a text file. The setup takes a few minutes, but for large volumes like your project, it will save you a ton of time. Here’s how:

Step One: Create a layered Photoshop document that contains everything you need. It’ll make your life much easier if you name all your layers. In my example, the photo, name, and job title will change for each person. Once the document is complete (and saved), you need to tell Photoshop which layers are the variables by going to Image>Variables>Define. In the Variables dialog, go through the list of layers and assign a variable to the layers that will change. For example, my photo layer will be replaced with each person’s photo. I clicked on Pixel Replacement and named that variable “photo.” What you call the variable isn’t important, but later you’ll have to remember what label you used. In this example, I also made the job title text layer and the name text layer into variables.

Step Two: Next, create a text file that contains two things: the variables by name on the first line separated by commas, and then one line per person that contains their name, the name of the photo file (with the extension), and their job title. Save that file as a plain text file. 

Step Three: Put all the files into the same folder: the text file, along with each person’s photo (making sure the filenames match up with the text file).

Step Four: Now, go back to the document, this time choosing Image>Variables>Data Sets. Click on the Import button, then click on the Select button, navigate to your text file, and click Load. Click OK, and as soon as you turn on the Preview checkbox, you should see the first photo, name, and position displayed in your document. You can scroll through (and preview) all the records in your text file by clicking on the small arrows to the right of the Data Set field. Note: When you click OK, your document will return to its “placeholder” look.

Step Five: The final step to creating the actual files is found under File>Export>Data Sets as Files. In the dialog, select a folder in which to put the files, and set up a naming system, if you like. Click OK and new documents will be created, one for each line (each person) in your text file.

The resulting files are PSD documents in case you need to edit any of the results. Then you can use Image Processor to save JPEG versions of all the PSD files. 

Q: I have two layers, each with a drop shadow. When I move one shadow, the shadow on the other layer moves too. Why is this happening, and how do I stop it? 

A: By default, the Drop Shadow, Inner Shadow, and Bevel and Emboss layer styles use a setting called Use Global Light. This is like having a “master” light source so that any new instance of these layer styles will have the same angle of light. When you move one shadow, the shadow on the other layer also moves because it’s being affected by that “master” light angle. If you want to be able to control the shadow angles independently on each layer, uncheck Use Global Light and you’ll be able to control the angle of light on each layer on a layer-by-layer basis.

ALL IMAGES BY DAVE CROSS, EXCEPT WHERE NOTED