STEPS: Lighting an Image

1. Drag from the light icon at the bottom of the dialog box into the preview area to create a new light source. I call this area the stage because it's as if the image is painted on the floor of a stage and the lights are hanging above it.

2. Select the kind of light you want from the Light Type pop-up menu. It's just below the Style pop-up menu. You can select from Directional, Omni, and Spotlight:

• Directional works like the sun, producing a general, unfocused light that hits a target from an angle.

• Omni is a bare light bulb hanging in the middle of the room, shining in all directions from a center point.

• Spotlight is a focused beam that is brightest at the source and tapers off gradually.

3. Specify the color of the light by clicking the top color swatch. You can also muck about with the Intensity slider bar to control the brightness of the light. If Spotlight is selected, the Focus slider becomes available. Drag the slider toward Narrow to create a bright laser of light; drag toward Wide to diffuse the light and spread it over a larger area.

4. Move the light source by dragging at the focus point (the colored circle in the preview area). When Directional or Spotlight is selected, the focus point represents the spot at which the light is pointing. When Omni is active, the focus point is the actual bulb. (Don't burn yourself.)

5. If Directional or Spotlight is active, you can change the angle of the light by dragging the hot spot. The hot spot represents the location in the image that's liable to receive the most light. When you use a Directional light, the hot spot appears as a black square at the end of a line joined to the focus point. The same holds true when you edit a Spotlight; the confusing thing is that there are four black squares altogether. The light source is joined to the focus point by a line; the three handles are not.

Tip To make the light brighter, drag the hot spot closer to the focus point.

Dragging the hot spot away from the focus point dims the light by increasing the distance that it has to travel. It's like having a flashlight in the living room when you're in the garage — the light gets dimmer as you move away from it.

6. With Omni or Spotlight in force, you can edit the elliptical footprint of the light. When Omni is in force, a circle surrounds the focus point. When editing a Spotlight, you see an ellipse. Either way, this shape represents the footprint of the light, which is the approximate area of the image affected by the light. You can change the size of the light by dragging the handles around the footprint. Enlarging the shape is like raising the light source. When the footprint is small, the light is close to the image so it's concentrated and very bright. When the footprint is large, the light is high above the image, so it's more generalized.

Tip When editing the footprint of a Spotlight, Shift drag a handle to adjust the width or height of the ellipse without affecting the angle. To change the angle without affecting the size, Ctrl drag a handle.

7. Introduce more lights as you see fit.

Tip You can use a bunch of different techniques to add and subtract lights on the stage. Press Tab to switch from one light to the next. Duplicate a light in the stage by Alt dragging its focus point. To delete the active light, just press Backspace. Or if you prefer, you can drag the focus point onto the trash can icon at the bottom of the dialog box.

8. Change the Properties and Texture Channel options as you see fit. I explain these in detail after the steps.

9. If you want to save your settings for future use, click the Save button.

Photoshop invites you to name the setup, which then appears as an option in the Style pop-up menu. If you want to get rid of one of the presets, select it from the pop-up menu and click the Delete button.

10. Press Enter to apply your settings to the image.

That's almost everything. The only parts I left out are the Properties and Texture Channel options. The Properties slider bars control how light reflects off the surface of your image:

4 Gloss: Is the surface dull or shiny? Drag the slider toward Matte to make the surface flat and nonreflective, like dull enamel paint. Drag the slider toward Shiny to make it glossy, as if you had slapped on a coat of lacquer.

4 Material: This option determines the color of the light that reflects off the image. According to the logic employed by this option, Plastic reflects back the color of the light; Metallic reflects the color of the object itself. If only I had a bright, shiny plastic thing and a bright, shiny metal thing, I could check to see whether this logic holds true in real life (like maybe that matters).

4 Exposure: I'd like this option better if you could vary it between Sun Block 65 and Melanoma. Unfortunately, the more prosaic titles are Under and Over — exposed, that is. This option controls the brightness of all lights like a big dimmer switch. You can control a single selected light using the Intensity slider, but the Exposure slider offers the added control of changing all lights in the stage (preview) area and the ambient light (described next) together.

4 Ambience: The last slider enables you to add ambient light, which is a general, diffused light that hits all surfaces evenly. First, select the color of the light by clicking the color swatch to the right. Then drag the slider to cast a subtle hue over the stage. Drag toward Positive to tint the image with the color in the swatch; drag toward Negative to tint the stage with the swatch's opposite. Keep the slider set to 0 — dead in the center — to cast no hue.

The Texture Channel options enable you to treat one channel in the image as a texture map, which is a grayscale surface in which white indicates peaks and black indicates valleys. (As long as the White is high check box is selected, that is. If you deselect that option, everything flips, and black becomes the peak.) It's as if one channel has a surface to it. By selecting a channel from the pop-up menu, you create an emboss effect, much like that created with the Emboss filter except much better because you can light the surface from many angles at once and it's in color to boot.

Choose a channel to serve as the embossed surface from the pop-up menu. Then change the Height slider to indicate more or less Flat terrain or huge Mountainous cliffs of surface texture.

Color Plate 11-11 shows an image lit with a total of five spotlights, two from above and three from below. In the first example, I left the Texture Channel option set to None. In the second example, I selected the green channel as the surface map. And in the third example, I filled a separate mask channel with a bunch of white and black dollops using Filter ^ Pixelate ^ Pointillize and then I selected the mask from the Texture Channel pop-up menu in the Lighting Effects dialog box. The result is a wonderfully rough paper texture.

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