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Photoshop Q&A

Lesson 21 from: Adobe Photoshop CC: The Complete Guide

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

21. Photoshop Q&A

To close out this epic course, Ben holds a Photoshop Q&A and answers specific questions from students via Skype.
Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The topic of the lesson is a Q&A session about Adobe Photoshop CC, covering topics such as using smart objects, creating actions, working with masks, blending modes, and removing smoke in photographs.


  1. Is it always beneficial to turn an image into a smart object?

    No, it is only beneficial when there is an advantage to using it, such as when you plan on scaling, rotating, or applying filters to the image later.

  2. Can you save changes made with blending modes or filters as an action?

    No, actions are different from presets and require planning ahead by recording the action and then performing the desired steps.

  3. How can you prevent the background color from changing when working on a mask?

    The background color may change when using the eraser tool, but it can be easily corrected by typing the letter X to swap the foreground and background colors.

  4. What is the difference between a layer mask and a mask layer?

    A grayscale picture attached to a layer is called a layer mask, while a grayscale picture found in the channels panel is called an alpha channel or a saved selection.

  5. How can you prevent a halo from appearing around focus stacked images?

    It is recommended to capture the images in manual mode to ensure consistent exposure. Adjustments can also be made using curves to match the brightness of the surroundings.

  6. Should you leave maximize compatibility turned on?

    It is recommended to leave maximize compatibility turned on if you use programs that do not understand layers, as it ensures compatibility with any program that may be used to open the file.

  7. Can you edit the steps in an action?

    Yes, you can edit the steps in an action by dragging them to change their order or double-clicking on a step to modify its settings. Mouse movements can be replaced by re-recording the step.

Lesson Info

Photoshop Q&A

Hello and welcome to CreativeLive. Oh my gosh. We are here today for our final day of Adobe Photoshop CC: The Complete Guide with Ben Wilmore. My name is Jim Catechi, I'm gonna be your host today. We are bringing Ben live into the studio for our last day of this amazing Photoshop bootcamp. Let me tell you one thing: If you've purchased this bootcamp, or if you've been watching the entire month, there is absolutely no way that you are not gonna know Photoshop backwards and forwards once you finish with this content. Ben Wilmore is one of our top instructors here at CreativeLive. He teaches Lightroom, he teaches Adobe, he teaches light painting, and it's always wonderful to have him here in the studio, so without any further ado we're gonna welcome Ben from sunny Florida. Welcome Ben. How are you? Hello. Good to see you? Is that correct Ben, you're in sunny Florida? Is that true? Let me look out the window. Yes it seems to be sunny. Awesome. Ben, I want to thank you so much from ...

the bottom of our hearts here at CreativeLive and from our huge Facebook group. Thank you, thank you. I'm a power user of Photoshop, I've been using it since the beta version, but this bootcamp, this 20 days of education has taught me a ton of things and I know that the people out there that are true beginners are really going to be able to make incredible images if they follow this four-week course. Correct? Well yeah, I mean, in fact the first week is when the beginners will get the most out of it, and as we progress we'll get to everybody when it comes to your user level. Fantastic. Today of course, folks have been posting their questions in that Facebook group and also on our course page. I believe folks can ask questions. I'll be checking that functionality in just a minute, but let's just start off with some Q&A. How does that sound? Sounds great. Awesome. This is a question from Aray Borum. "It seems to me from our lesson "that turning an image into a smart object "is generally a wise move. "Is there a right and wrong time to create a smart object? "Why not turn all images into smart objects?" Well anytime you turn something into a smart object, the size of your file is gonna go up. And so I would only use a smart object when there is an advantage to using it. So if all you plan to do is open a picture, create a new layer above it to apply some retouching, and then use adjustment layers above that to further adjust your picture, you wouldn't be really using much of any advantage of a smart object. But if you plan on taking that same layer and scaling and rotating it, or applying a filter to it, those are things where you get special functionality if you have a smart object, because then those things are not permanent, and if you return to the filter later you can change the settings, or if you decide you want to rotate it a different amount, it's always calculated from the original image. So you just need to think of when is it giving me enough advantage that it's worth making my file size a little bit bigger. So that's why I wouldn't use smart objects, necessarily, for everything. I'd use it when I have a good advantage to using them. Great, thank you. And Ben, here's a question from Belinda who says, "This might be a silly question." Belinda, the only silly questions are the ones that you don't ask. But here it goes. When using blending modes, filters, et cetera, can you save the changes as an action? I saw the class where you created the brush preset, which I will definitely be creating more of, but I would love to create actions as well. Well we have a class on actions, so if you happen to have not seen it yet, be sure to watch that. But you should know in general that an action is different than the presets that you run into in various areas of Photoshop. When you save something as a preset, for instance when you're in the new dialog box where you create a new document, you can setup a preset for different document sizes. Or when you use a tool, you can save a preset for that tool. But when you do that you setup the tool first and then afterward you save it as a preset. When it comes to actions though it's different. With an action you have to tell it to start paying attention to what you're doing by recording that action, and then it pays attention to what you do after you start recording. So that means you have to plan ahead. I can't take something that's already done and magically turn it into an action. Instead I need to start create the action, then I go through the multiple-step process I wanted to include within that action, and then I tell it to stop recording the action, and then I need to test it to make sure it worked out just right. But you need to plan ahead a little bit more if you're gonna use actions, and we have a full lesson on actions, so if you haven't seen that yet be sure to take a look at it. Great, thanks Ben. Ben, Susan Regan asks, "There are several idiosyncrasies in Photoshop "that make it tricky to use," and you and I know that there's 1,000 ways to do the same thing. And Susan asks, "During masking, "when a color indicator is switched on and off, "the foreground color will sometimes stay the same, "or it will sometimes change the background color. "Is there a way to keep this from happening?" Are you sure what's going on there? Well, the main thing I want to do there is describe why is it doing what it's doing. First off, when you work on a mask, the content of that mask can only contain shades of gray, and therefore if you foreground color is a color, like red, or blue, or yellow, it's gonna change to a shade of gray because when you're working on a mask that's all you can use. But there is something else that happens, and that is when you click on a mask to paint on it, you will often find that your foreground and background colors become reversed. And the reason for that is because of how the eraser tool works. Usually the eraser tool literally deletes areas. So if you were working on a layer that contained a picture, you delete parts and it would look like a checkerboard that indicates an area is empty. When you're working on a mask, you can't truly delete things, you can only hide them, and the way you hide them is you paint with black. So the reason why it switches your foreground and background colors is whenever you use the eraser tool on anything that can't truly be erased it will paint with your background color. So it moves the background color so it becomes black, so if you paint with the eraser tool it will look like you're erasing away that layer, even though you're painting with black on the mask. And black in a mask hides things. Then if you were to grab the paint brush tool, you could paint with white and bring things back. So there is a little bit of logic behind it, but in general I find it takes a lot more time to switch between the paint brush tool and the eraser tool than it does for me to just type the letter X. X will exchange, or swap, your foreground and background colors. So if it happens to switch them to the exact opposite of what I want, I just type the letter X, start painting, and if I need to switch it again I'll type X once again. Great Ben, thanks so much. Here's a question from Michael. And I know this has been a little confusing to me, and I know we have a full lesson on masking, but Michael would like to know, "Could you talk a little bit about the difference between "a layer mask and mask layer? "I don't know the difference and when to use which one." So with that, there's a lot of terminology that gets thrown around, so it's easy to just use some terms that you've heard before but you might not actually find in Photoshop. So let's look at a few of the terms. If you ever see a grayscale picture attached to a layer, so it shows up to the right of the normal little thumbnail image for that layer in your layers panel, that is always called a layer mask, unless it's made out of a path, then it's called a vector mask, but we didn't talk about that and I doubt you're gonna use that. But in general, if you ever see a grayscale picture attached to a layer, it's called a layer mask. If you see that same grayscale picture somewhere else, it's probably not called a layer mask. Then you can go into your channels panel and if you see some things at the bottom of the channels panel, or at the top you see red, green, and blue, that's actually what makes up your picture, anything below that is called an alpha channel, or some people would call them saved selections, because that's what they're mainly used for. If you have one of those, then you can use it in various ways but you've gotta sometime transform it into something else in order to get it over to something else. So, you can go to the select menu and there's a choice called load selection and that would allow you to load one of those channels as a selection. Or you can hold down your mouse on that channel's little thumbnail and if you hold the command key when you do it-- that's control on Windows-- so you control click on the little thumbnail, that would do the same thing, it would load it as a selection. Anytime you see something that looks like a mask where it's a black and white picture, you can usually command click on it, control click it in Windows, to load it as a selection. So if I have it in the channels panel and I want to get it attached to a layer, I just happen to need to convert it to a selection first. That's related to a few other questions that attach to the question you just asked. But in general there is no such thing as a mask layer, at least that's not a normal term. There's a layer that happens to have a layer mask attached to it. So just trying to clear up a little bit of the terminology, but it takes a while to really get the feel for all of them. Great, thank you Ben. And here's one from Joanna. Ben, Joanna Connor would like to know, "Can you give some advice as to how to prevent the halo "that appears around some focus stacked images." Let me think about that. Focus stacked images means that she took more than one image where it had different areas in focus and she combined them together. One thing I would do is when you're capturing the images, make sure you're in manual mode so that your exposure doesn't change. If the exposure changes between them you might end up with an area that's brighter than its surroundings. But without actually seeing the picture, it's hard for me to really tell you exactly how to fix it. There are some techniques I talked about during the class where we can match the brightness of one area to another, and I could possibly use something like that and then paint with a soft edged brush to darken, let's say, a halo, if that's what it is, is a bright halo. Without seeing the picture it's really hard to give good advice on that. Great, thanks Ben. Cole Thorton says, "Ben, in regards to layer styles "you had an example in which you merged layer "with the styles with a blank layer "and the result was a new layer with the styles applied. "Can you remind us, again, "how you did that with the blending mode applied?" Well there's a couple things, and I think there was a little bit more on the question, like some extra questions related to that, if I remember on Facebook. No, that's fine, I'll cover it. I think what was being said was, I demonstrated how to use layer styles on something and I used a trick of taking that layer and merging it into an empty layer that was below. And by doing so it permanently applied whatever effect I had on the top layer. But in that case I was using a feature called layer styles, and that's where we have choices like drop shadow, bevel and emboss, that kind of stuff. Then I believe in the question he had asked, "Can I do something similar when I use a different feature "that's called the blending modes," and an example was when I created a layer that contained some fireworks, and underneath it I think was a cityscape, and we used a blending mode called screen mode which made the black background on the fireworks disappear so it looked like those fireworks were applied to the photo underneath. And so he was asking, could I do the same trick of putting an empty layer underneath and just merging the fireworks into it to get it to make that area around the fireworks kind of magically disappearing. Meaning give me the same visual result, but apply it in a way that's permanent. And the answer is no. When it comes to blending modes, a blending mode determines how the contents of one layer interacts with the layer that's underneath, and when you're in a mode called screen mode it means act as if we're using light so the contents of the top layer, which happen to be fireworks, is going to add light to what's underneath. If I put an empty layer in there and I tell it to merge into then it's just saying let's add just as much light as what's in the layer that contains the fireworks and let's merge it into this empty layer which contains nothing, and the end result gives you exactly what you started with. It's as if you changed the blending mode back to normal. There would need to be some content in that layer underneath because a blending mode determines how one layer interacts with what's under it, and if what's under it is an empty layer then the blending mode doesn't do a thing. So I'm sorry it doesn't quite work the same. I know I used layer styles for doing a trick but the same thing does not work with blending modes. Thanks Ben. Ben, from our course page in the questions area David S. would like to know, "Ben, where would you begin, "and could you give us some steps or methods "that you would use "to remove or hide smoke for this weekend's fireworks?" For folks watching after the fact in our catalog, we're coming up on the fourth of July this weekend. Let's see, smoke with fireworks. There's a couple different things, but the main things is the fireworks themselves is gonna be very bright, and then near there will be the smoke. You might be able to use something like curves. And if you remember when I used curves I would add two dots to the curve. In this case I would add one dot for the fireworks, and I wouldn't move that dot, therefore I'm locking in the brightness of the fireworks. Then I would add a second dot for the smoke and I would move that dot down. That's like having a dimmer switch in your hands so when you move it down it's gonna darken the smoke, and hopefully I can make it just as dark as the surroundings and therefore wouldn't notice it. Now it all depends on what the rest of the content of the image looks like, but if it's just a shot of the sky with fireworks in it, and if there's not like a cityscape or something else, that should work fine. If not, then you might have to get a little more tricky and incorporate some blending sliders or other things to limit the brightness range you're working on. But in general, a curves adjustment would usually do it. Great, thank you. And then another question we have. Ben, it's kind of an age old question, from Michael P. He says, "Should we still leave maximize compatibility on?" Yeah there's a setting in your preferences called maximize compatibility, and just so you know, it only affects Photoshop file format images. So if you usually save as a JPEG, or a TIFF, or anything else, you don't have to worry about this setting. What it does is in the Photoshop file format, if you have layers in your file, it's gonna just save the individual layers so if you open the image again in the future you see those layers just like you had before you closed the file. The problem is not every program understands what layers are, and if they don't understand what layers are, they won't be able to open and use that file, or even show you what it looks like. When you turn on maximize compatibility, it saves two versions of your file within the same file. It saves the individual layers, and then it saves a separate version that has those layers merged together into one. And therefore if a program that doesn't understand layers tries to access the file, it gets the flattened version of that image, the one that has no layers. And if it's instead opened in a program that does understand layers, then it can read the individual ones so you can see those layers when you get it open. Now, maximize compatibility I always have turned on, and the reason why is I use Lightroom a lot, and Lightroom is one of those programs that does not understand how to read the individual layers in a file, so I need to have maximize compatibility turned on, otherwise Lightroom can't show me those images. And there will be other programs that are similar to that, so it all depends on what you use. I leave maximize compatibility turned on. It does make the file size the littlest bit bigger, but I find it's worth it so it's compatible with just about any program I might run into. Great Ben, thanks so much. You know, you were so thorough in the four weeks of bootcamps. People are slowing down on questions. I think you've probably answered them all, Ben, over these last 20 days. I do have one last one to throw your way. This is from Jennifer Hampton who says, "This may be a dumb question regarding recording actions "you might have touched on, "but is there a way to edit the action steps? "I get you make actions because "you want them to do the same things repeatedly," but what's the workflow of changing an action and adding things in, can you do that? Yeah, the first thing is if you mess up while creating an action, at the moment you realized you messed up, at the bottom of the actions panel, click the stop button, the one that looks like a rectangle. Then drag the step in your action that you didn't mean to perform and drag it down to the trash can at the bottom of the panel, therefore you'll remove that. Then when you want to continue on, in your actions panel hit the record button, which is the little circle. And then you can continue on with your action. When you're completely done recording your action and you hit the stop button, you can still change the steps. You can click on a step and drag it up or down to change when it applies, so it's in a different order, or on some of the steps in the action you can double click on the step and if that step involved a dialog box, like a filter, then it will bring up that dialog again so you can change the settings that would be used. There are certain steps, though, that you can't just double click on to change because they didn't involve a screen where you typed in settings, instead they involved you dragging your mouse. And if you need to replace those you should click on the step within the actions panel, hit the record button, and then do whatever it is that required your mouse movement and when you're done hit the stop button and you'll find a new step was added in your actions. Just throw away the old one so you don't have two versions of it. Instead you threw away the old and rerecorded one step. So you can, it takes a little bit of practice and if you go through the actions class more than once you might get a better feeling for it. Great Ben, thanks so much, and thanks Jennifer, and thanks everybody out there in the Internet world who has been following along with Ben here at CreativeLive during these last 20 days. Ben, thank you again. We appreciate the effort and the time that you put into this amazing bootcamp. With that, folks, we're signing off and we'll see you next time here at CreativeLive. See you then.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Color Palettes
Edges and Textures
Hand-drawn Frames
Hand-drawn Graphics
Layout Templates
Practice Images - Lesson 18: Tips and Tricks
Practice Images - Lesson 19: Actions and Automation
Practice Images - Lesson 17: Advanced Layers
Practice Images - Lesson 12: Advanced Masking
Practice Images - Lesson 15: Advanced Retouching
Practice Images - Lesson 10: Blending Modes
Practice Images - Lesson 2: Camera Raw
Practice Images - Lesson 8: Color Adjustments
Practice Images - Lesson 5: Layer Masks
Practice Images - Lesson 4: Layers
Practice Images - Lesson 9: Retouching Essentials
Practice Images - Lesson 3: Selection Essentials
Practice Images - Lesson 14: Shooting for Photoshop
Practice Images - Lesson 13: Smart Objects
Practice Images - Lesson 1: Starting from Zero
Practice Images - Lesson 7: Tonal Adjustments
Practice Images - Lesson 6: Tools and Panels
Practice Images - Lesson 20: Troubleshooting and Advice
Practice Images - Lesson 16: Warp Bend Liquify
Practice Images - Lesson 11: Filters
Script Elements
Week 1 - Day 1 Homework
Week 1 - Day 2 Homework
Week 1 - Day 3 Homework
Week 1 - Day 4 Homework
Week 1 - Day 5 Homework
Week 1 - Photoshop CC Workbook
Bit Depth
Color Modes
Color Spaces
Logic of Keyboard Shortcuts
Pen Tool
Week 2 - Day 6 Homework
Week 2 - Day 7 Homework
Week 2 - Day 8 Homework
Week 2 - Day 9 Homework
Week 2 - Day 10 Homework
Week 2 - Photoshop CC Workbook
Homework - Shooting for Photoshop in Adobe Photoshop CC
Homework - Smart Objects in Adobe Photoshop CC
Homework - Filters in Adobe Photoshop CC
Homework - Advanced Masking in Adobe Photoshop CC
Homework - Advanced Retouching in Adobe Photoshop CC
Week 3 - Photoshop CC Workbook
Homework - Warp, Bend, Liquify, in Adobe Photoshop CC
Homework - Tips & Tricks in Adobe Photoshop CC
Homework - Actions & Automation in Adobe Photoshop CC
Homework - Troubleshooting & Advice in Adobe Photoshop CC
Homework - Advanced Layers in Adobe Photoshop CC
Week 4 - Photoshop CC Workbook
Bens Actions Sampler ReadMe
Bens Actions Sampler
Bens Styles Sampler ReadMe
Bens Styles Sampler
Texture Sampler
Save for Web
Facebook Q&A #1
Facebook Q&A #2
Q&A #3
PSD Preferences
File Formats
Customizing PSD

Ratings and Reviews


Ben Willmore is exceptionally and intimately knowledgeable about Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, including Bridge and Camera Raw, and how they work together. He's also a wonderful photographer. That's great, but what's even better for us is that he's an incredible and generous teacher. He shares his knowledge and experience in an organized, thorough, thoughtful and relatable way. I envy his efficiency with words and ideas! He isolates hard-to-understand concepts - things we'd be unlikely to figure out on our own - and explains them in simple terms and with on point and memorable examples. I completely enjoy Ben's teaching methods and his personality. His admiration and appreciation of his wife, Karen, are telling of what a good guy he must be, and he's got just an overall pleasant personality. I love his amusement when something "ridiculous" happens during an edit! This bootcamp is fantastic and just what I need. It's only one of Ben's many CL classes that I've watched and learned from - they are all excellent. Thank you, Ben Willmore. (And Karen!)

Lynn Buente

I purchased this course ---SMART MOVE!--because, at 74, I learn more slowly and need more practice. While I've had some "novice" experience with PS, this course is moving me along in a totally different way. Most tutorials just tell you what to do. Ben tells you not only WHAT to do, but WHY (--or why not) and HOW. Understanding better can lead to using the practices in PS more fluently AND to greater freedom to be creative. I find Ben's approach to be kind of a "come as you are" session. No matter where you are on the learning spectrum, there is something to review, something new, or a brand new challenge. The relaxed manner of presentation is great, but doesn't minimize the content of the class. I appreciate the additional explanations and theory. These help to make total sense of the tools and practices of good editing. I would really recommend that, if possible, you purchase the course. The practice images, the homework, and the evolving workbook are great review and reference points. Personally, I have downloaded the classes by week so I can view, re-view, and stop, start, and repeat segments as often as I need to --which is often! Also, sometimes I like to view and work on one segment of the class at a time. My study of this course will be a LOT LONGER than four weeks, and I know I'll be referring to it as long as I'm a Photoshop user. Thanks, Ben! (And thanks to your wife for her contribution as well.)

Carol Senske

I've used PS for about five years in many of it's various versions. Learning on your won is a tough proposition, and I've struggled the whole time. Seeing work I admired and that inspired me to strive for great er things then not being ablr to figure out how to do them was a major frustration. The jargon was sometimes foreign, the complexity of the program overwhelming but I soldiered on and learned bits and pieces. A friend recommended Ben's course and I immediately came to CL to see what she was so thrilled about - I was amazed! Ben is down-to-earth, explains each step, gives shortcuts, defines terms, and shows how to accomplish what he's teaching. After two weeks I bought the class. I not only bought the Photoshop course but I added the Lightroom course as well. I'll do that, on my own, when things slow down a bit, and I have no doubt that course will help me even more than the PS course. I'm totally at sea with LR. I like Ben's teaching style, appreciate all the homework and extras included, and greatly appreciate the magnificent, easy to use, workbook by Ben's wife. I give my wholehearted endorsement for this course!

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