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    Photoshop CS2 workflow tutorial


    I use Adobe Photoshop CS2; most of this tutorial should be similar for Photoshop CS Isuspect. I would highly recommend Scott Kelbys The Photoshop CS2 book for digitalphotographers its a most excellent read and I firmly believe itll help you both become abetter Photoshop user, and more confident in your abilities in the realm of digital imageediting. Much of what I have learned is from this book.This tutorial is written with MicrosoftWindows XP professional in mind as well as the Windows version of Photoshop CS2.

    The first thing is to set up Photoshops Auto Colour to be more accurate. This will probablywork well for 95% of your images from my experience. This is detailed in Kelbys book onpages 177-179. Ill guide you through this process in this tutorial.

    The first thing that Id highly recommend that you do, although we wont actually use it in this

    tutorial, is to set up accurate auto colour. This step is optional, but can be sometimes behandy in replacing the manual colour balancing steps via the thresholds/curves techniquedescribed below if youre in a hurry. Its not quite as accurate as the manual way.


    The first thing to do is to bring up the Levels dialog box. To do this, press Control + L for aPC, or Command + L for a Mac. You will see the following window:

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    Click on the Options button. Youll now see the follow window:

    Make sure to select both Find Dark & Light Colours and Snap Neutral Midtones. In theTarget Colours && Clipping section you will see Three options:


    We will need to click on each of these options individually and enter in our settings. Lets start

    with clicking on Shadows you should see the following window:

    You want to enter in the value of 20 for the R, G & B sections and then click the OK button.

    Similarly, you will want to click on the Midtones and Highlights options. For Midtones youwill want to enter in the value of 133 for the R, G & B sections, and for the Highlights you will

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    want to enter in the value of 244 for the R, G & B sections. When you are done, you will wantto tick the Save as defaults checkbox and then click the OK button. We are done!

    With the auto colour set to our custom settings for increased accuracy, we can now proceedwith the rest of the tutorial.


    The first thing that we need to do is open the image in Photoshop CS2 and I then get rid ofany dust spots, etc. I use the spot healing tool, the clone tool, and sometimes even the patchtool, depending on the image. I usually select the zoom tool, and then click on theFit Screenbutton, followed by the Actual Pixels button. This gives you a larger working area on themain image canvas, making it easier to de-spot the image, with less having to drag thezoomed area around the navigator window. For most dust spots, the spot healing tool doesjust fine. Remember, you can change the size of the brush by using the[ and ] keys on yourkeyboard.

    For large areas where Ive cloned, Ill usually do a rough selection with the lasso tool, featherit (usually around 30 pixels), and then add around 1% Gaussian blur, followed by 0.3% noise.I find that this helps make the cloned area look a bit more natural. Feel free to experimentwith the amount of blur and noise, depending on the image etc.

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    Once youve done all of this, you can deselect the area by pressing the CTL and D keys onyour keyboard.

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    This is where the fun begins!

    Our first real step is to colour balance the image. I do this by using a Thresholds layer andcurves as per page 152 of Scott Kelby's book. A tip - I find it's more accurate to zoom intothe very first black dot or white section and mark them with the colour sample tool. I do thisfor both the darkest and lightest sections of the image. Once you have the highlight/darkest

    sections marked, youre half way there!

    Default look of the threshold tool note the triangular pointer is centred. We will adjust thisshortly, but for now, just take note of what it looks like by default.

    When you select the threshold tool, your image will change, and will look roughly like theimage below:

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    Dont be alarmed by this, its normal. Now, drag this triangular marker all the way to the left.The threshold tool will look like the image below:

    The image canvas will probably be White now. What you want to do is to now slide the

    triangular marker slowly back in towards the first black section of the histogram. You can usethe mouse for this, but I dont recommend it, as its not very accurate from my experience.You are much better to use the up/down cursor keys on your keyboard. Drag the marker inuntil you see your very first Black dot on the main canvas. When you have done this, you canclick on the OK button to close the threshold tool for now. We will now use thecoloursamplertool to select this black dot.

    The shortcut keys for cycling through this group of tools and selecting the colour sample toolare Shift + I. You will see the cursor in Photoshop change accordingly. When youveselected the colour sampler tool, you can either click on the black dot to mark it, or, as I saidearlier, zoom in and click on it. I find zooming in is much more accurate. I usually zoom intoactual size, but sometimes you will need to zoom in even tighter.

    When youve marked the darkest part of the image, you can repeat this process to select thelightest part. Double click on the Threshold layer in the layers palette. This will bring up theThreshold tool again. Drag the triangular marker all the way to the right. Now, you can slowlydrag the marker back in towards the centre by using the down cursor key on your keyboarduntil you see the first White dot on the main Photoshop canvas. Then simply click the OKbutton and use the colour sampler tool to mark it. Again, use the zoom tool as needed.Another tip if you dont mark the spots quite properly the first time, you can use the Undooption (shortcut keys are CTL & Z) to undo it and try again. When youve done this, youllnote that both spots are now marked:

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    OK, now thats the halfway point reached. Do not delete the Threshold layer, we still need it.Our next step is to mark our mid tone point. You can try and do this by eye, or do it via amethod that Ill show you below. We are going to create a new layer, by clicking on thecreate new layerbutton at the bottom of the layers palette.

    You will now have a new layer added to the top of your layer stack. We now need to fill thiswith 50% grey. Make sure that the new layer is selected. Hold the Shift button down andpress the F5 button on your keyboard. This will bring up the Fill window:

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    Make sure to change your settings to match the image above, otherwise this step will NOTwork correctly. The new layer will now be filled with grey. Our next step is to change theblending mode from Normal to Difference.

    Now, the trick is to drag the new layer (called Layer 1) below the Threshold layer, but abovethe Background layer. Your layer stack should look similar to this:

    Note that the Layer 1 is still selected, and the blend mode is now showing Difference. Now,simply double click on the Threshold layer to bring up the Threshold tool again. It willprobably look similar to this:

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    Note that the triangular marker is all the way to the right. Drag it all the way to the left. Now,slowly drag it towards the left hand edge of the histogram, until you start to see some Blacksections on the Photoshop canvas. I usually get a small amount of Black showing.

    I then use the colour sampler tool to select the mid tone area. Once youve done this, you

    can delete both Layer 1 and the Threshold layer, as we no longer need them.

    Now well actually apply our selections to a Curve layer to help balance the image. If youvezoomed in to mark any of the spots, zoom in first. Make sure you can see the selection in thePhotoshop canvas. I usually do the darkest section first, then the lightest, and then the midtone. To make our changes, you now need to open up aCurves adjustment layer.

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    The Curves tool looks like this:

    You will notice the three pickers near the bottom Right hand corner. From left to right, dark,mid tone and highlight. Use the droppers to select the corresponding marks on thePhotoshop canvas. An example image below illustrates the process:

    Note: You cannot move to new parts of the image whilst the Curves tool is open. Onceyouve marked the darkest section of the image, click the OK button. You are now free tomove around the image and select the lightest marker. Double click on the curves layer in thelayers palette to bring up the curve tool again. Now select the lightest picker, and then use itto mark the corresponding marker on the Photoshop canvas. Repeat this process to mark themid tone selection. Once done, click the OK button. You should have noticed the imagechange appropriately. In most cases, this technique works wonders, and removes unwantedcolour casts, correctly balancing the image. Sometimes, though, it will not work, and you

    might end up with a slight colour cast. Dont panic, there is a way to fix this as well.

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    If there's a slight colour cast from earlier steps, I usually add a colour balance adjustmentlayer. Before we go through this process, I would like to mention that I have my monitorcalibrated now after recently buying a Pantone Huey Pro, so that it's pretty accurate. Thisallows me to accurately gauge colours in the image, and hence any potential unwanted colourcasts.

    I also have the camera set to Adobe RGB, and my working space in Photoshop is set toAdobe RGB as well. Im using Adobe RGB because it offers a wider colour gamut over thesRGB workspace.

    You don't have to do any of this, just as long as your monitor is reasonably set up by eye (forexample using Adobe Gamma), and you're shooting sRGB, you should be mostly OK for webbased image displays. Since I'm trying to work on making my images both more accurate,and consistent, colour management has become an important part of my workflow. I wouldstrongly suggest that you consider purchasing some form of hardware calibrator for yourmonitor. Your images will improve.

    Anyways, that out of the way, Ill walk you through adding an adjustment layer. You will wantto click on the create new fill or adjustment button at the bottom of your layers palette and

    select Colour Balance from the menu:

    The Colour balance tool looks like:

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    I usually leave the Tone Balance option set to Midtones, and simply adjust thecorresponding slider as appropriate. I make all adjustments by eye. You usually dont needto make too drastic an adjustment, just keep an eye on the screen, when it looks right, itusually is. Once this is done, I flatten the image (Layer> Flatten Image), ready for the nextstep.

    Now, this next step is optional for most images I dont do it as I find that it generally makesthe image too contrasty and dark. Use as you feel appropriate. Basically, Ill add aLevelsadjustment layer:

    You will now have the Levels tool showing:

    Note that the Channel is set to RGB by default. You can adjust the RGB layer, but I prefer toadjust each layer separately.

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    Select Red from the drop down menu, instead of RGB. You should see something similar tothis:

    You will notice the histogram, and where it starts and finishes, etc. You will also note thatthere are 3 triangular markers Black, Grey and White. As you can probably imagine, theyrepresent the dark, mid tone and highlight points. I usually dont touch the mid tone marker,but I do make adjustments to the Black and White markers. You can simply grab them withyour mouse and drag them along until you reach the start (or edge) of the histogram.

    As an example, with the above histogram, my White point needs no adjustment it goes allthe way to the right hand edge of the histogram window (i.e. clipping in the brightest sections

    of the Reds). However, the Black marker can be dragged in slightly. After youve made theadjustment, the Red channel would look something like this:

    Repeat this process for the Blue and Green channels. When done, click on theOK button.Thats it. Were done with this stage of the workflow. Remember, this stage is optional, mostof the time I dont use this step. As you get a feel for things, youll know when to use it.When done, flatten the layers, so that you are ready for the next stage of my workflow.

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    The next step in my workflow is to add some contrast to the image. I don't do it via thetraditional Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer, well not quite.

    I start by duplicating the layer (the shortcut keyboard command is CTL + J). I then select theduplicated layer (it should be called Layer 1) and desaturate it (Image > Adjustments >Desaturate). I then invert the image (Image > Adjustments > Invert). I then apply a

    Gaussian blur of 10.5% to this adjustment layer.

    The next thing is to change the blending mode for this layer from Normal to Overlay. I thenchange the Opacity to 25% (seems to be a value that works well for most images). You canadjust this to suit of course. It should look like the image below:

    Once this is done, I do add a separate Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer, usually withcontrast set to +3. Again you can vary this if you think you need to.

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    Once this is done, I again, flatten the image.

    The next stage of my workflow is to adjust the Hue/Saturation of the image. Again, I do notuse a standard Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.

    I start by duplicating the layer (the shortcut keyboard command is CTL + J). I then select theduplicated layer (it should be called Layer 1) and apply a Gaussian blur of3% to thisadjustment layer.

    The next thing is to change the blending mode for this layer from Normal to Colour. You doNOT need to change the opacity of this layer, leave it at 100%. It should look like the imagebelow:

    Now, you can add a standard Hue/Saturation adjustment layer:

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    I typically only adjust the Saturation slider for the Master channel. On the odd occasion, I willselect one of the other channels as appropriate, and make any necessary adjustments. Mosttimes, the Master channel will be the only thing youll adjust. I again adjust by eye, if it looksright on screen, it usually is. A word ofwarning dont overdo saturation, or youll block thecolour. Ill show you an example of what I mean by a blocked colour below:

    Unblocked Greens

    Blocked Greens

    See how it looks clumpy? I usually adjust the Hue/Saturation by no more than probably 8points. Sometimes, depending on the image, Ill decrease the Saturation as needed. Justremember not to overdo it, I cant stress that point enough.

    I adjust the Hue/Saturation via this particular technique, as I feel that it tends to make it harderto block out colours, than if you were adjusting it via the standard method. It also tends to just

    look better.

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    When this is all done, you need to clip the two layers together. The horizontal Black line thatseparates the Hue/Saturation layer and duplicated layer (Layer 1) from each other is whatyou're after. Hold theAlt key down on your keyboard, and click on this line. You will seewhat looks like a tiny icon Two overlapping circles, one black, and one Grey.

    Unfortunately, theres no way to do a screen dump to show this tiny icon, so Ive circled whereyou need to click Red. Remember to hold down theALT key when doing this.

    It will link the 2 layers together and should look like the image below:

    See how Layer 1 is now underlined? And the description for the Hue/Saturation layer issubtly different?

    When this is all done, flatten the layers. Were ready for the next step sharpening theimage.

    Now, the sharpening that were applying in this step is typically called creative sharpening,as opposed to output sharpening, which would generally be the very last step after youveresized the image for printing or web display, etc. Ill deal with the output sharpening later.

    There are many ways to apply sharpening to an image the traditional USM (Unsharp mask)

    filter, the Smart Sharpen filter, high pass filtersharpening, etc.

    Each method has its own advantage:

    USM quick and easySmart Sharpening More powerful and flexible, generally only sharpens areas with detail inthem. Areas such as sky etc are not generally sharpened, avoiding artefactsHigh pass filter sharpening can result in aggressive sharpening with few artefacts

    Each method has its own disadvantage:

    USM affects everything in the image, less flexible than other optionsSmart Sharpening more complicated (potentially)

    High pass filter sharpening can lead to over aggressive sharpening if not used carefully(true for any sharpening method though in all honesty)

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    These are my personal thoughts, based on my experiences, and a fair amount of reading andexperimentation on the subject. Feel free to try whatever methods you like. In this tutorial,Im going to cover using the smart sharpening filter, because thats what I use in my workflowfor creative sharpening.

    Now, I just dont use a standard technique for the Smart Sharpen filter and there are good

    reasons for this. I actually convert my image fromRGB mode (default for colour images) toLAB mode. The reason for doing this is simple it helps avoid colour fringing etc as it onlysharpens the detail in the image, not the colour data. Some Photoshop gurus such asMartinEveningadvise you not to use the LAB mode technique, as they feel that it damages theimage more than it helps it. Others recommend it as a solid technique. I guess everyone canmake their own decision in regards to this.

    Firstly, you can find the Smart Sharpen filter via Filter> Sharpen > Smart Sharpen.

    When opened, the Smart Sharpen tool looks similar to this (depending on how you set it up tolook of course):

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    These are my settings, and from my experience they seem to work well:

    AdvancedPreview: OnSharpen Tab: Amount 53%; Radius 0.3 pixels; Remove: Lens Blur; More accurate

    I leave the Shadow and Highlight tabs at their defaults, but feel free to experiment with any ofthe settings to suit your own needs. As an aside, the traditional USM tool uses Gaussian blur,which as I stated earlier, doesnt deal with empty areas like the sky as well as Lens Blur does.

    Now, thats the basics of the Smart Sharpening tool. Before we actually use it, we need toconvert our image from RGB mode to LAB mode. You can do this viaImage > Mode > LABColour.

    The image will still look the same in the main Photoshop canvas. We now need to select theLightness channel which is available via the Channels tab. Look at the layers palette:

    You can see that Ive circled the Channels tab. You need to click on theChannels tab. Youshould then see something similar to the image below:

    You now need to click on the Lightness channel, so that it is the only channel thatshighlighted Blue.

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    You will see that your image in the main Photoshop canvas turns into a greyscale image.This is only temporary, so do not panic. Now you can apply theSmart Sharpen filter.

    Once this is done, you need to re-activate the Lab channel; you can do this by clicking in thebox to the left of the channel preview image (which Ive circled in Red for you):

    Once this is done, the image should return back to colour. Now click on theLayers tab whichis just to the left of the Channels tab, so that you can see your layers again. You can nowconvert the image back to RGB mode via Image > Mode > RGB Colour. Thats it, prettysimple isnt it? Out of curiosity, click on the Channels tab now and see what channels are


    Were now ready to clean up our image, using Noise Reduction software. Some people shootat lower ISO speeds and avoid this type of software; others use it on a regular basis. I fallinto the latter group I pretty much apply noise reduction to every image, irrespective of theshooting ISO. I use Neat Image Pro+, which allows me to use Neat Image as a filter withinPhotoshop.

    The standard free version of Neat Image only works in stand alone mode; it does not offer aPhotoshop plug-in. Also, the standard free version does not work with TIFF files onlyJPEGs. Since I shoot in RAW mode and convert to 16 bit TIFF files for Photoshop, thestandard Neat Image is no good to me. I strongly suggest shooting in RAW mode, the degreeof flexibility that it offers in post production can be a life saver. You can download Neat Image

    from their website:

    If you shoot in JPEGs, dont panic save the image in Photoshop as a high quality JPEG (Irecommend quality 12). Open the image in Neat Image standard and follow the noisereduction steps outlined below. I find that the main drawback to using the free version is thatit slows me down its much quicker to access Neat Image via the Filter menu. Once youvedone with cleaning up the image and removing any noise, simply save the file. You can thenscroll down in this document and continue with the section on resizing the image and outputsharpening for printing and web use.

    For those that use other Noise Reduction software, apply the noise as you usually would. I

    dont use Noiseware or Noise Ninja, and I dont have their software on my PC, so I cannotdescribe the process in detail.

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    The rest of my tutorial will deal with using Neat Image Pro+ as a filter step.

    Select the Neat Image filter via Filter> Neat Image > Reduce Noise.

    You will now see the main Neat Image window note that it has 2 tabs Device NoiseProfile & Noise Filter Settings:

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    You want to select the Device Noise Profile tab (which it does by default). You will see abutton called Auto Profile (marked with a Red circle in the above image) click on it. NeatImage will now attempt to find a suitable section of your image to use as a profile this worksprobably 95% of the time. Once this is done, youll see a Blue square where Neat Imagedecided was the best part of the image for profiling. Now click on theNoise Filter Settingstab. The Neat Image window will look similar to the image below:

    Now, I use Neat Image with its defaults, which work fine for the vast amount of images. Youcan see the adjustments palette over near the top right hand corner of the window if you wantto make any adjustments to the defaults.

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    I simply click the Apply button (circled in Red) to apply the default noise reduction. Feel freeto make adjustments to Neat Image as you desire. Once done, save the changes to theimage.

    By this stage, whether youve applied the noise reduction as a filter within Photoshop, or viathe stand alone version of Neat Image, or even some other noise reduction software, your

    image should be cleaned up. If you worked on the image within Photoshop, youre ready togo to the next step. If you worked on the image from outside of Photoshop, open the imageback up into Photoshop.

    Our next step is optional. If your image is saved in the sRGB workspace,ignore this step. Iflike me however, your working space is Adobe RGB (or something else like proRGB), you arebest to convert the image to a sRGB profile. sRGB works best for both printing to a localphoto printer, or for saving for the web. You can do this viaEdit > Convert to Profile (circledin Red):

    You will now see the Convert to Profile window, which will look like the image below:

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    I recommend the following settings be set:

    Profile: sRGB IED61966-2.1Engine: Adobe (ACE)Intent: Relative ColorimetricUse Black Point Compensation

    Preview: On

    Then simply click on the OK button. Thats it; the image is converted from Adobe RGB (orany other non sRGB working space) to sRGB. As I said earlier, you can ignore this step ifyou work in the sRGB working space which is probably most people. If you want to learnmore about colour management and working spaces, etc, I would highly recommend that youseek out Ren Damkots excellent posts on the subject. Thanks Ren.

    With that all done, were onto our second last step image resizing. You can do this via theImage > Image Size menu, or via the keyboard shortcut CTL + ALT + I. When youredoing this a lot of times, the keyboard shortcut, as with any shortcut, are much quicker. Ireally suggest that you take the time to learn Photoshops shortcut key combinations, at leastfor the most common tools.

    You will then see the Image Size window, which should look similar to the image below:

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    Now, many online forums limit your image size to the longest dimension being no more than800 pixels, including This is pretty easy to do simply enter800 as the pixel size for the largest dimension in your image, i.e. where it says width andheight. In my example image above, my longest dimension are 3072 pixels, so I wouldchange this to 800 pixels. This will automatically reduce the height and keep the dimensionsthe same as the original image size, provided you have both Scale Styles and Constrain

    Proportions selected. You also should have theResample Image option selected. Irecommend that you choose Bicubic Sharperas your re-sampling method. When done,click the OK button and you will see your image resized on screen.

    Our final step is to apply the output sharpening. For this stage, I use theunsharp mask(USM). If you prefer to use the Smart Sharpen filter, or some other method, go ahead anduse it.

    You can see my typical settings in the above image I always keep the preview optionturned on, and the Radius set at 0.3 pixels. I adjust both theThreshold and Amountsettings on a per image basis. The higher the number in the Threshold setting, the less affectthe sharpening will have on the image. 0 Threshold applies themaximum threshold effect. Igenerally avoid using 0 as my threshold.

    I tend not to over sharpen my images; I know many users typically use settings like 100%, 1pixel, and 0 levels. I find that this really over sharpens the images in all honesty. Again,adjust as you see fit for your images. Remember that you can see the before and aftereffects of the filter by clicking on the preview window. I recommend leaving the imagepreview at 100%, but, if you want to change it, go ahead.

    With everything done, were now ready to save the image as a JPEG for printing or webusage. There are two ways of doing this via theFile > Save As option, or via the File >Save for Web option. I will cover both methods in this tutorial. I primarily use the Save forWeb option, although many prefer not to use it as it strips the EXIF information from theimage. See the image on the next page:

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    Ill deal with the Save As option first. For most people, who probably shoot JPEGs, they cansimply select the save as option and save the image. For those that use TIFF files inPhotoshop, there can be minor complications, depending on if you shoot 8 bit or 16 bit TIFFfiles. If you shoot 8 bit, there should be no issues and you can select the save as option fromthe file menu. However, if you shoot 16 bit TIFF files, youmustconvert the image to an 8 bitformat first. You can do this viaImage > Mode > 8 Bits/Channel. This is because the JPEGformat is only8 bits. Youcannothave 16 bit JPEGs!

    If you try and use the save as option with a 16 bit TIFF file, you will notice that JPEG is not anoption to save to. Since I shoot in 16 bit mode, this is a nuisance, although one that I couldeasily fix with a Photoshop action if I really wanted to. Note that this problem doesnotapplyto the Save for Web option.

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    The Save As window looks like:

    You can see that the JPEG option has been highlighted as I selected it. Simply click on theSave button. You will see the following window:

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    To change the size of the file, simply drag the triangular marker between the large file andsmall file ends (indicated by the topmost Red circle and Red double sided arrow), until youreach a file size under 100kb (if posting as an attachment on the POTN servers), or reach asuitable file size (if hosting the image yourself and inserting the image into a POTN post).You can see that Ive also circled the size indicator in Red. Once youve done this, click onthe OK button. Youre finished, unless

    Now, lets look at the Save for Web option. File > Save for Web will bring up the Save forweb window. An alternative is the keyboard shortcutCTL + ALT + Shift + S.

    You can dictate the file size by selecting High, Very High, etc from the relevant drop downmenu (leftmost Red circle), and you can fine tune it by manually entering in a number in theQuality section (the second Red circle), so that you can keep it under 100kb in size if you areattaching it to a thread on POTN.

    Why do I prefer the Save for Web option? Quite simply, the size estimation feature for SaveAs is horridly inaccurate. Its also slower for me, since I work with 16 bit TIFF files.

    That's, pretty much my workflow. It sounds hard, and time consuming, but it isn't. Whenyou're confident, and have it down to pat, you'll be fine, and this entire process will probablytake you no more than a few minutes at most for each image. And, as I said earlier, youcould create Photoshop actions to speed some parts of the process up if you wanted to.

    I hope this workflow tutorial has helped you.

    Many thanks for taking the time to read it.

    Dave W Pastern

    Please see the next page for the licence agreements for this document.

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    Copyright David Pastern 2007

    Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this documentunder the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 orany later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no

    Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. Acopy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU FreeDocumentation License"

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    Warning and disclaimer:

    This document is designed to provide a basic tutorial on my Photoshop workflow. I havemade every effort to ensure that the document is as complete and as accurate as possible,but no warranty for fitness is implied.

    The information is supplied on an as-is basis. I shall have neither the liability norresponsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damages arising from theinformation contained in this document or from the use or Microsoft Windows, PhotoshopCS2 or any other software application.