Photoshop Elements 3 Solutions, Pt. 2 | 3 | WebReference

Photoshop Elements 3 Solutions, Pt. 2 | 3

Photoshop Elements 3 Solutions, Pt. 2.

Converting Color Images to Black-and-White

There are several reasons why you might convert a color image to black-and-white: black-and-white images stand out in a world saturated with color images, they are often more economical to print, and, if you save an image in Photoshop Elements' Grayscale mode, they take up less file space.

The image in Figure 2.25 was shot by San Francisco, California, resident Julie Christensen for a local newspaper. The newspaper prints only black-and-white photos, and Julie gave me a color print to scan and convert.

I scanned the print in color and converted it to black-and-white simply by choosing Enhance > Adjust Color > Remove Color (see Figure 2.25). This command converted the colors in the image to gray values, assigning equal red, green, and blue values to each pixel in the RGB image. The lightness value of each pixel did not change and, because the image remained in RGB mode, the file size didn't change either.

Figure 2.25: The original image (left). Quickly convert to black-and-white (right) by choosing Enhance > Adjust Color > Remove Color. (Photo by Julie Christensen)

If you want to keep your file size down, I suggest you convert an image to black-and-white by simply changing modes from RGB to Grayscale (Image > Mode > Grayscale). If you use this method, you won't have access to many Photoshop Elements filters and effects, which work only in RGB mode. But because grayscale images are only 8 bits per pixel, versus 24 bits per pixel, your file size will be about 75 percent smaller.

Cropping to the Essential Parts

Cropping is one of the most important ways to improve your digital image. Not only does cropping strengthen the composition of an image, it also reduces the overall size with no degradation in quality. In Photoshop Elements, using the Crop tool or Crop command is one of the easiest things you can do. This is a good time to emphasize the value of working on a copy of your original digital image. I can't tell you how many times I've cropped an image to what I thought was an optimal composition but then later decided I needed more sky or more foreground. I would have been in trouble if I didn't have the original to go back to.

In Figure 2.26 you'll see how with a little cropping I emphasized the child and her day care provider, and made a more compellling image.

Figure 2.26: Before cropping, the image is unnecessarily large and not as effective. The shaded area outside the bounding box denotes the area that will be cropped.

This is what I did:

Note : The Crop tool's default shield color, gray.or more precisely, black at 75 percent fine for most images. However, if you are working with images that contain large dark expanses, the gray shield may not be visible, In such cases, you can choose a lighter color and opacity by using the color selection box and the opacity pop-up slider in the options bar. This option appears only after you select the Crop tool and click and drag on your image.

In Standard Edit, I also could have cropped this image by using the Crop command on the Image menu. In that case, I would have had to do the following:

In the Organizer (Windows only), you can also crop in the Auto Fix window. (To open the Auto Fix window, choose Edit > Auto Fix Window from the Organizer menu bar, or right-click on the image and choose Auto Fix Window from the pop-up list). The Crop tool is located at the top right of the Auto Fix window and is fairly intuitive to use. It even has fixed aspect ratios to choose from with a variety of commonly used sizes such as 4 × 6 inches and 8 × 10 inches. When you are finished with your crop, simply click the Apply button.

At times you'll want to crop to a specific resolution and size. Figure 2.27 (top) shows a series of thumbnail shots that I created for I started with literally hundreds of screen-sized images, all of which required a smaller, thumbnail version to be used as a navigation device. The job was so big that any extra steps added unwanted time to the process. Instead of cropping and then resizing each cropped image, I simply put the required size and resolution values of the thumbnail version into the Width, Height, or Resolution text boxes in the options bar (Clicking the Clear button in the options bar resets the values to their defaults). The options bar is shown in Figure 2.27 (bottom). I then followed the preceding steps, used in the day care example. After I finished making my cropping selection, I clicked Commit and ended up with exactly the size and resolution I needed—in this case, 30 × 30 pixels at 72 dots per inch (dpi).

Figure 2.27: The Crop tool can be set to crop to a specific size and resolution (top). (Photos by Peter Turnley, with permission from Newsweek, Inc.) The Crop tool options bar (bottom).

Although this procedure saved time, there was a trade-off in quality. By resizing so radically in one jump, I degraded the final image more than I would have if I had taken it down slowly in increments ("Resizing," next).

Knowing Your File Size

Just as you wouldn't lift something without knowing its weight for fear of injuring your back, you shouldn't begin working on a digital image without knowing its pixel size. Why? The larger the image, the more the pixels, and the more "processing" power it takes to do even the simplest tasks.

How do you determine file size?

Choose Window > Info from the menu bar. Look at the bottom of the Info window. Click the triangle and choose Document Sizes from the pop-up menu. The number to the left is the approximate size of the saved, flattened file in the Photoshop format. The number next to it is the file's approximate size, including layers. If an image contains only one layer, the numbers will be the same. (On a Mac you can also look at the bottom of the document window and look at the middle section. Click the triangle in the status bar and choose Document Sizes to get information on the amount of data in the selected image). These numbers are useful to know when working on an image within Photoshop Elements. However, the numbers aren't representative of the file size of the image if it is saved in other file formats such as JPEG or GIF. For that, you'll have to either leave the program and check the file size where it's stored, or open Photoshop Elements' Save for Web plug-in and check the file size in the lower-left corner. In Windows, just click File > Open from the menu bar and click on the icon on the left of the "Open" dialog. Here you will get a choice of views, including "Details." This reveals more info about your files, including their size and date modified. This is handy for determining JPEG file sizes without leaving Photoshop Elements.

Created: March 27, 2003
Revised: December 6, 2004