Archive for May, 2014

#CreativeFriday – Before and After preview in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) in Photoshop CC

Today’s blog is a deep dive into the new Before and After preview mode that has been available inside Adobe Camera RAW (ACR), within Photoshop CC. The before and after preview enhancement options where added to ACR inside Photoshop CC as part of the 8.4 ACR update.

This option is a welcomed feature and it’s extremely handy have this in the ACR panel. It means that adjustments can be reviewed against the original file or another base line effect. This feature also extends itself to the snapshots option within ACR (covered as part of this post).

Of course the before and after preview doesn’t only add value to the Photographer and RAW photographs, but also to any other users when using the Camera Raw as a Filter, which was added into Photoshop CC. The Camera RAW (ACR) as a filter option allows the powerful Camera raw adjustments to be used on anything inside Photoshop CC (including Layers, JPG, TIFF, Groups, video clips/sequences, 3D and many other combinations).

The example below will provide a deep dive in to all of the options available as part of the preview feature, what the options do and how it can be used in the real world. We will also cover how it works with snapshots for comparing adjustments to other snapshots.

The picture below was taken in a monastery in Bhutan, and I know there is some shadow information that I would like to show, and this can be achieved using the Shadow recovery in ACR (the same as Lightroom). As the image is being modified, the changes can be previewed against the original, as well as comparing an effect or a preset to another preset once I am happy with the ACR adjustments. Then I can really see which effect suits the image the best.


The bottom left of the image is a little dark, so the shadows can be opened up by using the shadow slider in combination with the Gradient tool. The Gradient tool is pulled into the frame from the lower left of the image and more detail is revealed.

Notice on the screen shot below that the tools now show the mask that is created by using the gradient, and an option to change the colour of the mask is available (marked in Red below).


The mask is turned off by unchecking the mask check box, which makes it easier to see the effect (marked red above).

To see the before and after preview the “before and after preview button” at the base of the image (marked red below), can be pressed (or by pressing the Q key). The previews that are available are on a cyclic view, which is enabled with multiple presses of the preview button, or by pressing the Q key multiple times. The previews that will be displayed as part of the cycle are available for configuration through the options that have been selected on the preview preferences panel. You can access the preview preferences by holding a right click on the preview button (marked red) and a small pop up box will appear (marked blue).


Once the preview preferences option has been selected a small panel will be displayed (as shown below)


The cycle preview modes option provides a way to have the preferred previews shown when cycling through the before and after preview views, meaning that if you like only Top/Bottom side-by-side view as your preview, selecting only this will show this view when the preview button is pressed (marked red above), or the Q key is pressed. The Draw items panel determines how the splits are shown on the screen and if the before and after labels are displayed (examples discussed within this post).

Each view is shown in the following screen shots.

Left/Right side-by-side


Left Right Split view

6 Top/Bottom side-by-side

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Top/Bottom split view


The view of the split screen or side by side views can be modified to your liking within the preview preferences panel (shown below). The Divider in side by side view (in preview preferences, marked in red below), this refers to the dividing line (marked red in both cases in the screen shot below), and shows a solid black line between the two images.

The Panel labels (marked blue) will label up each side of the view with before and after.


The following screen shot shows that you can select just one preview view.


Of course the before and after preview comes into it’s own once you zoom in and use the hand tool to explore and compare specific areas of the scene (marked red below).



Snapshots are available in the area marked in red below and will be empty on the first instance of opening Camera RAW (ACR). The are two distinct ways of using the snapshots. One is to create the look manually using the tools inside ACR, then create the snapshot to record the adjustment. Or a to use a preset adjustment and create a stored snapshot item to record a certain effect.


Using Presets

Moving to the snapshot panel (marked Orange below), will revel a fly out menu (marked Blue). In the screen shot below, the cursor is hovering over Apply preset. This means that any preset in ACR (marked pink), can be selected and applied this to the image. Once a preset has been selected (VSCO presets are used in this example, they available from The snapshot button (marked in Brown), will record this effect against a user defined name (marked Yellow), this will record the snapshot save it in the snapshot list. In this case the name is the same as the preset chosen (this will help me remember the preset that was used to achieve a certain effect).


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You can repeat this action of applying presets and saving as a snapshot as many times as is required.


N.B. If the original layer has been converted to a smart object (either from Lightroom or when the file was opened from ACR in the first place), the presets will be stored in the .PSD/.TIFF file. This procedure will create a re-editable ACR configuration which means the adjustments made in ACR are non destructive and can re-edited again and again, even when the file is closed and re-opened as a .PSD or a .TIFF.


Adjustments as snapshots

Presets are not the only way that snapshots can be used, adjustments that are made within the ACR tools (radial filter, gradients, brushes, exposure etc), can be saved as a snapshots as well.

Once the snapshots have been applied you can then cycle through them and see how they are different from the original image/before the snapshot was applied, and compare the different effects.


This is shown in the video below


You may wish to compare a selection of snapshots against a specific snapshot.

To achieve this, choose the snapshot that you would like to use as the before image, then press the “copy current settings to before “ buton (or pressing alt/option and P keys), marked in red below. This will make the before image the same as the current snapshot. Then the other snapshot can then be compared to this version


See the video below to see this in action


Hopefully this has given you a deeper understanding of using the new preview buttons and options in Camera Raw ACR 8.4.



#CreativeFriday – 3D Extrusions in Photoshop CC using the Pen Tool

Sometimes all you need is a simple “thing”, i.e. like a Smart Phone holder, or something to hold the rose bush in place in the garden, but there just isn’t the exact object in store anywhere. I find this situation now quite interesting and rather than moving in to a state of panic, I can actually design  something and prototype an idea until I get it to work to way that I need it to.  However, i’m not a dedicated designer and I don’t have the 3D tools or the inclination to work in polygons or other 3D technologies. The solution, is that I need something really easy to use, that will allow me to take my idea(s) and allow me to use the knowledge that I already have within the Photoshop tools, to make something.

As an initial ideal and after seeing Paul Trani’s iPhone holder, I decided to make my own Smart Phone holder using the Adobe Logo shape as a base.

The design will be very simple, not pretty or designed out, but functional at best. This object will become a simple smart phone holder (ok. i have an iPhone, so that’s what i designed it for, but it could be re-designed very quickly for any other device

The object that will be made in this tutorial can be seen on the Sketchfab platform (as shown below).

Adobe iPhone Holder
by rcurtis
on Sketchfab

The design was built with the standard Adobe logo. The first thing to do is to trace the outline of the white area and create the front/side face of the model. The logo is opened into Photoshop CC and then using the Pen Tool the edge is traced.

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The white background is all that is needed for the model, the easiest approach is to use a guide (make sure rulers are turned on (View / Rulers)), then a guide is pulled down from the top (you can turn guides off later by choosing view / show / guides). The guide will be used to align the base of path that will be created for the final object. The guide is shown in light blue.

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Pen tool is selected (marked in Red).

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The Pen tool is used to follow the edge of the white area and make the outline of the Adobe Logo.

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Once the initial design is complete, there needs to be a place to put the Smart phone. In this example, an element of the right hand side of the logo can be used as the holder for the phone. There are many alternative design considerations here, so it’s just a working example.

The Pen tool can be used to cut the section out of right hand edge by intersecting the existing edge, and make a small lip to hold the bottom edge of the phone in place. Just remember that there might be a home button that needs to be accessed while it’s in the cradle, in this case there needs to be enough room to firmly hold the phone and provide access for this button.

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The great thing about using Photoshop CC and the Pen tool, is that the design can be modified after it has been converted into a 3D model. Think of this as a non destructive shape. You can create anything similar to this using the Pen tool, but be aware that that there is a limit to path complexity.

An empty layer is created (marked Red), to hold the 3D object, otherwise Photoshop will use the logo as a template for the 3D object.

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Select the new empty layer and make a 3D extrusion select from the menu bar by choosing 3D / New 3D Extrusion from Path (marked red). This will convert the simple shape outline into a 3D object. This option can also available when using the Pen tool, and right clicking on the path and choosing “Convert path to extrusion” (marked Yellow).

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The 3D extrusion will be created

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Once the 3D geometry has been created you can use the 3D tools inside Photoshop to finish your design. This maybe compositing it into a 2D scene using the Vanishing point, or maybe even 3D printing it.

The next step for this example was to 3D print it and see if it would do the job of holding the smart phone.

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The object was printed in just a couple of hours. This was a great way to see if the object would work before a better print and more of them were printed. This process is typically called Rapid Prototyping and provided valuable in this example. It turned out that the actual holder part was to small. The path design can be re-edit at any time, make sure the move tool is selected (marked Red), then click on the 3D object to show the cage (yellow box).  With the properties dialog being open at the same time, clicking the  Edit Source (Marked Yellow), will allow you to modify the original path.

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Once the original path is loaded into a second window. The Direct selection tool (White pointer) (marked Red), can be used to change the original path (the vector).

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Once editing has completed, the window can be closed and the modifications saved. This will dynamically update the 3D object back in Photoshop. CC.

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Once the design has be re-worked and maybe printed again, the final working model could be printed multiple times. In fact the object was quickly duplicated 5 times more in Photoshop on the 3D layer, and then exported as a MakerBot x3g file. The final print took a whopping 17hrs to print, but leaving the printer over night certainly did the trick.


You can see here that Photoshop CC is a great way to try 3D and create some 3D content that can be very useful and not to intimidating as you already know how to use most of it from your existing knowledge of Photoshop 2D.

For some inspiration head over to Francois Veraart recent Photooshop 3D artwork project  on Behance. We would love to see and hear what you make in Photoshop CC. Why not upload your creations to with the free account and tweet me at @richardcurtis.

SketchFab is integrated into Photoshop CC, and available by choosing the menu item 3D / Share 3D layer on SketchFAB.

Best of luck..Please also let me know there there is anything else that you would like to see written on Photoshop CC 3D tools.

If you don’t currently have Photoshop CC then why not try it for 30 days using this link, look at all of the available plans here.

Adobe Inspire Magazine – Innovative Photography

There are some amazing innovative and creative photography projects and photogtaphers in the world. And it’s always great to be inspired by these people to allow our own photography to grow and become even more amazing. The Adobe Behance platform is a great way to publish content and inspire others, as well as to be inspired. The Behance platform can also be used to collaborate with others (closed peer groups or the wider community). Behance can be find at

Adobe also make a magazine called Inspire and is available on the iPad from Apple iTunes. The current edition has an amazing piece of work from Jean-Yves Lemoigne, Jean has found a way to mix all media types to create his style and creates a mesmerising and unique and creative piece. Jean’s website is available here, but his loop project is the piece of work that i’d like to draw your attention to, this piece can be found here.

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The Inspire magazine is available on the browser by following this link, but there will be some delay as the content needs to download. The iPad however, is a great experience.  The looping images are the ones that have great impact, and are within the article. The first one is shown here and with a quick look.

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Enjoy the experience.