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The Details Effect

The gritty, detailed look is extremely popular in movie posters, and many retouchers like to add it to their own work.

There are three different techniques I use for adding or enhancing details. I’m a big believer in knowing a variety of techniques that you can call on to produce similar results. Figure 4.67 shows the image we’ll be using each technique on.

Figure 4.67

Figure 4.67

Details with Photoshop

This was a technique I first saw being demonstrated by the German digital artist Calvin Hollywood.

  1. With the image file open in Photoshop, create two copies by pressing Command/Ctrl+J twice (Figure 4.68).

  2. Click the uppermost layer, and Shift-click the layer below so that both copies are selected. Then go to Layer > New > Group from Layers. Name the group details, change Mode to Soft Light (Figure 4.69), and click OK.

  3. Click the triangle icon for this group to open it and reveal the two layers inside. Change the blend mode of the uppermost layer in the group to Vivid Light (Figure 4.70).

  4. On the same layer, go to Image > Adjustments > Invert, which restores the picture to how it originally appeared; however, the image has now been set up to enhance details.
  5. Convert the layer to a Smart Object by going to Filter > Convert for Smart Filters. Add the details by going to Filter > Blur > Surface Blur.
  6. In the Surface Blur properties, set the Radius and Threshold settings to the same number. I find that settings not exceeding 30 produce the best results (Figure 4.71).

    Figure 4.71

    Figure 4.71

  7. To limit where and how strongly the details are applied, close the details group by clicking the triangle icon, as before, and Option/Alt-click the layer mask icon to add a black layer mask. Then with a white medium soft-edged brush, paint over the image to reveal the details. Use a lower opacity brush when painting over the skin as opposed to the clothing.

Details with the Nik Collection

I’m using the latest version of Nik Color Efex Pro 4, which includes a preset called Detail Extractor.

I’m a big fan of this plug-in not just because of the results but also because it allows me to work nondestructively.

  1. Starting from the beginning, with no layers other than the original image, go to Filter > Convert for Smart Filters, and then to Filter > Nik Collection > Color Efex Pro 4.
  2. From the Presets list, choose Detail Extractor. The default settings are immediately applied (Figure 4.73).

    Figure 4.73

    Figure 4.73 Nik Color Efex Pro 4

  3. More often than not I’ll use the default settings, but experiment with them to see what you prefer (Figure 4.74). Click OK.

    Figure 4.74

    Figure 4.74

  4. Because the details have been applied to the entire picture, click the white layer mask attached to the filter in the layer stack (Figure 4.75) and go to Image > Adjustments > Invert to change it to black.

  5. With a white medium soft-edged brush, paint over the image area to reveal the details. Use a lower opacity brush when painting over the skin as opposed to the clothing.

    You can see that it enhances the details and information incredibly. Unlike the previous technique, it creates very few (if any) artifacts and halos.

    One side effect of using this preset for enhancing details is that it also brightens the image (Figure 4.76). In this particular picture that isn’t what we want, because the model’s suit needs to remain dark.

    Figure 4.76

    Figure 4.76 Enhancing details with the Detail Extractor plug-in

Details with Topaz Details

The final technique I turn to for enhancing details, depending on the image, is Topaz Details. The result it produces is quite different from the previous two techniques, and it also adds a slight textured effect. This plug-in gives great results but needs to be used sparingly on skin.

  1. With the image open in Photoshop, go to Filter > Convert for Smart Filters, and then to Filter > Topaz Labs > Topaz Details 3.
  2. In the Detail section, I adjust only the Small Details, Small Details Boost, Medium Details, and Medium Details Boost settings, with the uppermost slider increased to the right the most, and less for the three others, to produce an arc (Figure 4.77). Click OK.

    Figure 4.77

    Figure 4.77

    For this particular image, this plug-in has produced the best result because it enhances detail and maintains the original darkness of the suit (Figure 4.79).

    Figure 4.79

    Figure 4.79

  3. Because the details have been applied to the entire picture, click the white layer mask attached to the filter in the layer stack, and go to Image > Adjustments > Invert to change it to black. Then with a white medium soft-edged brush, paint over the image to reveal the details. Use a lower opacity brush when painting over the skin as opposed to the clothing.


    Click to view larger image

    Here is the before image with the model photographed against a plain gray background, allowing for textures to be added or for cutting out and compositing a new background.


    Click to view larger image

    After (facing page), final composited and retouched image.

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