10 Powerful Photoshop Skills/Techniques You Need to Know

Without a doubt these are among my personal favorite features in Photoshop, but they also happen to each be fairly unknown features-especially if you’re newer to using Photoshop. These are features that are going to push your Photoshop game through the stinking roof! In this Photoshop tutorial we’ll take a look at a good mix of things like liquefying facial features, frequency separation, color lookup tables (LUTs), selective sharpening, calculations, and MORE! Make sure to leave a comment below and tell me what your favorite feature is!

Editing Faces with Liquify

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Convert your layer to a smart object by right-clicking on it and choosing “Convert to Smart Object.” Go Filter>Liquify and choose the Face tool (A) from the toolbar on the left. You can simply click and drag the heads up display markers that appear around facial features, or you can look to the tool options on the right and use the sliders to adjust any individual facial features.

Color Lookup Tables

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To create a new Color LUT you’ll need to first open a PSD that you have which has an adjustment layer (or more!) and a locked background layer and go File>Export>Color Lookup Table and choose to save it at a Medium setting and use the .CUBE format. Choose where to save it on your hard drive. Create a new Color Lookup Adjustment Layer in the Adjustments panel and choose to load a new LUT and find and load your .CUBE file. You now have a Color LUT applied to that image!

Move a Selection as you draw it OR Transform a Selection

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To get the perfect selection hold the Spacebar down to move the selection into the perfect place. If you still need to edit the selection, simply right click and choose to transform the selection and scale, distort, or rotate until it is perfect!

Frequency Separation

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Frequency separation is a bit complex to get set up. I have a full tutorial on all things Frequency Separation that you can see here or you can check out the video above and I run through a quick Frequency Separation setup.

Calculations for Selecting Hair

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When you have your image where you’re trying to cut out a complex head of hair go Image>Calculations and first tick on both “Invert” checkboxes and then choose to overlay your choice of Red-Green-Blue channel with another Red-Green-Blue channel all depending on which channel makes the hair area look closest to solid white while maintaining the most contrast between the subject and background. Output this as a new channel. Check out the video to see the Brush tool trick to finishing the edges to get a great selection!

Selective Sharpening w/ High Pass

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Merge all layers to a new layer using the hotkey Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + Alt/Opt + E and then enter Quick Mask mode by hitting the letter “Q” and paint with your foreground color set to black over the first area you’d like to sharpen and hit “Q” to exit Quick Mask mode and load the selection. You would then feather this selection, duplicate it up to a new layer (Cmd/Ctrl + J) and then go Filter>Other>High Pass to apply the sharpening needed and then set this layer to the blend mode Soft Light. Check out the video for more detail on how this is done!

Color Range on Live Mask

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When you add a layer mask you can open your Properties panel and click the “Color Range” button to use Color Range to create the mask. Simply click the colors you’d like to mask and use the “Fuzziness” slider to tune the mask in and really perfect it. As with each item in this article, check out the video above for more detail.

Curves

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I have a much more “deep” tutorial on using Curves that you can check out here but I’ll lay out a quick explanation here too. Create a Curves Adjustment Layer and click to add a point to the curve line or pull away to get rid of a curve point. Pull up to add light or pull down to darken your image. You can also push and pull color in any of the color channels in the little drop down menu in this dialog box.

Combine Adjustment Layers with Blend Modes

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Combining Adjustment Layers with blend modes can create some really great effects and be very useful as you work your way through Photoshop. Here are a few to try:

  • Channel Mixer Layer with ticked on “Monochrome” + Multiply blend mode.
  • Levels Adjustment Layer + Soft Light blend mode.
  • Gradient Map Adjustment Layer with two subtle/non-intense colors + Soft Light blend mode.
  • Color Fill w/ a bright color + Color or Hue blend mode + Mask to an object to change its color.

Camera RAW filter on anything (Use Dehaze for interesting contrast)

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Before using the Camera RAW filter we’re going to convert our layer to a Smart Object and then go Filter>Camera Raw Filter. Go to the Effects tab and pump up the Dehaze slider to add some contrast/midtone punch. Feel free to tweak any other sliders that you want for your image as well. I added some sharpening and tweaked the Hue/Sat sliders to levels things out a little bit. The Camera RAW filter is an incredibly deep tool/feature set in Photoshop and it’s versatility makes it so difficult for me to leave it out of any list that would include essential or powerful features in Photoshop.