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The Top Five Mistakes in Separations

(August 2009) posted on Mon Aug 10, 2009

The most common color-separation problems often have very simple solutions. Read on to find out how you can overcome the issues you commonly face.

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3: Poor color blending in gradients and shapes This mistake is usually made in haste. It also may result from using a scripted solution in Photoshop, when color is pulled in chunks instead of a smooth blend as the software creates the separation from the file. In the case of the latter, color pulled from gradients appears in the final file with a blocky appearance and with a lot of lost detail (Figure 3). The image composition includes a gradient that is broken into four or five flat colors instead of a smooth transition. Some artists call this effect posterization.

Solution: Depending on the source image there are several ways to create smooth captures of blended shapes in Photoshop. One of my favorites is to use a two-tier system. The method may sound complex, but it is actually surprisingly simple and can save a ton of time compared to the alternative of creating complex selections of areas using paths or drawn in shapes. The two-tier system uses a combination of tools to get around some of the selection limitations in Photoshop.

I find a blend of a color that I need to separate. I then use the Color Range tool to select the most saturated version of this color in the original file. The next step is to create a new channel from this selection. The resulting channel probably looks clunky and unusable, so I take the Color Range selection and use the Curves menu on it to make it totally solid (I could also use the Levels menu to do this) in all of the highlight areas. I then use this resulting mask as a selection by Ctrl-clicking on it in the channels menu. I can then use this selection as a complex path to pull a delicate, blended selection from just the areas of color that I want using the Curves menu or an >Image>Mode>Duplicate command. The point is to use a selection to create a definitive area to make a better selection. Using this method to create separation sets shortcuts the whole process of having to create a careful path in Photoshop.


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