The Eyes Follow You

I intended this post to appear last week, but got caught up in the failure of my home machine to perform up to spec. Accordingly, this appears a half-week late. The alert from Outlook advising of the cover deadline has already popped up. The deadline is this coming Friday. I shan’t assume I’m going to miss it just yet. Rather, I intend to make a heroic effort to meet the deadline despite the setbacks. ‘Cause that’s what pros do. In the meantime, some other ideas have cropped up which, given sufficient time, may prove superior to the one working here at this moment. Stay tuned.

thumb_dolly_eyes_originalIN THE PREVIOUS POST of this series, we finally got around to working on the image itself. In the meantime, I have been playing with the image. My purpose in this play has been to learn about the image and what I can and cannot do with it. Also in the previous post, I mentioned that I cheated, having shown you, faithful readers, the modified version of a photo, but planning to use the original. Here’s the original.

The aim in this exploration is to find the way of least effort to my end vision or some variation of it. I have broken the bits of the image into its components. So far, most of the work has centered on the model’s eyes. First, I need to “float” the eyes independent of the rest of the face.

This is not because I want to — as I might in other circumstances — resize or reposition the eyes. Rather, what I want to do is uncouple the eyes from the face so that I can minipulate the face without greatly influencing the eyes. My aim is to be able to paint the model’s freckles against a white background, which, in essence, floats only the eyes and the freckles on the white ground.

In my experimental exploration, I have determined that the tint values of the freckles and the skin tones are too close together and too light for me to be able to magic wand select them. I could paint a selection mask, and may do that eventually, but really what I need to do is trace or rotoscope the freckles and thus do away with the rest of the face. While doing that, I want to preserve the eyes. So I have to float them.

So now I have to figure out how to cut the pieces apart and yet put them back together seamlessly. Unfortunately, the image doesn’t come with little dotted lines along which to cut. So I have to make my own. The process is simple in conception, if tedious in execution. You simply duplicate the image and remove everything NOT of the piece you want. The trick here is to do this as little as you can get away with, but also to preserve your options to go back to an earlier version.

pal_layrs_1Fortunately, Photoshop has mechanisms which permit the user to do just that. First, never work directly on your original image. There are two layers of this. First, preserve the original as a separate file. Second, make liberal use of Photoshop’s Undo and History features. Finally, if you have the experience to do so, watch the results of your work closely and be ready to step backward through recent work. At right, you can see the state of my layers palette at one step of the way. I suspect I’ll make many more layers as I go, but these are about the elements I anticipate working with at the moment.

I also anticipate that there will be two places where I’ll have to do intensive pixel-editing-slash-painting. Those are isolating the eyes — particularly masking the eyelashes — and picking out the freckles from the skin. Below at right, you can see the model’s right eye. The image I’m after is the eye and the upper lid, more-or-less as draw by the model’s eyeliner. The tricky part is, in order for the image to look natural, I have to pick up the eyelashes, too, which means I have to mask them, hair-by-hair.

scr_eye_rightAnd I have, as a matter of fact, just made a decision, which requires me stepping back. I had started taking the fold of the upper lid as my edge. Then I decided I wanted to cut it tighter, getting only the actual stroke of the eyeliner. And then I saw the result and changed my mind again. So, now, I have to start over. A couple of hours lost, but the whole of the work is saved from my indecision.

So the new direction established, I duplicated the original layer, merged the floating eyeballs layer down to it, then deleted the background except close in around the eyes and started masking off around the eyes and the eyelashes.

Next, once the eyes are floated, we start in on the freckles.

This post is part of a series of posts on the subject of books covers, directly primarily at self-published and independently-published authors seeking to design their own covers. It is in the category “Covers” and can be seen with all of the other posts in that category by clicking on the link in the right sidebar. The sophistication of that display page will improve as time goes on. The next post in the series will appear here within a couple of days.

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