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Resizing an Imageby Deke McClelland, author of Adobe Photoshop CS One-on-One
Author's note: To understand Photoshop--to really understand Photoshop--you have to come to terms with pixels. Those tiny squares of color are the alpha and omega of imaging. If this were biology class, they would be the little beings that combine to form the greater organism, and you would be in charge of managing their population. Given that their numbers more often than not swell into the millions, your concern has less to do with their individual condition and more to do with their combined effect and, perhaps most importantly, their shockingly vast quantity. Just how many pixels does your image contain and how many do you really need?
Pixel population is one of the most fundamental and least understood aspects of image editing. If you’re not clear on how to put them to proper use, concepts like image size, resampling, and resolution may loom as impassible roadblocks between you and a creative Photoshop experience.
That’s why I’m here. Lifted from the drop-dead gorgeous, full-color pages of Adobe Photoshop CS One-on-One, the following hands-on exercise explains how to modify image size, when to resample, and what in the world you should do about resolution.
And just to make things crystal clear, I’m also including one of the QuickTime-based video lessons that make the book absolutely unique, an 8-minute 39-second ditty I call Image and Canvas Size. The full video is quite big (about 26MB); if you’re not interested in a long download, check out the 1-minute excerpt instead. Bear in mind, both videos require that Apple’s QuickTime be installed on your machine. If you don’t have QuickTime, click here.
With that, I invite you to enjoy "Resizing an Image." It may just be the most fun you’ve had with a 21-foot-tall rocking chair in all your life.
Resizing an Image
Now we leave the world of rotations and canvas manipulations in favor of what may be the single most essential command in all of Photoshop: Image -> Image Size. Designed to resize an entire image all at once—canvas, pixels, the whole shebang—Image Size lets you scale your artwork in two very different ways. First, you can change the physical dimensions of an image by adding or deleting pixels, a process called resampling. Second, you can leave the quantity of pixels unchanged and instead focus on the print resolution, which is the number of pixels that print within an inch or millimeter of page space.
Whether you resample an image or change its resolution depends on the setting of a check box called Resample Image. As we'll see, this one option has such a profound effect on Image Size that it effectively divides the command into two separate functions. In this next exercise, we explore how and why you might resample an image. To learn about print resolution, read the "Changing the Print Size" sidebar on page 154.
1. Display the status bar. If you're working on a PC, make sure the status bar is visible at the bottom of the screen. If it isn't, choose WindowStatus Bar. (Macintosh users can skip this step.)
2. Open the image you want to resize. Open the file named EnormousChair.jpg (1.7MB file). Shown in Figure 5-33, this 21-foot-tall rocking chair is not only enormous in real life, but also contains the most pixels of any file we've seen so far (not including layers).
3. Check the existing image size. To see just how many pixels make up the image, press the Alt key (Option on the Mac) and click the box that lists the size of the image file in megabytes, Doc: 17.5M/17.5M. This box is located on the left side of the status bar, or in the lower-left corner of the image window on the Mac.
4. Magnify the image to the 100 percent zoom ratio. Double-click the zoom tool icon in the toolbox. Then scroll around until you can see the sign tacked to the front of the chair. Pictured in Figure 5-34, the text on the sign is exceedingly legible—explaining the whats and the whens of the rocking chair, while inexplicably omitting the whys—a testament to the high resolution of the photograph. But there's also a lot of noise (see Step 8 of the "Correcting Camera Raw" exercise, Lesson 3, page 86). So even though we have scads of pixels, they aren't necessarily in great shape.
5. Decide whether all these pixels are really necessary. This may seem like a rather cerebral step, but it's an important one. Resampling amounts to rewriting every pixel in your image, so weigh your options before you plow ahead.
So let's say you want to email this image to a couple of friends. Your friends may want to print the photo, but surely they can print it smaller than 7.5 by 9 inches or at a lower resolution. But chances are they won't print the image at all; they'll just view it on screen. A high-resolution monitor can display 1,600 by 1,200 pixels, a mere 30 percent of the pixels in this photo. Conclusion: Resampling is warranted. This is a job for Image Size.
6. Choose the Image Size command. Choose ImageImage Size. Alternatively, if you loaded my shortcuts as suggested on page xvii of the Preface, you can access the command from the keyboard by pressing Ctrl+Alt+I (.-Option-I on the Mac). Pictured in Figure 5-35, the ensuing Image Size dialog box is divided into two parts:
7. Turn on the Resample Image check box. Located at the bottom of the dialog box, this option permits you to change the number of pixels in an image.
8. Select an interpolation setting. To the right of the Resample Image check box is a pop-up menu of interpolation options, which determine how Photoshop blends the existing pixels in your image to create new ones. When downsampling an image, only three options matter:
Because this particular image contains so much noise, Bicubic Smoother is the best choice.
9. Turn on the Constrain Proportions check box. Unless you want to stretch or squish your image, leave this option turned on. That way, the relationship between the width and height of the image—known as the aspect ratio—will remain constant.
10. Specify a Resolution value. When Resample Image is checked (Step 7), any change made to the Resolution value affects the Pixel Dimensions values as well. So if you intend to print the image, it's a good idea to get the Resolution setting out of the way first. Given that we're emailing the image and we're not sure if it'll ever see a printer, a Resolution of 200 ppi should work well enough.
11. Adjust the Width or Height value. The Pixel Dimensions have dropped to 1,500 by 1,813 pixels. But given that most screens top out at 1,600 by 1,200 pixels, that's still too big. Reduce the Width value to 900 pixels, which changes the Height value to 1,088 pixels. This also reduces the Document Size to 4.5 by 5.44 inches (see Figure 5-36), plenty big for an email picture.
12. Note the new file size. The Pixel Dimensions header should now read 2.80M (was 17.5M), where the M stands for megabytes. This represents the size of the image in your computer's memory. The resampled image will measure 900 x 1,088 = 979,200 pixels, a mere 16 percent of its previous size. Not coincidentally, 2.8M is precisely 16 percent of 17.5M. The complexity of a file is directly related to its image size, so this downsampled version will load, save, print, and email much more quickly.
13. Click OK. Photoshop reduces the size of the image on screen and in memory. As verified by Figure 5-37, the result continues to look great when printed, but that's in part because it's printed so small. The real test is how it looks on your screen.
14. Magnify the image to the 300 percent zoom ratio. Use the zoom tool to zoom in on the sign, as in Figure 5-38. The letters are rougher—no surprise given the lower number of pixels— but they remain legible. And the photo overall is less grainy. Downsampling with the Bicubic Smoother setting (Step 8, page 153) goes a long away toward smoothing away the noise.
15. Choose File -> Save As. Or press Ctrl+Shift+S (.-Shift-S on the Mac). Then give the file a new name or save it to a different location. The reason I have you do this is to emphasize the following very important point:
Just in case you missed the video download links at the start of the excerpt, here they are again: the full video clip, and the 1-minute video clip.
Deke McClelland is an electronic publishing pioneer and a popular lecturer on Adobe Photoshop and the larger realm of computer graphics and design. He has hosted Adobe's official "Video Workshop" DVDs that shipped with many versions of Photoshop and Illustrator, as well as hundreds of hours of tutorial-style video training for industry leader lynda.com, with whom his work has won a record-setting eight international awards in the last 12 months. In addition to his video work, Deke has written over 80 books translated into 24 languages, with more than 4 million copies in print. In 2004, Deke created the bestselling One-on-One book series. Published with O'Reilly Media, One-on-One uses video, step-by-step exercises, and hundreds of full-color illustrations to provide readers with the closest thing possible to private instruction from a recognized expert.
O'Reilly & Associates just released (February 2004) Adobe Photoshop CS One-on-One.
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