House of A Different Color, part 1


One of the fringe benefits of a career in publishing tech is that once in a while you get to use your DTP skills to amaze your friends and family. The other main benefit is the catered meeting leftovers at work (mmmm, corporate brownies).

Granted, it’s not as practical as a plumber who can fix anything that leaks, or a mechanic who can get your car started. But when the iPhoto red eye tool just won’t cut it, I’m your guy. The 8 year old is out of graph paper? No problem, young man. What size, color and weight would you like your grid lines to be? While we’re at it, want to make a picture of the cats fighting with lightsabers? Of course you do.

A more practical application of these skills is to use Photoshop as a home improvement visualization tool. With a photo and a wish list, I can show the results of a home improvement project before anyone ever gets in the car to go to Lowes. Given the money and physical labor of actually doing home improvement, I’m tempted to just Photoshop my dream house and print it out, life size, on a billboard in my front yard. Keeping up with the Joneses just took on a whole new dimension.

Oh look honey, the Rankins printed a new circular driveway, and it’s paved with rubies. How come we never thought of that?

In reality, I’ve used Photoshop to show what it would be like if we took out trees, put in new shrubs, moved the swingset, actually watered the grass… etc. You can do similar stuff with pictures of furniture or appliances from ads and place them into your house. But one of the easiest and most fun things to do is paint a room (or the whole house) with Photoshop.

There are tools on some paint manufacturers’ websites for doing this kind of thing. Benjamin Moore has a thing called Personal Color Viewer 2.0. You start with a photo, either theirs or yours, then define areas by making selections with a tool like the polygon lasso tool, then click on color chips to apply them to that area. For me, there’s just two problems with PCV 2.0: It doesn’t work with Leopard, and it costs $10. Two strikes, and I’m out. If I’m the CEO of Benjamin Moore, this is where some manager gets fired. We are a paint company, n’est ce pas? We make money selling paint. Not software. The software exists to encourage the customer buy more paint. So why are you not pushing this software into the hands of anyone who asks?

Valspar, by Lowes has a nice, free Digital Painter tool, but it doesn’t let you upload your own photos, which in my mind, defeats the purpose. Benjamin Moore struck out on a bad call. Valspar didn’t even get in the batter’s box. Time to roll up our sleves, and do-it-ourselves.

First step in any Photoshop paint project is to put down the drop cloth, i.e. make a back-up of the file, and a copy of the layer you’re working on. It’s the Photoshopper’s version of the Hippocratic Oath: first, do no harm (to your pixels).

We’ll start our beautification project in the garden, where our dahlias are nice but we want insane ones that will stop traffic.

There are tons of ways to change the color of an item in Photoshop. The simplest might be plain old Hue/Saturation. You may not even need to make a selection beforehand. Just add an adjustment layer to that new layer you made a minute ago. In the dialog, swtich the color range from Master to anything else. Then either click and shift-drag with the eyedropper to define the range you want to replace, or drag the little handles in the color sliders. The goal is to find the range that fits just the thing you’re coloring, and nothing else. In making my mutant dahlia, I squeezed the right side of the color range to avoid yellows, which are in the grass, and opened up the reds, purples, and blues all the way to the left.

You can drag the Hue and Saturation sliders (or use the up/down arrows), but avoid the lightness slider. It kills contrast, and contrast is king.

Now there’s no need to scour the plant catalogs for Martian Blues, you got ‘em. And it took all of 15 seconds.

Next time we’ll actually get around to painting the house.

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2 Responses

  1. … still laughing about the rubies ….

  2. If you’re going to dream, dream big, right?
    The rubies were part of a Wizard of Oz theme that kept coming into my head, starting with the title as a pun on the Horse of a Different Color. Then I think, ordinary house behind giant shiny paper= the wizard (“pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”)…yellow brick road + ruby slippers=ruby driveway. At 2 AM it all made perfect sense.

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