Using the depth of field tool in Paint Shop Pro X2

Michael Bates shows us how the depth of field tool can help you centre the viewer's attention on a subject of your choice.

|  Corel Paint Shop Pro & Painter
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Original image for the depth of field tutorialDepth of field is a very nice effect in the right photograph and can centre the viewer's attention wholly on an object of your choice. Of course you can create this effect when you take the photograph, but what if you're taking a picture of something like a dog, that just keeps moving and wriggling? Then it's probably easier to just take a normal picture and have a much less apparent depth of field before editing it later on the computer to make the effect more pronounced than it is otherwise. Corel have included a simple and intuitive tool for just this sort of work, making adding depth of field to your photos a doddle.

Step 1. So we have our picture of a mischievous looking dog, and we want to create a shallow depth of field so we are distracted less by the person holding it in place and more focussed on the animal in question. First thing is to right-click the background layer and select Layers tab in Paint Shop Pro X2 for the depth of field technique‘Duplicate', then left-click the new layer's name and call it ‘Depth of Field' or something similar just to help you tell the difference. The reason we did this is just for trouble-shooting and perhaps a before/after comparison if you feel that way inclined.

Step 2. Open Adjust, Depth of Field to open the Depth of Field window. This is where you will use all the options to create your customised depth of field and I'll talk you through it now. First of all, it's always best to have the tick-box in the top-right corner ticked for this sort of work as it allows you to see the tool changing the full-sized image in real-time instead of squinting at a thumbnail (we don't want to strain our eyes any more than we must after all).

Step 2 for a depth of field tutorial in Paint Shop Pro X2
Step 3 in the depth of field tutorial in Paint Shop Pro

Step 3. The first thing you need to know is that the left-hand thumbnail (labelled ‘before') is interactive and it is in this thumbnail that you will create any selections. Meanwhile the ‘after' thumbnail, on the right, is used to pan around the image. At first your image will be scaled to fit inside these windows, but using the ‘Zoom' option underneath the thumbnails you can zoom in and out to make things easier depending on what you're trying to do. The middle button here will make the images fit in the thumbnails once again, and the picture of a magnifying glass with a no-entry sign in front of it shifts you to 100% of the image's size, which isn't the best strategy when working on an image much bigger than the thumbnails.

Step four in the Depth of Field tutorial in Paint Shop Pro X2Step 4. Underneath the zoom options are the tools that allow you to select the area you wish to focus on. You have a circular, rectangular and freehand selection option, here I'm going to focus on the dog's face which is an irregular shape so I will use the freehand selection tool though you use the other tools similarly. With the shape selections you click and drag the shape over the area of the left thumbnail that you want to keep in focus, whereas with the freehand selection you draw as you would with the same tool normally. Once you've created a selection you will have to wait for the previews and full-size images to update for a moment and you can see if your selection looks right. You can also tick the box underneath these options to invert your selection. Once you are happy with your selected area to keep focussed you can start thinking about the area you want to have out of focus.

Step five in the Depth of Field tutorial in Paint Shop Pro X2Step 5. The blur slider is pretty self-explanatory and controls just how blurred your out of focus areas are. The aperture shape option allows you to simulate a hexagonal or circular aperture in the effect, select whichever shape you want the focussed area to most closely resemble. The circular mode will cut off more of my intended focus area so I'm going to use the hexagon to keep as much of that area intact as I can.

Step 6 in the depth of field tutorial in Paint Shop Pro X2Step 6. Finally we are ready to make some final adjustments. The first option should be at least somewhat familiar to you; it allows you to feather the edges of your selection. What this basically means (for those who are new to this term) is that instead of the selection moving from 100% selected and in focus to 0% selected and out of focus which would create a very sharp transition the software will use all the different degrees between fully selected and unselected in an area of your choosing. The larger the feather setting the larger, and therefore more gradual, the transition between the in and out of focus areas will be. Remember that this cuts into your selection rather than letting it bleed out, so the higher the setting the smaller the area in focus will become. The other option, the Focus range, simulates the transition from in to out of focus in the other direction; by making the focussed area bleed outwards sligFinal image in the Paint Shop Pro tutorial on depth of fieldhtly. Technically it is applying the principle that after a set distance everything should be equally focussed to your image and by increasing this setting you giving the lens a greater range which subsequently means that there are more distances at which the image will remain in various degrees of focus before the uniformly blurred part of the image is reached. If I've confused you at all there put the setting to full and look at the area just outside of your selection and you will find that it is in fact still in focus somewhat, put it to its absolute minimum and it shouldn't be any longer.

Step 7. After you've done all that and set up your image how you like you can press OK to apply the effect. Click the eye icon next to your Depth of Field layer in the Layers Pane to hide it and then show it again for a before and after comparison is you want to see which version you prefer. For reference I used a selection around the dog's face, a hexagonal aperture with 20 points of blur, 10 pixels of feathering and 100 points of focal range. There you have it; it really is that simple to add extra depth and impact to your photos with Paint Shop Pro X2.

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