Photo Retouching

An article that explains a non-destructive editing technique

Graham W Wöbcke
8 min readMar 31, 2017


This article has been modified somewhat since it was originally posted and it attempts to explain how I edited an image of a snare provided by a member of the PearlDrummerForum to show what a drum might look like with the same finish he liked on a particular drum kit. You can read the thread on the forum.

The version of Photoshop used at the time of writing this article was Photoshop 7.01. If you are using a more recent version — I am using CS6 now myself — you could use slightly different tools to assist with the masking technique described but the techniques to achieve the desired results remains the same.

Here is the photo of the drum kit that was provided:

This is the photo of the snare drum, a Yamaha Akira Jimbo 13x7 Snare fitted with maple hoops. Lucky for me, it was a high contrast image making this a lot easier to edit. This is a beautiful snare drum to play too for those interested.

Where do we begin?

We obviously load the snare image inside Photoshop, but we should perform a few things before we start any real work on the image.

I started by creating a blank document the same size as the snare image and then added in the snare image as Layer 1. Underneath Layer 1, I added a solid color layer that is bright (or ugly) and one that we would never expect to see in the final image. You will see why we do this later, but for this drum I selected a bright fuchsia pink color and created Layer 2 underneath Layer 1. Take a look at the layer palette here to see what I mean:

Now is the time to begin the process of performing non-destructive edits. In Photoshop, I rarely need to use the Eraser tool as I always prefer to use the non-destructive method called masking. If you have never used masking before, I will now explain to you how this is done.

The first masked layer we will create is one that will allow us to change the finish on the drum but leave all other elements as they were in the initial image. Firstly, duplicate Layer 1 and ensure the duplicated layer sits above Layer 1 in the layers palette. Next, rename this layer to something with a more meaningful name, in this case, Drum Finish.

We can then refer to this Drum Finish layer later on with ease, knowing that this is the layer we are using. We now need to make sure we have selected the Drum Finish layer by clicking on it so it is highlighted in the layers palette. Notice at the bottom of the layers palette is a row of icons — we need to select the second icon, the one that looks like a rectangle with a circle inside. This creates a Layer Mask for the current selected layer. Click on the icon and we should now see a mask layer to the right of the preview icon for the highlighted layer.

With these layer masks, we can use the brush, pencil or fill tools to paint with either black to hide areas or white to show them. Firstly, turn off Layer 1 by clicking on the eye to the left of Layer 1 in the palette. We can now start to paint with black to hide all of the areas of the drum other than the part that contains the drum finish. When doing this, we will notice that the fuchsia pink color starting to appear. Don’t panic — this is exactly what we want because we now know that the mask is doing its job correctly and is hiding the areas we do not want to change. Continue to paint with black until you have masked out all that you do not want to change. If you make a mistake, again don’t panic — simply paint over with white to restore the masking on that section. As you can see, masking is a powerful and useful tool — when you know how to use it effectively.

Once we have masked the Drum Finish layer fully, your image should currently look something like this:

Don’t worry if your masking is slightly rough, it should still give a clean result — however if an area is not quite right and noticeable by your eyes or you are performing work like this for high resolution printed materials, you will need to take more time and care making your masking layer. I have also purposely left in pieces of shading and black to add to the appearance of the final image — but feel free to go back and amend your masked area as much as you want using white to add in and black to take away.

The real fun with these images starts now

We are now ready to start applying blending options to the Drum Finish layer and we can start to change the appearance of the drum. We firstly need to sample the finish from the provided photo and create a pattern with it so we can use it. Due to the different lighting inside the provided drum kit photo, I have taken two samples, one from the brightest part of the finish and one from the darkest part.

Here are the two samples I took:

As you can see they are quite different but they both have similar tonality due only to the different lighting. So, what I decided to do was increase the contrast of the darker sample and add in some grain to create one high contrast sample and then use that as a pattern. Here is the sample I worked with:

Using this sample, I created a pattern in Photoshop [Edit-Define Pattern] so I can later use it as a pattern overlay blending option. To create a blending option, simply right click on the selected layer and choose Blending Options. You’ll see the Layer Style window appear as below. Here we will need to use the pattern we just created on a Pattern Overlay. Place a check mark in the box next to Pattern Overlay and your options will appear in the right hand section.

Your drum finish may now look like blue bubbles as this is the default pattern. Don’t panic — we just need to select our pattern from the pattern list by clicking on the button that opens the pattern picker and then selecting the pattern we have just created. Your drum will now have that grainy look from the pattern but I am fairly certain due to the high contrast that it will be too intense.

Due to the high contrast, we will want to reduce the opacity of the pattern to compensate for this. I reduced the opacity to around 25% and liked what I saw, so I just went with that. Click [OK] and the blending mode is applied and this is how the drum should look now:

To keep the sparkles but make it slightly darker, we change Blend Mode from Normal to Linear Burn. With the underlying color of the drum finish being white, the pattern is “burnt” into the white and the darker pixels are shown:

Some other changes just for the fun of it

That was really all that was asked for by the original thread poster in the forum, but I wanted to have further fun with this drum by creating two more masked layers — one for the drums wooden rims and one for the drums hardware.

Here are six other versions of the drum that I made — the first version is a green drum using a Color Burn Blend Mode.

This next drum was made by adding a Gradient Overlay layer, with a standard black to white gradient. The Blend Mode of this Gradient Overlay was set to Linear Burn so that the black was retained but the white was replaced with the green on the Color Overlay. The gradient was reversed so the black was on the top rather than the bottom and then the opacity was set to 66% on the gradient and the scale of the gradient was set to 55%. I also applied a black Color Overlay layer with a Blend Mode of Overlay and an opacity of 42% on the wooden rims to make them look more rich.

This final drum was made by applying a red Color Overlay and a Pattern Overlay on the finish layer. I then applied a black Color Overlay layer on the hardware with a Blend Mode of Pin Light and an opacity of 40%. Finally, I applied a black Color Overlay layer on the wooden rims with a Blend Mode of Color. I then set the layer style of the wooden rims layer to Linear Burn.

Here are a few more experiments using the techniques explained in the first three examples above:

So that is how we can manipulate an image in a non-destructive manner and achieve some decent results. I have provided the original Photoshop source file (3.41mb) I used for you to download and use yourself so you can get a better understanding overall of this process.

Good luck and enjoy photo editing!

If you feel it’s worthwhile, please leave any comments you have about this. Thanks very much for reading.