Advanced Coin Photography Editing - Correcting Coin Edge Light with Bevel & Emboss Layer Styles

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by Denis Richard, Sep 23, 2020.


How many people here use Photoshop to edit their images?

  1. All the time

    3 vote(s)
  2. Wish I did

    2 vote(s)
  3. I use other software

    3 vote(s)
  4. Photoshop????

    2 vote(s)
  1. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    For those interested, another technique in the numismatic photographer’s tool kit is Bevel and Emboss. This will come in handy on many occasions.

    To start, my Photoshop raw coin editing workflow begins with selecting a coin and removing the background, leaving it on an independent layer. I add a new layer below that, filled with white, in Normal Blending Mode.

    This is a typical ancient coin for me to photograph. After making any required edits, I have an image that looks like this one. Nothing fancy. Kind of dark with a rough surface. This image would be fine to post on any web site for sale. I chose a dark coin to better illustrate the problem we want to solve. Click to zoom in.
    Personally, I prefer my coin images to have drop shadows, which I feel adds depth to the image and makes it appear more 3 dimensional. So in the Layer Styles menu I added a drop shadow to the image. Actually, two drop shadows, but that’s for another tutorial. This is the same image with a drop shadow.
    02-B&E-Whtbkgd drop shadow without bevel emboss.jpg

    Well, the shadow's ok but the coin looks odd. The light on the bottom edge of the coin is fine on a white background, but too light, and doesn't look natural when placed over the darker shadow. I'm sure no one is surprised by this. If I place the same image on a solid black background, the issue becomes even more pronounced.

    03-B&E-Blck bkgd without bevel emboss.jpg

    The top edge looks ok, like the natural reflection it is, but the bottom almost glows. Yikes...

    So, are we stuck with only displaying this coin on a white background because that's how it was shot? Of course not. To make this coin appear natural with either a drop shadow or on a solid black, the edges have to be darkened appropriately. We still want to retain the detail in the edge and frankly, spend as little time as possible doing it.

    Fortunately, there is a quick and easy way to resolve this problem with the Bevel & Emboss Layer Style in Photoshop Layers. Beveling and embossing is a way to create shading and simulate shadows that makes an object look three-dimensional. In our case the coin shot is already a three dimensional image so this effect augments the existing edge lighting perfectly.

    NOTE: The technique requires the coin is cut out. The effect works on the edges of the item on the layer, so if the coin is still part the background layer, the effect will act on the edges of the background layer, not the coin's edges. Be warned.

    One of the great things about Bevel & Emboss is it is non-destructive. The effect can be turned on or off at will, and tweaked and adjusted at any time without any effect on the base image. As a layer style it can also be copied to other layers in the document, which is very handy with multiple coins in an image.

    To access B&E, double click on the coin’s layer in the Layers Panel.

    03-B&E-Layers Panel.jpg

    The layers shown here have two drop shadows (turned off) added to the BASE LAYER-SHARPENED, a COIN EDITS group, a black background, currently turned off, and the white background. When you double click any layer, it will open up the Layer Styles Dialogue Box. In my case, the coin layer is named BASE LAYER-SHARPENED.

    When the dialogue box is open, Check the Bevel & Emboss and click on the word to open the Options Panel. The panel in the image below shows the default settings.

    04-B&E-Layer styles-default.jpg

    What do all those options mean?

    The best way to find out is to try them out. You can see the effects on your coin if you check the Preview box. Some of them are self-explanatory, like size, soften, and opacity, but others you need to take for a spin and see what happens to understand how they work.

    The advantage of this approach is that by experimenting you’ll see firsthand how everything works, and you might come up with a combination of settings that you wouldn’t have found otherwise; the disadvantage is that experimenting takes time.

    Of course you will need to adjust the settings to suit your particular image, but for our purposes, here are the settings I used for my dark coin on a white background with drop shadow image below.

    04-B&E-White background ajustments-2.jpg

    This is the image with the settings applied:

    05-B&E-Whtbkgd with bevel emboss.-drop shadow.jpg

    That filled in the light area nicely. The coin detail is still visible and it looks quite natural. The top edge, where the light is coming from hasn't changed, and the bottom edge looks like it's in the correct amount of shadow. If I choose to now change to the solid black background, how will the edges look now?

    06-B&E-Blkbkgd with white bevel emboss.jpg

    Not bad. The top edge still looks ok, but the bottom edge is to light for the full black background. It looks out of place, so we open up the Bevel & Emboss window and revise our settings. These are the adjustments I made for my sample solid black image below.

    07-B&E-Black background ajustments-2.jpg

    Once the changes are made, close the dialogue box and this is the revised image;

    09-B&E-Blkbkgd withblack bevel emboss.jpg

    Now the coin has the appropriate amount of edge light to look natural on a black field. There is still detail in the shadows, but it’s not glowing along the bottom. You’ll notice it’s now a little darker along the top too. That’s from changing the angle of the shading to give it a more frontal light. You can adjust that to your own liking.

    And at any time, I can turn all the layer styles off and see the base coin.

    Bevel and Emboss gives you all the versatility you need with making your coins blend with any brightness, colour or tone of background you choose. If I could add more pictures to this post I'd show you more examples of this technique with all colours and finishes of modern and proof coins.

    Of course, there is much more you can do with Bevel & Emboss. I urge you to explore it. In a future post I'll go over how to adjust the edge light if your coin is on a coloured background, like dark blue or red.

    Thanks for reading and enjoy fooling around with this technique. Post your before and after photos here. I'd like to see how others use this.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2020
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  3. kanga

    kanga 65 Year Collector

    Photoshop is too much for my needs -- and too expensive.
    I use Photoshop Elements, a subset of Photoshop.
    I can do everything I want with it.
    Denis Richard likes this.
  4. Denis Richard

    Denis Richard Well-Known Member

    All Photoshop products are excellent. When I wrote this I was wondering if this stuff could be done in Elements. Does it support layer styles?
  5. kanga

    kanga 65 Year Collector

    Don't know.
    It's not something I've felt I needed so I haven't tried to do it.
    Denis Richard likes this.
  6. Anntron

    Anntron Member

    Nice techniques. I use software (free - With available user-developed "add-ins" and an active users forum, it is very flexible and robust. However, as with all good photo-editing software, the learning curve is a little steep. Experimenting is half the fun and you learn as you go.
    Denis Richard likes this.
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