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Deke's Techniques is a collection of short Photoshop and Illustrator projects and creative effects that can be completed in ten minutes or less. The series is taught by computer graphics guru Deke McClelland, and presented in his signature step-by-step style. The intent is to reveal how various Photoshop and Illustrator features can be combined and leveraged in real-world examples so that they can be applied to creative projects right away.
In this movie, I will show you how to create a piece of line art that inverts any and all layers behind it inside Photoshop. Specifically, we're going to take this scanned copy of my signature and we're going to set it up so it automatically inverts the models in the background. All right! So here's the file where we last left off, with that automatically inverting text down here at the bottom. I am going to click on the signature layer and turn it on, and you can see we have a black-and-white copy of my signature, just as I drew it with black ink on a white piece of paper. Now, let's say we decided to take the same approach to this line art as we did to the text.
So the first thing we need to do, because we need the signature to invert the background, and we need the white background to drop away, I will go ahead and reverse the luminance levels by pressing Ctrl+I or Command+I on the Mac. Now go up to the Layers panel menu and change the Blend mode to Difference. So, so far so good. The signature is definitely inverting the background. What was formerly a white background, now black, is dropping away. Then as opposed to recreating our adjustment layers, let's just go ahead and duplicate the ones we have, by clicking on one, Shift+Clicking on the other, and Alt+Dragging or Option+Dragging them to the top of the stack.
And by virtue of the fact that you have the Alt key down on the PC, or the Option key down on the Mac, you go ahead and duplicate those layers. Then Alt+Click or Option+Click on each of these horizontal lines right there to clip the adjustment layers inside the signature. That didn't make any difference. We still have this blue-looking text right here. We don't want that. We want it to appear either white or black without any color saturation. So we do the same thing we did before: double-click on an empty portion of the signature layer and turn off Blend Clipped Layers as Group. And we've got ourselves a real problem here.
Messed up the entire effect, as you can see. We end up by virtue of the fact that we are applying the Difference mode to the layer first and then applying the adjustment layers afterward, we end up creating this rectangle of high-contrast gray, and that's not what we want at all. So let's go ahead and cancel out, because that's not doing us any good, and turn off the adjustment layers for a moment-- we'll come back to those, and let's return to the signature layer and reset it to the Normal mode. What we need to do is get rid of that black background.
And you might think the way to do it is to select, for example, the Magic Wand tool and then click in the black background and get rid of it. But if you do that, you're going to leave the slight gray edges around the text. Let me show you what that looks like. Not only have I left some areas on the inside of the letters--I could get those if I wanted to-- however, if you zoom in, you're going to see that you have some areas of slight gray around the letters, and that's going to mess things up. So what you do instead is you take a much more reliable approach that's not actually anymore difficult.
So I am going to press Ctrl+Alt+Z or Command+Option+Z a couple of times in order to restore that black background. And then I am going to select the entire layer by Ctrl+Clicking on it here on the PC or Command+Clicking on the thumbnail for that signature layer here inside the Layers panel. Then what you want to do is go over to the Channels panel and press all the modifier keys-- that is Ctrl+Shift+Alt; That would be Command+Shift+Option on the Mac--and click on the channel. Now, what that does is it treats white as a selectable area and it finds the intersection of that rectangle that contain the signature, as well as that white inside the signature, and as a result, now only the signature is selected.
Now return to the Layers panel and press Ctrl+Shift+N or Command+Shift+N on the Mac to make a new layer, and I am going to go ahead and call this layer extracted. We do not want to use the previous layer to create clipping masks, so go ahead and turn that check box off. Click OK. Let's go ahead and turn off the signature layer for a moment. You should still have the signature selected here inside the image window. Assuming that your background color is white, as it is for me, I want you to press Ctrl+Backspace or Command+ Delete to fill the selection with white.
Now, press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac to deselect the image. I am going to go ahead and press M to switch back to the Rectangular Marquee tool, and I am going to turn on both of these adjustment layers, which in my case are still clipped to this new extracted layer. All right! Now you'll notice that the layer, if I Ctrl+Drag or Command+Drag the signature around, that it's not inverting anything, because it's simply white set to the Normal mode. So I will undo that movement and go up to the Blend mode pop-up menu and change the Blend mode to Difference, and now we have an inverting signature.
We're getting blues, however, in the signature where it's inverting the browns of the hair. And so to get rid of that problem, double-click on an empty portion of that extracted layer and turn off Blend Clipped Layers as Group, and we now have the proper effect. Click OK. Now you can put that layer anywhere you want and it will go ahead and automatically invert the background. That, friends, is how you create line art that inverts anything behind it here inside Photoshop.
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