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In this movie, I'll show you how to create that mask that I use to distinguish the mountains from the sky in order to create this final two exposure composition. I'd like to tell you that this is a completely automated process, that there's nothing to it. But it actually requires a fair amount of manual labor. And that's because if you zoom on in to the image, you can see that it's easy to distinguish the trees from the sky, as well as the rocks. The problem is these little patches of snow, which are every bit as bright and neutral as the clouds up here in the sky.
So, we are going to have to engage in some actual work here. The first step is to go ahead and select the brighter layer, which is the brighter of the two exposures. And then, armed with the rectangular marquee tool, up here at the top of the tool box, right-click inside the image window and choose Duplicate Layer, and go ahead and set document to New. And then I'm going to name this guy, New Mountain Mask, like so. Just so we can tell it apart from the other one. And I'll click OK, and we end up with this image right here.
Alright, now we don't need the existing layer mask, so I'll go ahead and right click on the layer mask thumbnail and choose Delete Layer Mask here inside the layer's panel. And then I'm going to flatten the image by going up to the Layer menu and choosing the Flatten Image command, which will leave us with a single background. Alright, now what you want to do is check out your channels. Just give 'em a look here inside the Channels panel. So I'll go ahead and switch over to that panel and then I'll click on the red channel. That's no good because the mountains are too greyish, and we've got this big black and white region of sky.
The green channel's going to show us a lot of detail, but it's really not what we're looking for for this effect. What we want is the blue channel, because it's going to do the best job of separating the blue sky from the non-blue landscape. Thing is though, notice that the blue channel starts off too bright. So what we're going to do is switch back to the RGB image, and then go up to the Image menu and choose the Calculations command. You want to set both channels, both the Source 1 channel and the Source 2 channel right here to blue.
And the layer doesn't matter because there aren't any. We just have the background. And we're working inside the same source image, New Mountain Mask right there. You want the blend mode to be set to multiply. That's going to work out great. And an opacity of 100% will work as well. Make sure the Invert check boxes are off, and then click OK. And you'll now see that you have a new channel called Alpha 1. Let's go ahead and name it Mountains, for now. Alright, next we want to increase the contrast between the sky and the mountains.
And we're going to do that the simplest way possible, by going up to the Image menu, choosing Adjustments, and choosing the Levels command. You'll have to experiment with these values to decide what works for you. But for this image, we want the black point to be 100. That gives us some nice black mountains. And we want the white point value to be 150, which gives us some nice bright sky along with a ton of bright little patches of snow, which are a big pain in the neck by the way. We're going to leave the gamma value alone. So leave that set to 1.00.
Click OK, and that pretty much exhausts most of the automation associated with this mask. Now the next thing that I want you to do, in order to get rid of these dark patches of sky up here, what I'd like you to do is select of all tools the magic wand. That's going to work out brilliantly for us because, this tool if nothing else, does a great job of separating white or black from everything else. So I'll go ahead and select the magic wand tool. These options are set wrong, however, for what we want.
Go ahead and set the tolerance to 0. And then, turn off the Anti-alias check box. Leave Contiguous turned on. Sample All Layers doesn't matter. Now, click in a white portion of the sky. And what that does is, it goes ahead and selects all of the white pixels. The pixels that are absolutely white. And it leaves the cloud pixels here. These dark sky or cloud regions. It leaves them de-selected. We want the opposite, so go up to the Select menu and choose Inverse in order to select those cloud regions.
It just helps us see where they are because they're not always absolutely identifiable. And then you want to switch to the brush tool. Then right-click inside the image window, let's crank the size value up to something like 100. And you want to take the harness value up to 100%, that's very important. And then press the Enter key, or the Return key on a Mac, in order to accept that change. And now you want to press the D key, in order to invoke the default colors so that white is the foreground color. That's the default when you're editing a mask in Photoshop.
Alright now I might make my brush a little bigger by pressing the right bracket key a few times there, and I'll brush inside of the selected sort of sky cloud regions, whatever they are. And we'll go ahead and brush down into there. You don't want to brush down into the mountain because you'll end up painting inside of it, which of course we don't want. So I'll go ahead and undo that brush stroke, and I'll paint inside those marching ants right there. Let's check if there's anything over here on the right-hand side. Doesn't look like there is. There might be a little something right there. Alright, and then, we've got some stuff right in this region.
We just want that sky to be as clean as possible. Once you think you've painted in every single one of these patches of marching ants, then press Ctrl+D or Cmd+D on the Mac, in order to deselect the image. Switch back to the wand, and click inside the image again and you should see no marching ant action inside of that sky. I see just a little bit. And so I'm going to try it again. I'll go up to the Select menu and choose Inverse, so that these little areas are selected here. I'll press the B key to switch to the brush tool, I'll press the left bracket key in order to reduce the size of the brush.
I'll paint right there, and there. This is the biggest sort of blotch right there. And there's something up in this region as well. And then you can knock yourself out as much as you want elsewhere along the mountains. You don't have to get things perfect, by the way. because after all, there's so much detail along the ridge of these mountains that I don't think there's anybody who's going to question the authenticity of the final composition. Alright, now I'll press Ctrl+D, or Cmd+D on a Mac, in order to deselect the image. And now, is where things get really super fun, by which I mean super duper painful.
We've gotta paint inside the mountain, is basically what I'm saying. And so I'm going to press the X key so that my foreground color is black. And I'm going to reduce the size of my brush. And then I'm going to paint. And you can see that I'm zoomed on in here. I'm zoomed to 66.7%. Now I'm at 100%, so that I can really see what I'm doing. And progress is going to be slow. I have probably made it about a twentieth the way across the image. And that, I bet, is a wild exaggeration. Now, if you're at all concerned about whether these are actually little patches of snow or whether they're holes in the trees.
Then you can click on the RGB image to view it by itself, and it's anybody's guess what these things are. I'm guessing that they're not little arches, that they're actually patches of snow. So I'll go ahead and click in the Mountains channel again, and then I'll paint these guys in. Now, if you want to make faster progress, and I imagine most of you, unless you're like a tree sloth or something like that, you're going to probably start getting impatient with this process very quickly. There's no speedy way to get through this, but you might want to try the Polygonal Lasso tool.
So I'll go ahead an select that guy. And then what I can do is just kind of click, like so, around these regions. And this is the worst of it by the way, this middle section of the mountains here is just excruciating. But go ahead if you want. You know, you can select it, or you can watch me do it, which I imagine is about the most stiflingly boring thing on the face of the planet. But I promised I would show you how to do this, and so I want to make good of course. Now, if, if at any point you just get too sick and tired of this process to continue, what's great about the polygonal lasso tool, notice that it doesn't auto scroll.
So if I get to the side over there, the side of the image. And I move beyond it, then I can auto scroll which is a really great thing because otherwise, you know, I'd have to zoom out and then I wouldn't be able to get any clarity as to what's going on here. And so forth. Alright, let's say you want to actually have something get done, and you know you don't want to leave the computer and have your toddler come over and you know, click unnecessarily and ruin for things for you. Why then, what you want to do is just kind of, zoom out. So you can press Ctrl+minus, or Cmd+minus on a Mac, in order to zoom out while you're working.
And then just go ahead and circle your way around into the pasteboard here. And then find where you started, which for me is right there. And then go ahead and complete the selection. Black is my foreground color, so I can fill this selection by pressing Alt+Backspace, or Option+Delete on the Mac. And then, if you want to get this stuff down here, why then I would press the M key to switch to the rectangular marquee tool, and just go ahead and make a big huge rectangular marquee. Now this should give you a sense of satisfaction, if you go and drag all the way up to above this thing right there, do you see that? Because that's part of the mountains right there, it's a rock.
I'll go ahead and switch back to the Mountains channel now. And I'll press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete to fill that incredibly huge area with black. So that's good, I was able to achieve that pretty quickly, which is nice. And then, it's up to you how you proceed. I'm going to press Ctrl+D or Cmd+D on a Mac in order to deselect the image. And I'm going to press the B key to switch back to the brush tool, because I'm just basically sick and tired of using the lasso tool. And then, I'll just, sort of, click inside these areas. You really want to click, as opposed to drag because, any time you start dragging when you're masking, it gets kind of dangerous because, let's say you drag a really long distance, like I've done here.
And then, all of a sudden, you drag out of the mountains. I'm not going to do it, because I don't want that burden, but then that means you have to undo the entire brushstrokes. So, easy does it. You just want little short brushstrokes when you're doing this kind of work, because we're working without a net. Meaning, we're not doing overlay painting, for example, which is a really common masking technique, which is where you paint with the brush tool set to the overlay blend mode. And that's not going to do us any good in this case, which is why we're not doing it. So we're just doing everyday, average, normal painting because this isn't creative at all.
This is like trying to get the edge of a wall painted. I hope this demonstrates to you that there are times where masking cannot be super duper automated. There's lots of times in fact, where you just have to do some hand painting in order to get things done properly. And you know, we could have drawn a path with the pen tool around these regions as well, if you like to work with a pen. But it really isn't going to do us any good. It doesn't seem to me. Which is why I decided to go with the polygonal lasso tool, and the brush.
That thing right there is called devil's thumb, just in case you were curious, because it does look like a thumb. Alright, now I'll go and paint this stuff away, and, wasn't it great that we had a point of interest there for just a moment? And this is the mask, by golly. I finished it. That was probably, maybe, what six minutes of painting? So not so bad. Now, let's say that you want to separate this image out as an independent grayscale image, the way I did with this MountainMask.tiff file right there. Well, first thing I gotta do is invert the image.
So let's switch back to my Mountains channel and go up to the Image menu, choose Adjustments and choose the Invert command. And now let's say we want to get rid of the image, because it's served it's purpose. Right? We only needed it to create the initial base channel. And then, of course, we needed to check in on it once in a while to see what's background and what's foreground. Now that we're done with it, switch back the Mountains channel. Go out to the Image menu, choose Mode and choose Grayscale. And Photoshop's going to warn you, hey I'm going to throw away all of the other channels, including the image itself.
But of course, that's exactly what we want, so go ahead and click OK, and you're left with a single gray channel and nothing more. No layers, either. We just have a grayscale image. And then you would ostensibly save this as a TIFF image, with LZW compression. That's going to be your best bet for a mask like this. Because with LZW, lossless compression by the way, big regions of white and big regions of black end up compressing down to nothing. They really compress well. Then, we would go back to our composition. Let's say I was developing it, and of course I just want to test things to make sure that this mask works.
I'll go ahead and right-click on the layer mask associated with the brighter layer. And I'll choose Delete Layer Mask to get rid of it. And now let's load the one we just created, by going up to the Select menu and choosing Load Selection. And then I will change the document to New Mountain Mask. That abbreviated version there. Channel Gray, that's the only channel we've got. Invert is turned off, and then click OK. And now, drop down to the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Channels panel and click on it, and you will go ahead and mask the bright foreground from the dark background, the dark sky, that is to say.
And of course then I went in with the gradient tool. You saw this in a previous movie but I'll just do it really quick again. And I added a black to transparent gradient, very important there, to the top of the sky. So I drag down like that, and I'm pressing the Shift key as I do, in order to darken the sky a little bit. And then I'm shift dragging upward to darken the foreground of the path as well. And then I'm pressing the F key a couple of times. And now, I am pressing Ctrl+plus, or Cmd+plus on a Mac, in order to zoom in on that image.
And that friends, is how you mask any cloud range, from any sky you may have, no matter how much snow is sitting on top of those mountains, here inside Photoshop.
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