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The elusive alpha channel remains one of the most misunderstood yet powerful tools in Photoshop. Alpha channels are collections of luminance data that control the transparency of an image, and they inform just about every aspect of Photoshop. As he builds transitional blended layers, fashions a depth map, makes edge adjustments, and takes on extreme channel mixing, Omni Award-winning expert Deke McClelland teaches Photoshop users that where there's a will, there's a way. Photoshop CS3 Channels and Masks: Advanced Techniques covers mapping texture on an image, turning flesh into stone, using vector masks, working with all different channels, creating a rustic edge effect, and much more. Exercise files accompany the tutorials.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts for Channels and Masks from the Exercise Files tab."
All right gang of mine, in this exercise, this final exercise of this Mock Magazine cover project, we are going to take this goldfish and we are going to add it to the glass. We are going to put it inside of the glass or so it will appear. So I want you to open this goldfish graphic, it's called Gagne goldfish.jpeg and it's found inside of the 11 layer masks folder, where else would it be and it's called Gagne goldfish because it was captured by Lise Gagne for istockphoto.com.
Now this image isn't the same size as the magazine cover so we can't use that duplicate layer trick, we are going to have to just go ahead and copy the fish and paste it in or we could do a drag- and-drop. I am going to do a copy and paste. I am going to do Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C or Command+A, Command+C on Mac to copy that fish to the clipboard. Now I will switch over to the composition thus far which I have gone ahead and named Eagerly awaiting goldfish.psd, If you want to open it on up and catch up with me. If you are still working along inside of your original composition though, stick with it, add a boy, add a girl. This image, by the way, this composition is found of course, inside of the 11 layer masks folder.
Now I am going to go ahead and select the glass shadows layer because that's where I want to put the goldfish, I want to put it right on top of that layer and I will press Ctrl+V or Command+V on the Mac in order to perform the paste. Now I am going to zoom in on the fish and I am going to Ctrl or Command+Drag that fish down to the bottom portion of the glass. Now currently, it doesn't really look like it's inside the glass and we can actually move it down one more layer if we want to put it behind the shadows like so but I don't want it to be there because then it's going to be obscured.
It's better if it's sitting on top of the glass shadows. So we need to create some kind of interaction between the goldfish and the glass of course. But first I want to scale the goldfish; it's too darn large to fit its new environment and any time you are thinking of scaling or otherwise transforming a layer, I want you to stop for a moment and convert it to a smart object because that way all of your transformations will be non-destructive and you can apply as many transformations as you like. Whereas if you don't convert the image to a smart object and you transform it two or more times, you are going to incrementally destroy that layer. So here is what I want you to do right now.
Go ahead and rename this layer fish or something along those lines, then I want you to go to the Layers palette menu and I want you to choose Convert to Smart Object or if you loaded my Deke shortcuts way back in the Preface, then you can take advantage of that ultra useful shortcut at least I think it's very useful, Ctrl+Comma or Command+Comma on the Mac and we are not going to see any difference in the goldfish, it's going to look the same as ever but if you look at the Layers palette, you can see that we have got a little icon down here in the bottom right corner of the layer thumbnail.
So now it's smart object, now you can transform it as much as you want without worrying about it one way or the other. So go ahead and press Ctrl+T or Command+T on the Mac or you can choose the Free Transform command from the Edit menu if you prefer. Then I am going to Shift+Drag this corner handle right here by virtue of the fact that I have the Shift key down, I am going to maintain the original proportions of the goldfish so you can see my width and height values are changing by the same percentage. I am actually going to make it even smaller. So something about this size, 49.5% that's just fine and I will press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac in order to accept that transformation.
Now as I say, I need to make the goldfish interact with its background, what I want to do is drop out the whites and keep the darker colors inside of this layer. By now you want to know how to do that, you should be immediately thinking of what the proper blend mode is, we don't need a selection, we don't need a layer mask, all we need is Multiply. So press Shift+Alt+M or Shift+Option+M on the Mac in order to apply the Multiply blend mode which drops those whites right out and burns the other colors into the background graphic.
Now let's say I am looking at the fish and I am thinking it's too darn small. Am I going to hesitate to transform it? Absolutely not because I am working with the smart object. I will go ahead and press Ctrl+T or Command+T on the Mac and fantastically, Photoshop remembers how big the image is, it's 49.5% of its former self. So I could just go ahead and change that value if I want to, I could turn on the Link value, for example. I will go ahead and set the bottom right point as the Reference point for the transformation and I will change the width value to let's say 70% and both width and height change in kind because the Link option is turned on. Now I will press the Enter key a couple of times, so the Return key a couple of times on the Mac in order to accept that transformation and we now have a larger fish, you see it's in the feeding at the bottom of this glass a little bit here.
Now the biggest problem I have at this point with the fish is that it's the wrong color. It shouldn't appear gold, it's a goldfish, you know it's the right color for a goldfish but for my composition, its wrong color. I want to go ahead and make it green like the rest of my composition. So I am going to colorize my fish with the use of a Color Overlay blend mode. So go down to the bottom of your Layers palette, click on the fx icon and choose Color Overlay in order to bring up the Color Overlay panel of the Layer Style dialog box and some of you may be thinking, well why didn't you just apply the Color blend mode or the Luminosity blend mode actually to the fish so that we kept the luminance values from the fish when we mixed it with the colors from the glass and I will just go ahead and show you that very quickly just in case you were coming up with that clever thought which is clever by the way.
if I were to however, change the Multiply blend mode to Luminosity so that we drop away the colors and just keep the fish, we would also keep the whiteness. Would we not? So we can't combine blend modes. So that's why I am going to go ahead and undo that modification there and go with the Color Overlay affect instead. So I will go ahead and choose Color Overlay. It does what it always does by default, it goes ahead and fills the entire rectangular layer with red. We don't want that, we want green, so click on the color swatch and then move your cursor into the image and lift a shade of green and you can go ahead and use that shade of green if you want to. I am going to modify mine slightly. I am going to change the Hue value to 120. I am going to change the Saturation to 80 and I am going to reduce the Brightness value to 30.
So those are the values I am working with, if you want to follow along with me, you can also go your own way of course. I am going to click OK now and in order to colorize the layer, I want to change the blend mode to none other than Color so that will mix the color of green, the green color here both its Hue and Saturation values with the Luminance values that are associated with the original fish. Now if you look closely and even if you are not looking very closely at all, you can see that there is a rectangle of green that surrounds the fish that doesn't match the green outside of the fish layer and somehow I need to drop that abhorrent shade of green out of the picture and I can do that using a checkbox in the Blending Options panel.
So click on Blending Options here in this list to switch to the Blending Options panel of the Layer Style dialog box and then notice this check box right here, Blend Interior Effects as Group. What that does is it blends all of the interior effects which includes Satin and Color Overlay and Gradient Overlay and Pattern Overlay and Inner Glow and Inner Shadow and certain kinds of Bevel and Emboss effects as well. It will go ahead and blend those effects in with the layer before the layer is blended with the other layers inside the image. So in our case, if we were to turn it on, the background would go away, notice that that rectangle green goes away and the reason is because we went ahead and colorize the fish before multiplying the fish layer with the background art.
So when you are seeing those weird sort of effects inside of a layer, you might be able to get rid of them by turning this checkbox on here inside the Blending Options panel of the Layer Style dialog box and obviously in our case it's the thing to do, so make sure that checkbox is turned on and then go ahead and click on the OK button in order to accept that effect. And now I am going to move the fish over just a little bit, it does look indeed like it's inside of that glass, it's a wonderful thing. So there is the final version of our composition with glass, with mask text and with a green goldfish. Thanks to the power of layer masks and blend modes as usual inside of Photoshop.
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