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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."
In the last exercise, I showed you how to move paths and points around using the black and white Arrow tools. In this exercise, I am going to show you how to add and delete points from a path. I am still working inside that same Free-form polygon.psd file that I opened in the previous exercise. I have only moved a few points around, so no point in giving you an updated version of the document at this point, in time, that is. Here is what I want you to do. Make sure that you are working inside the Paths palette, make sure that the free-form polygon path is active right here, so that you can see the path outline in the image window. Switch over to your white arrow tool for a moment, if you will. Click somewhere in the path in order to make it active. I am going to switch back to my Full Screen mode by pressing the F key and I am going to zoom out a little bit here.
Now there is a couple of different ways -- let's Shift+Tab away the palettes, so we have a little more room to work. Now there is a couple of different ways to add and delete points from a path. Here is the first thing I would like to do. I would like to go ahead and restore these outlines right here, these edges, these segments that are out here on the paste board; I would like to restore them to perpendicular. So that they are either horizontal or vertical, so that they are just not so sloppy; feeling too sloppy here. I could, of course, drag them around but there is no way for me to just, sort of, snap them. Okay, I did a big Auto Scroll but that didn't help me. There is no way for me to snap them in to alignment with the other points inside of the path. So I will go ahead and Undo that modification. The easiest way to achieve that is to go ahead and redraw that segment.
So I am going to select this point right there. Now I saw that's active; it's solid, so it's selected. I am also going to Shift+Click on this point and I am going to Shift+Click on this point. What that did is it added those anchor points to the selected points. So this guy, this guy, and this guy are all solids and therefore, they are all selected. Now I am going to press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac. When you select an anchor point and then press Backspace or Delete, you remove the neighboring segments as well. Notice that they went away. So you create a hole in the path and we have converted this path from being a closed path outline to an open path.
Now I am going to add points to it. Now if I want to press --By the way, notice now that all of these anchor points or remaining anchor points are active. So if I wanted to remove them as well, I would press Backspace or Delete again. So if you ever want to completely delete a path, then you just press the Backspace key twice in a row and it will go away. Anyway, I don't want that, I want to keep this good stuff right here. Now, to redraw that area, I would go over and grab my Pen tool, then I am going to click on one of these points right there to make it active again. I will show what I mean. Notice right now, if you look closely at the video here, the Pen tool cursor has a little X next to it. That X means it's going to start drawing a new path. So if I start clicking, notice what happens. It starts drawing a new path in here. This is actually a new sub-path because I am still working inside the same path entry here inside the Paths palette but it's not connected to the other path outline.
All right, so I don't want that, so I will go ahead -- actually, it's selected, so let's just go ahead and get rid of it by pressing the Backspace key twice in a row; that would be the Delete key twice in a row on the Mac. Now instead what I want to do is I want to make the path active, I want to make sure one of the anchor points, one of these end points; because it's at the end of the open path, I want to make one of these end points active and I will do that by moving my cursor over the point. Notice then, I get that other little, weird, doo-hickey next to the Pen tool cursor. That shows me that supposed to be a little anchor point with a tiny little edges of the segment next to it and that shows me that I am going to activate this path. So I will click, sure enough, go ahead and activated that anchor point.
Now I will click down here, and I will Shift+Click, and I will Shift+Click, like so. Actually, I, kind of, blew it because I want this segment to be exactly horizontal. Notice, even if I Shift+Click to close the path, it's going to be slightly off because this point was out of alignment. So let's undo that modification. Here is something else you can do. Very useful technique, if you can remember it. You can temporarily access the Arrow tools; whichever Arrow tool you last selected, you can access that Arrow tool on the fly by pressing and holding the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac.
So with that key down, you get the Wide Arrow tool in my case and then I am going to click on this anchor point to select it. Now I am going to release the Ctrl or Command and press the Backspace key. Now question becomes, is the path still active? If I move my cursor over here so I can see it, no, it's not because I have got the X, that's telling me it's going to start a new path. So I want to activate things again by clicking on this end point right there. I did get that little point thing, I just can't see it very well because I have got my cursor against the gray background. Now I have got the pen nib without any junk next to it, which means it's adding to the existent path outline. I will Shift+Click up here and I will click down here in order to close the path.
All right, so that's one way to add and subtract points, add and delete points from a path. It's to just go ahead and select them with white Arrow tool, press the Backspace or Delete key to get rid of them, create a big hole in the path, and redraw those points using the Pen tool. You can also, as it turns out, you can also add and delete points inside of a path, that is, points between existing points in the path. Now we are going to see how to do that in the next exercise.
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