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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, in the previous exercise, I showed you how to add and delete end points, essentially. So that you can carve a hole in the path and then extend the path. In this exercise, I am going to show you how to add and delete interior points, that is, points that are nestled between other points inside of a path. I am still working inside of that exact same, Free-form polygon.psd file, that I opened a couple of exercises ago. That's because we have just been playing around with this free-form polygon path outline right here. Make sure it's active inside the Paths palette. So I go ahead and give it a click. Then make sure that you have your Pen tool. Well actually, you know what? Let's go ahead and Shift+Tab away those palettes right there and let's zoom in. I want to zoom in on this nose and mouth region. Actually, I might be zoomed in a little too far there, on the nose and mouth region because I am not doing a terribly good job of tracing around these areas thus far. So I might as well make a few other modifications to this path outline.
All right, so let's go ahead and select the path and my Pen tool is active right now. I could go ahead and grab my Arrow tool instead and click on the path outline to select it but instead, what I am going to do is I am going to press and hold Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac, and click on that path outline. That, of course, pressing Ctrl here on the PC or Command on the Mac gets you the Arrow tool on the fly. Now I will release that key because I don't need it anymore. Now I am going to click and hold on the Pen tool icon here in order to reveal the entire flyout menu. I was telling you, I love the Pen tool, I think it's great. That's why I left it with the keyboard shortcut. If you loaded my Deke key shortcuts, you will see that P selects a Pen tool and nothing else, it doesn't cycle between tools. The Freeform Pen tool, I spit on you, I don't like that tool. The Add Anchor Point and Delete Anchor Point tools, I actually think they are really great tools but we never need to select them. I will select them and show them to you first and then I will show you, why we never need to select them, actually. Then we have got the Convert Point tool, very useful but advanced tool, we will come to it later.
All right, go ahead and grab the Add Anchor Point tool and right here, I think, this line right here doesn't do justice to this, sort of, curve that's associated with this part of her nose, whatever it's called. So notice, I am going to move my cursor over the path outline and I get a little pen. You can't see it, darn it but let's see if I move it to a different location, if we can see it little better. Yeah, that little plus sign is hard to see. All right, I move it here and we can, kind of, see a little pen with a plus sign next to it. All right? That shows you that that's going to add an anchor point.
So go ahead and click right there to add an anchor point. Notice that it gets a couple little control handles, notice those tiny little circles next it to it, those are control handles. Now, I can move this point in to position and control handles, by the way, we are going to see more of them but what they do is they add curvature to a segment. I am now going to press and hold the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac, so that I can keep that Arrow tool selected right there, that white Arrow tool. I am going to drag it over, like so, and we get this curving segment this time, that Photoshop has very obligingly created for me. Actually, it does a pretty good job of selecting that area. Nice work, Photoshop. So we can continue to add other anchor points at will, if we want to. They are going to come in with little bits of curvature associated with them as well, and then we can move these guys in to position as desired, like so. We will go ahead and drag this one down. Of course, you can nudge, don't forget that you can nudge, if you want to.
All right, now I am, kind of, left with this guy who is, kind of, an extra point and I don't want him. So I would go over and get my Delete Anchor Point tool, select it, and I would click on it. Notice, it's now a Pen tool with a minus sign. You can barely see the minus sign but it's there. Click on that point and see that instead of deleting the point and the neighboring segments, it just goes ahead and deletes the point and draws a new segment between the remaining points. Compare that, by the way. I will go ahead and undo the modification, compare that to having an anchor point active, having it selected, and then pressing the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac which creates a hole and gets rid of the neighboring segments as well.
All right, but I am going to show you something. I am going to leave it that way because now I am going to draw some new points here. I am going to click here and I am going to click here in order to connect those two points together. I will go ahead. Notice something at this point, I will Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on the path outline. I want to show you how you never need to resort to the Add or Delete Anchor Points tools. Armed with a Pen tool, you can get to them any old time, just by making sure up here in the Options bar that Auto Add/Delete is turned on. It's tuned on by default, just don't turn it off. Then, notice now, if I move my cursor over an existing point and click, it goes ahead and get rid of that point.
The Pen tool automatically turns in to the Delete Anchor Point tool, when I hover it over an existing interior point. If I want to add a point, I just hover over a segment and click. Then it just goes ahead and adds a point at that location. Isn't that great? So you can just add and delete points at will here using the Pen tool. What's amazing is that once upon a time, that wasn't the way it was, you had to actually to resort to other tool but these days, things are much better. Oh, it's been better for years and years now, of course, but there was a dark day when engineers hadn't discovered that they can make the tools way simpler.
All right, anyway, I am going to go ahead and click here in order to create one of those fancy curving points for the shoulder and then I am going to drag down here. These fancy curving points, by the way, are known as smooth points, in case you are interested. This looks pretty good, may be I will add another point at this location moving and that time, we could really see the cursor, that's nice. Of course, now we can't. May be here we could, oh yeah, you can see it has got a plus sign, groovy. You can see there how it's got a minus sign, awesome. Anyway, this looks pretty good. You can keep playing with it, if you want to, but this is not a bad tracing that I have created using the simplest approach.
Really, using the Pen tool to create a free form polygon and then using the Pen tool to add and delete interior points inside that path. In the next exercise, I am going to show you how we actually employ this path in order to mask this photograph of the woman's face.
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