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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."
Oh man! I tell you, I am just geeking out over this lightning and clouds composition that we created in the previous couple of exercises. I am zoomed in on a detail here and you can see just how much action there is going on. We have this tiny thread of lightning that's coming out of the clouds. We have this generalized lighting effect up in this region right here. We have this under-lighting effect on this area of clouds that appears to be created by this area, this hot-spot right there. We have what is perhaps my favorite element of this composition sort of cavern inside of the clouds that has these threads of lightning dancing around inside of it. Then we have this big trunk of lightning that's coming out of the clouds, creating an under- lighting effect down there.
It's as if the entire cloud structure is just teeming with static electricity, and what's the most amazing thing about it in my opinion is that we were able to pull it off using strictly parametric effects inside of Photoshop using Luminance Blending, the Screen Blend mode, and nothing else. Just amazing! Now, What bearing, if any, does this luminance blending have on our composition at hand? Well, let's go ahead and revisit it. You may recall, we were working on what was formerly called the almost Blue image from Kevin Ross here, and it's now called Multiply & Screen.psd. If you're just joining me, it's found inside the 10 Advanced Blend folder.
You may recall that we had begun, just begun work on creating a custom contrast effect using a combination of the Multiply & Screen blend modes. But it's still a little tepid for my taste, especially if you compare it to the final version of the effect inside of the Study in blue file that represents the destination, what we're working toward here. We've got all these amazing highlights, a lot of contrast going on. We have some clouds that work inside of the goggles. Now, also note that we have neither mountains nor clouds going on inside of the flesh tone. So somehow we need to use luminance blending in order to remove the mountains and clouds from the flesh tones. We need to bolster the highlights inside of the goggles, and we're going to take advantage of yet another option, an option called Blend If that allows us to luminance blend according to the contents of the single color channel.
All right. Let's return to the Multiply & Screen.psd file. The first thing that I want to do is I want to bolster the highlights inside of this image. So I want this screen effect to come through a little better than it is now. If you turn off the Screen Blend mode and then turn it back on, you'll see that it makes very, very little difference indeed. We need to increase the difference by changing the setting of a check-box inside of the Blending Options panel. So I am going to go ahead and click on the Multiply layer and then I am going to double-click on it in order to bring up the Blending Options panel of the Layer Style dialog box. So it's sort of ironic that we're trying to change the appearance of the Screen layer by double-clicking on the Multiply layer, but that's how it works, because screen is grouped with Multiply, because they're combined into a Clipping mask, it's the bottom layer and the clipping mask that makes the most difference.
All right. Now, check out this check- box right there. It says Blend Clipped Layers as Group, and it's turned on by default. What that means? I'll go ahead and move it off to the side a little bit. What that means is Photoshop is going to combine screen and multiply together and then, combine the composite version of those two layers with the layer below. That means that screen is subservient indeed to multiply. If we want to bolster the appearance of screen, then we'll turn off this check-box. So go ahead and turn it off and notice that the Screen layer is going to brighten as we're seeing happen there. What's happening now with Blend Clipped Layers as Group turned off is that Photoshop blends Multiply with the Background layer, and then blend Screen with the composite version of these two layers.
Now, Screen is still clipped by Multiply, so it's still a subordinate layer, but not nearly to the same extent. All right. So now, I want you to go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification. So the upside of the story, I don't necessarily expect you to understand exactly precisely what's going on with that check-box, but know that it's there. If you're working with clipped layers as we are here, you have that second check-box inside that Blending Options panel of the Layer Style dialog box that you can turn on and off, in order to change the appearance of those clipped layers.
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