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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 this exercise, we are going to adjust the edges of the masked fabric inside of this image. Specifically, we are going to get rid of this red outline that we are seeing around this contour inside of the image between the blouse and the background. We are also going to adjust the shoulder area right here. In this case, we need to cut back into the mask. So in one area, we need to expand the mask, and the other area we need to cut into it a little bit. We are going to perform both operations inside of this exercise. I want you to go ahead and open this image. If you are just joining me, you can open this image called Color mask in prog.psd short for progress of course found inside the 12 Specialty Mask folder.
You can see that I have got a little bit of roundness right here at the button that I could deal with, and I could adjust these issues a little bit if I wanted to, just by manually brushing inside of the mask. The layer mask is selected, the layer mask which is isolating the effects of this Hue Saturation adjustment layer, and so with that layer mask selected, I can switch over to the Brush tool. I can make my Brush tool way the heck smaller of course and switch it to the normal mode by pressing Shift+Alt+N or Shift+Option+N on the Mac Make sure that my foreground color is white. Then, I could just paint into these regions as I see that, there is a little kind of weird thing above the button there. Actually for best results, because I am making such detailed adjustments, I should probably work with a sharper brush.
So I am going to Undo that last modification, and I am going to press Shift+Right-Bracket four times in a row in order to make sure that I have a hard edge brush, then I will click there in order to get rid of that little tiny dot of color, and I could just go ahead and select into this V right here by Alt+Clicking or Option+Clicking with the Lasso tool on the Mac in order to just select this area like so, and then I will go ahead and press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac, because I want to fill that area with black and black is my background color.
So that looks pretty darn good. Now, let's take a look at this edge of the blouse. This is a little tricker. It would seem, but here is the deal, watch this. If I turn off the layer mask by Shift+Clicking on it, by Shift+Clicking on its thumbnail here inside the Layers palette. You will notice that the green background doesn't really shift. Notice that red line goes away, but the green background doesn't shift at all. So this is with the layer mask. This is without the layer mask. We have a little bit of a dandy line shift back here, but nothing I think that anybody is going to notice. So my point here is we don't need the layer mask at this location. So go ahead and Shift+Click it again to turn it back on, but here is what we are going to do, make sure it's active of course. Grab your Paint Brush tool once again, make the brush larger, make it fuzzy once again by pressing Shift+Left-Bracket four times in a row, and then we are just going to paint along all of these edges. Paint down here along the tummy, avoid the buttons if you can, then paint this region right there.
Notice, as we paint this red line away, we are not harming the background or the foreground image at all. We do have to watch out for the hair, so take it easy around the hair, just kind of brush next to it, not over it of course, and you will get rid of that red line totally, completely goes away. You could try to paint along the jeans as well. That will help it as I say; this area inside the shaded portions of the folds of the fabric is just a function of the Hue/Saturation adjustment and has nothing to do with our mask. This area is completely unmasked right now.
So anyway, let's go ahead and zoom out. So what I am saying is that area is going to resolve when we re-sample the image or reprint it, or we prepare it for display on the web or what have you. So it's not something we need to worry about. What we do need to worry about I think, is this edge right here. I will go ahead and zoom back into it, even though I just zoomed out. This edge you can see how it comes up too high. I am actually going to zoom in even farther, so you can see what I am talking about. It basically, I will go ahead and trace along it using my Marquee cursor here. It goes upward, and it keep slanting higher and higher, and then it hits the bra strap and it spikes down, and that's something to do with the way that the Color Range command identified the image, but it's certainly not something we want to keep. So here is what I am going to suggest we do. That's pretty much a vertical line right there. Actually, if you Alt+Click or Option+Click inside of the Layer mask thumbnail, you will see that weird spike.
So let's just go ahead and select it using the Rectangular Marquee tool which I just have to have selected here, and I am going to drag down like so in order to get as much of the shoulder region as I can. So I have selected right along side the spike as you can see here, and I am going to Alt+Click or Option+Click once again on the layer mask Thumbnail in order to return to the RGB Composite mode. I am going to zoom out a couple of clicks here until I am seeing the image at the 50% view-size, and then I am going to press Ctrl+Alt+Down-arrow.
That would be Command+Option+Down-arrow on the Mac to move that selection and copy it down one pixel. So I am actually cloning this area inside of the layer mask to move it downward, and so I am choking the mask into the blouse a little bit. I'll do it, I am doing it manually of course, and then I am going to press the Down-Arrow key once more in order to nudge it down a second pixel. So that was at the 50% view-size, it's very important what view-size I am doing this at, if you want to exactly match my modifications, I press Ctrl+Alt+Down-arrow, and then that was Command+Option+Down-arrow on the Mac, and then I press the Down-arrow key by itself a second time in order to move that selection down, a couple of clicks there.
Actually, because I am working at the 50% view-size, it's moving 2 pixels at a time. So that's a total of 4 pixels of movement I believe. But, whatever it is, it doesn't really matter, it looks better is what really counts. But, I am going to press Ctrl+H or Command+H on the Mac; you can still see that we are going up into the spike still just a little bit. So the spike is still there. All right. So I still have my selection intact. I am going to take advantage of a tool that allows me to move pixels around, and that tool, I don't use it very often, but it's the Smudge tool, this guy right there. So go ahead and select the Smudge tool from the Blur tool fly-out menu.
Notice, it has a keyboard shortcut of R. Notice that I have gotten rid. If you've loaded my Deke keys, you'll see that I've got rid of the keyboard shortcut for the Sharpen tool because it is the worst tool in Photoshop. It's a horrible, horrible tool. Don't want you ever using it, it just trashes images. So we have got our Smudge tool right here. I am going to go ahead and reduce the size of my cursor a little bit. Actually, I have my cursor set to about 100 pixels. By default, your Strength setting will be 50%. I want you to go ahead and press the 0 key to raise it to 100% because we want not to smear the pixels around, but rather to move them. Actually, on second thought, I am going to go with a bigger cursor here.
So I increase the size of my brush, and I am going to click right there and move my cursor down like 2 pixels. That's it, I am just moving slightly, and then I am going to click over here and move it down a little bit as well, and then I am going to click back here and move it down again, and you can see just by making very small movements, very tiny drags at 100% Strength, I am moving those pixels downward. I am actually shoving the masked edge down a little bit. If you shove it too far down, you can just drag it back up just lightly. So again, tiny, tiny drags is all I want you to do here. We are just making slight finesses to this masked edge. So that's it. So we've modified the edges of the blouse using a combination of the Paint Brush tool and the Smudge tool here inside Photoshop. In the next exercise, we will begin to address the hair.
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