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Learn how to use selections and layer masks in Photoshop to create composite images and apply targeted adjustments. After covering the key concepts behind selections and exploring Photoshop's selection tools, Tim Grey delves into a variety of advanced techniques that will help you make accurate selections, create seamless composite images, and apply adjustments that do exactly what you want them to do.
When creating composite images, from time to time you're bound to run into a situation where creating that composite proves challenging. And this image certainly provides a good example of that. It is a fuzzy subject. This macaque, of course, is furry, and that fur is Fuzzy and that's going to create a challenge in terms of creating a good layer mask. But we can use some little tricks to help improve our results. Lets take a look at a process we might use with this image for example. What I'll do is create a layer mask where we can only see the macaque and not the background.
And that way we'll be able to place that macaque on a different background. So, let's get started by creating a selection. In this case I think I can create a selection pretty well. Based on one of the channels. It looks like the blue channel has pretty good contrast for the macaque so I'll use that as the basis of my selection. I'll create a copy of that blue channel by dragging its thumbnail down to the Create New Channel button, the blank sheet of paper icon at the bottom of the channels panel. I'll then enhance contrast by choosing Image > Adjustments and then Levels. And I'll maximize contrast to the extent possible.
I want to try and darken the background and lighten the macaque so that I have good contrast. I don't want too much contrast because then I'll lose some of that fur detail. So I want just enough. Perhaps, right around there might do the trick. In addition to adjusting the black and white point, I can also adjust that midtone value. And I'm really going to focus mostly on the fur details. So in fact, I'll zoom in a little bit so that we can see that, that fur is still comprised not only of black and white pixels but. But also some shades of gray, and that's going to be the key to having a nice smooth transition for that fur.
So that looks to be a pretty good adjustment, I'll good ahead and click Okay. But of course this is not a perfect adjustment. I want to adjust that background so that it's completely black and adjust the foreground so it's compeltely white. And that would be a little bit of a challenge with A normal brush tool for example. But I'm going to use the brush tool in conjunction with a blend mode in order to improve my results. I'll select the brush tool from the tool box and then press the letter D to make sure my colors are set to the default values of white and black. I can then press X as needed to switch the foreground and background colors. I'm then going to change the blend mode for my brush tool. To overlay.
That's a contrast blend mode, and it will allow me to lighten or darken areas of the image as needed. I'll then adjust the size of my brush using the left and right square bracket keys as needed to reduce or enlarge the brush respectively. And because I'm working with that overlay blend mode, I'm not simply painting with black, I'm actually, essentially, dodging and burning, lightening or darkening areas of the image. So, I can paint over these black areas, and if I come out over the fur, you'll notice that I don't completely destroy the fur. I'll certainly tone it down a little bit. But I'm not going to completely destroy it.
And so that allows me to clean up those areas around the (UNKNOWN) without causing any real harm to the fur. Similarly, I can paint with white in the interior, so I'll press the X key on the keyboard to switch the foreground and background colors. And then I'll paint just inside of the edge of that fur detail, in order to essentially create a path around which I'll be able to produce a selection. And so I'll just go around the full edge here, just of the Macack and paint to clean things up.
I'll go ahead and zoom out just a little bit here and use a little bit larger brush and not worry too much about getting this absolutely perfect. I'll just illustrate the basic concepts here. And giving myself a little bit of an area to work with. I think right about there. That should pretty well take care of it. I'll just check the top area up here. Maybe clean up some of that here. And for the moment I'm not going to worry about the stump here down below. I'll clean that up separately. But at this point I have a pretty good definition of at least the edge. So now I'll go ahead and fill the background with black and the foreground with white.
The way I'll do that is to create a selection. So I'll create a selection of the background. Basically moving my mouse around the outside of the macaque. With the lasso tool. And then I'll trace around the rest of the image and create that selection of all areas that need to be filled with black. Then I can go to the Edit menu and choose Fill, and then make sure that black is set as the option under the Use pop-up. And then I'll click OK in order to fill that area with black. I'll then press Ctrl + D on Windows or Cmd + D on Macintosh to deselect. And then I'll trace inside the macaque.
Just inside the fur line, once again using the Lasso tool. And following along that path that I cleared out for myself using that dodge and burn technique with the Brush tool. Once again I won't worry about the stump down at the bottom. I'll treat that separately. And so I"ll just trace all around the interior of the macaque all the way back to my original starting point and now, this area, I'll fill with white. So I'll go to the Edit menu and choose Fill and then I'll choose White from the Use popup and then click OK. Just to get a better initial result of course I could also select this stump down here.
I won't worry about being precise. I'll just create a basic selection so that my initial composite will look a little bit better and then from the edit menu I'll choose fill one more time and fill with white. I can then deselect by pressing Ctrl + V on Windows or Cmd + D on MacIntosh and now I have an alpha channel that reflects (INAUDIBLE) a good selection for my macaque including that fur detail. So I'll go ahead and click the Load Channel as Selection button. The dash circle icon at the bottom of the channels panel. That will load a selection where white is selected and black is deselected. And if I click on the RGB thumbnail I'll get back to my color image and you can see that we have what seems to be a decent.
Then selection at least for starting with .I'll go back to my Layers panel and now with my Macaque layer active, and with the selection in the image, I'll go ahead and click on the Add Layer Mask Button. The circle inside of a square icon at the bottom of the layers panel. And you can see that we have a very good starting point. A very good basic layer mask for this particular subject. So by using that dodging and burning technique on an alpha channel or on a layer mask itself, for that matter, we're able to greatly improve the result that we were able to achieve with a very tricky subject.
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