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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 gang, now that we have combined all of our images into a single composition, it's time to align the images with each other using Photoshop CS3's wonderful Auto-Align feature. Now I am working in a catchup document, and I actually recommend that all of you open this image whether you went ahead and combined your images together or not, you will want to open this image if you want to see the project through to its very end. The reason being that we have some text, I have gone ahead and created some text elements inside of this composition on this layer, that's called text and so forth, that's currently hidden.
Anyway, the name of this image is Tumult At The Aviary.psd and it's included loose inside of the 11 layer masks folder. So go ahead and open it on up and just once again, just to review here, you can see that our various Layers, Jumpers 1 through 4 are sort of roughly aligned with each other but not exactly aligned. So if we start masking our layers, things aren't going to align up properly. And let me just show you what I mean here. I will go ahead and turn-off all but the Jumpers 4 layer, so that we can see both Jehf and Melody on screen here.
And now that I have got only the Jumpers 4 layer visible and it's active, I can press Alt+Right Bracket or Option+ Right Bracket on the Mac to switch between layers. So this is the bottom layer, this is the next one up, you can see that the rocks are shifting, the sea is shifting in the background, then this is the next layer after that, and then this is the final layer. So each one of them is slightly out of alignment with its neighbors and as I say, that's a bad thing. So let's go ahead and absolutely align them with each other, so that every single grain of sand, well that's a little bit of an exaggeration, just about all the grains of sand more or less aligned with each other.
And we are going to that by, of course, turning-on all of the layers except for the text and so forth, we will come to that later and then I want you to click on one of the layers like Jumpers 1, for example, and then Shift+Click on Jumpers 4, in order to select that entire range of layers inside the Layers palette. Then go up to the Edit menu and choose this command right there, Auto-Align Layers, a really great new function inside Photoshop CS3. And it's really smart. It basically, what it's doing is, it's going to look at the background, and try to automatically align all the background stuff, and you not worry about aligning the various versions of Melody, for example, because she's sitting here jumping up and down, and so is Jehf, he is hopping up and down as well.
So there is no way to align Melody and Jehf but it can align, Photoshop can align the majority of the objects inside of this image, the majority of the pixels which include the stationary things like the rocks, and the sea weed, and the sand, and to some extent, the surf because the surf is moving around and of course, the sky in the background. We get this dialog box right here, that's called Auto-Align Layers and it's asking me what kind of projection I want to use. Do I want to go ahead and distort the layers that would be perspective? Do I want Photoshop to perform a four point distortion on the layers which is what I would get if I selected the Perspective option? Do I want it to basically apply this Spherize filter to each one of the layers in order to create a cylindrical map? In which case, I would select Cylindrical of course, or I could select to Reposition Only. If I don't want any distortion to occur, then I would just reposition the layers.
Well, really what I want to do, I probably want a Perspective distortion, in this case, but I am just going to leave it to Photoshop, I am just going to say Auto, you figure it out. Its Auto- Align Layers after all, so let's stick with auto, and then, click OK in order to perform the alignment. Now this is going to take a few seconds for Photoshop to figure out how everything should be aligned but now look things are in alignment with each other. Melody's head is little cut off, and this Jumpers 1 image on top, don't worry about that, we are going to have some misalignment of the edges of the photograph, that's to be expected. But the interior should be totally aligned.
So let's go ahead, and try that same thing that we tried before, Alt+Click or Option+Click on the eyeball in front of Jumpers 4, then click on the Jumpers 4 layer, so that only it is active. Then I want you to press Alt+Right Bracket to switch to the next layer up, and I what I want you to do is we are going back and forth between these layers. I want you to notice the rocks, I want you to pay special attention to the rocks and to the horizon line right there, that's what we should see remain in alignment. We should also see the sea weed to a certain extent to remain in alignment assuming that Jehf's not over here kicking and of course, so this is the next layer up, this is the one down.
I am just pressing Alt+Left and Right Brackets to go back and forth. This would be Option+Left and Right Bracket on the Mac in order to go back and forth between layers and you can see what a terrific job its doing, I think this is pretty funny. Because it looks like a kind of dancing and Jehf is managing to a dance in the air, look at that he is levitating, that's very cool. And Melody is also in the air, you can tell because she is so far in the foreground but she is doing a heck of a wiggle there. So this is wonderful, we have manage to completely align these layers automatically. Thanks to Photoshop CS3, something we couldn't have done prior to this version of the program, so it really is a wonderful function.
In the next exercise, we are going to set about masking the best and the brightest from each one of these layers, so that we can achieve the perfect group photo.
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