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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 bolster the shadows and we are going to increase the saturation of the flesh tones to match the highly saturated colors in the background art. I am working in this catchup document called Pen & circuit.psd that's found inside the 16_Hard_stuff folder and I am going to click on the shadow layer to make it active here inside the Layer palette. I want to basically multiply the shadow layer by itself and we are going to take advantage of the technique that I showed you in the previous chapter; we are going to multiply in a clipped adjustment layer, a clipped empty adjustment layer. So here is what we are going to do.
Press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac. Click the Black&White icon and choose Brightness/Contrast which is just my way of creating blank layers and I am going to call this guy 2x because its effectively going to double the darkness of the shadows and I am going to turn on Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask and I am going to change the Mode to Multiply right up front here. Then I am going to click OK, we don't need to do anything inside the Brightness/Contrast dialog box. So just click OK once again because it's a blank adjustment layer and you can see we have much darker shadows now. This is before we added that layer, this is after. So nice dark shadows where we used to have tepid shadows in the past.
Let's now address those tepid flesh tones, shall we. Click on the hand layer. I want you to Alt+Click on the Black& White icon that would be an Option+Click on the Mac and choose this time around Hue/Saturation and we will call this layer supersat and turn on the Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask check box. Go ahead and leave Mode at Normal and click OK and we will take the Saturation value up to plus 40 through the roof baby, then click OK. Now here is the deal. At this point we do have some super saturated flesh tones, so there is no doubt there. But we are also creating this kind of ridge along the thumb. Right where I am tracing here, just kind of this band of color showing up and I would like to defuse it slightly. It's still going to be there, basically no matter what we do and that's a function of having a very bright Red Channel.
If I click back here on the hand layer for a moment and pres Ctrl+1 you can see here is the Red Channel. It's extremely bright. It's basically over bright. As you can see we have a bunch of clipping going on here inside this region of the hand whereas the Green Channel is in good shape, goodish anyway and the Blue Channel is in the okey dokey shape anyway. So let's go back to the RGB image, the full RGB composite. Now I could try out something like the Channel mixer.
But I am just going to use the Curves command. I am going to Alt+Click or Option+Click in the Black&White icon and choose Curves. That's going to bring up the New Layer dialog box of course. Let's go ahead and call this one red fixer something along those lines. Use Previous Layers to Create Clipping Mask is turned on by default because we are already sandwiched here inside of the Clipping Mask. Go ahead and click OK. That's what we want by the way and let's switch over to Red. I am going to raise the mid tones for the Red Channel and I am going to take down the highlights like so. So go ahead and click to set a point in the middle there, lift it up and then grab this point in the upper right corner, drag it down a little bit. The exact value are not all that important and that we are just going for something that looks good on screen. Now the hand is pretty much super red which is okey dokey but I think it's a little too light in general. So I am going back to RGB here, the RGB composite and I am going to take the mid tones down slightly and this looks actually pretty darn and good. I will go ahead and click OK to accept that modification.
Now I may rethink my saturation at this point. I may think well you know supersat is little too supersat I think , I will go ahead and double click on it and let's take the Saturation value down to 35 let say and then click OK. Definitely a richer, more powerful image. There is still a couple of things that I want to take care of for one thing; we have got some highlights that are popping off the finger tips here. I would like to resolve those just a little bit. So I will like to choke the mask inward without choking the pen and I would like to add some special effects around the pen nib and we will be doing those things in the next couple of exercises.
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