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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; this is the last exercise in this project. We are going to take the flame mask and we are going to use it to jump the flame to a new layer, set it to the Screen blend mode, and make the flame just dance off the composition, and look right at home, inside of its new background. I am working inside of a document called Flame mask.psd, if you care to open it up, and I have switched to the Flame channel, here inside the Channels palette. It is channel number 5 as you can well see here.
All right, let's switch back to the RGB composite image, I am going to the Layers palette and I am going to go ahead and restore a few settings here. I am going to go ahead and put the composition back together by Alt+Clicking or Option+Clicking on this horizontal line between the two layers that feature the woman with the flame there. I am going to Shift+Click on the layer mask icon to turn it on, once again, so that the layer mask is functioning. This is that great version of the composition that we have created a couple of exercises ago, the only problem being its flame, of course.
Now with this thumbnail active right here, this top thumbnail active, the image thumbnail of course, active inside the Layers palette, I want you to press Ctrl+Alt+5 or Command+Option+5 on the Mac in order to load the flame mask as a selection outline. Now I will press Ctrl+Alt+J or Command+Option+J on the Mac in order to jump the layer and invoke the New Layer dialog box, so that we can name this layer, flame, of course. Let's just go ahead and set it to the Screen blend mode because we know, we want to screen it, right? The flame is definitely lighting its background.
So let's set it to Screen and go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification and look how great it is. Your layers should not be clipped by the way; it should be independent, just as it is. So I didn't turn on that clipping check box and the flame looks great. It is definitely blending with the background quite nicely and it actually plays well with the flame underneath here. So this flame, that we already had, is a good base for the overall composite effect. So leave that flame in place. We are just adding a bit of screen on top of it.
Now if you want the flame to be even lighter, then we want to go ahead and add a blank adjustment layer that would double the effect of the flame, like so. Go down here to the Black/White icon, press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, and click on the icon, and choose Brightness/Contrast, it is the one that I always use. Then we will go ahead and call this layer, x2, just as we did when we were bolstering the shadow in that composition of the hand against the circuit board, remember that one? Just inside of this very chapter, a few exercises ago. You want to turn on Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask in this time because we are trying to bolster a flame. We want to go with Screen, once again, so choose the Screen Mode and click OK in order to create this new adjustment layer.
Then once you see the Brightness/Contrast dialog box, just go ahead and click OK again in order to leave the settings unmodified. You can see this is what the flame looks like without the adjustment layer, this is what it looks like with the adjustment layer. If you feel like you have gone too far with the effect, I kind of do, then you can go ahead and back off the Opacity. I am going to press the 7 key to reduce the Opacity value to 70%. And this, my friends, is the final version of the composition. I am going to Tab away my palettes. Press the F key a couple of times in order to fill the screen with the image. Then I am going to go ahead and zoom in on the image and here it is, the final version of the composition. We masked this warm subject against the warm background, did a great job of masking her. We resolved the blond hair against its new background as well and we resolved the flame as bright, golden, soft, brilliant, beautiful flame. Thanks to a variety of features here inside Photoshop CS3.
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