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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."
As you may recall, the intent of this project is to mask the hand holding the pen nib and its natural cast shadow, and convey all of that information into this circuit board image right here, and we will be compositing the shadow in this very exercise. Now I need you to open a couple of images. One of them is called Fountain pen.jpg, it comes to us from a group called ra photos, RA photos, and I want you to also open this image, it's called Circuitboard.jpg, comes to us from photographer Floyd Anderson. Both of these groups are with istockphoto.com.
In the previous exercise, I showed you this wedding couple image right here. It's a beautiful photograph, splendid, it's their happy day, but I am not including this photograph with the sample files. This image however comes to us from photographer Skip O'Donnell, I should mention that. The other two photographs that you need to open, they are both found inside the folder 16 Tough stuff. Now, you might say, some of you who are feeling a little more skeptical might be thinking, now okay, we've got a shadow that's captured against a white background. It can't be all that tough to communicate that shadow into a different background, just using the Multiply blend mode. That should be all it takes. Well, let's see.
I am going to show you yet another way to composite images together, just so that, you have all the options in the world to choose from. I am going to skip over to Circuitbaord.jpg, make sure that you have both of those images opened, and I am going to create a new layer, here in the Layers palette. I am going to press Ctrl+Shift+N or Command+Shift+N on the Mac to create a new layer. And I am going to go ahead and call this layer, shadow and because we know that we are going to want to apply the Multiply blend mode, we know that upfront. Let's just go ahead and change the Mode setting to Multiply for this layer in advance, because we are feeling so confident and then, go ahead and click OK in order to create the new layer.
Now, I want you to go up to the Image menu and choose the Apply Image command. And both the Circuitboard.jpg image and the Fountain pen.jpg image, they are both exactly the same size. So you can choose Fountain pen from the Source menu right there. And you might as well change the blend mode for this particular image, melting the image into the layer that is to say to Normal. It's not going to make any difference, but it's more accurate in terms of what we are trying to achieve here, and that's it. Make sure the Channel are set to RGB, Layer is going to be Background, there is no other options there, these checkboxes should be off. Go ahead and click OK in order to accept that new layer, and sure enough, multiplying the hand into the background is just the ticket where conveying the shadow is concerned.
So this isn't all that difficult. And it might lead you to think, why in the world are you covering this in a chapter called Masking the Tough Stuff? What is so tough about what we've done so far? And the answer is nothing. What we've done so far is childishly simple, laughably simple, I would say, ha-ha-ha. But here is the deal, masking the other stuff, that's a little bit difficult because we captured that shadow against a white background as I recommended. The other stuff is going to be a lot more difficult to mask, as you'll see. So we've got some tough stuff ahead of us, my friend. So let's go ahead and also grab the hand set to the Normal Mode, and I am just going to play the same technique again, just so you get a feel for it, and you can decide if you like it or not.
Ctrl+Shift+N or Command+Shift+N on the Mac, that bring up the New Layer dialog box. Let's call this one, hand, since that's what it's going to be. We'll leave the Mode set to Normal, click OK, and then, I'll go back up to the Image menu, choose the Apply Image command, and we should see Fountain pen.jpg again, Blend mode, Normal, it should just give us the exact same settings we saw before, click OK in order to accept that new layer. So we've got one version of the layer set to the Normal Mode, another version of layer below set to the Multiply Mode, which is, of course, going to convey our shadow. Go ahead and turn hand back on, we are now ready to begin masking the hand, and that's something that we will do in the next exercise.
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