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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."
I am still working inside the image called Average hue.tif, that I opened in the previous exercise. You may recall in that previous exercise, we went ahead and created a corrective mask and I have gone ahead and called my newest mask, new mask. That won't be included inside of your document, if you are just opening this image, but you will find one called Max mask. A fourth alpha channel there available to you. So you can use either one, you can either use the one that I am giving you, Max mask, or you can use the one that you are giving yourself, that you made in the previous exercise. Either way, here is what I want you to do. I want you to switch back to the RGB image and go ahead and load up the mask of your choice by Ctrl+Clicking on it or Command+Click on it on the Mac. I went ahead and loaded my new mask, just for the sake of variety here.
Now I am going to switch back to the Layers palette and we are going to be adding a filter to this image. So because we are working inside of Photoshop CS3 and we want to maximize the flexibility of this image, let's go ahead and convert the image to a smart object. I will do that by going to Layers palette menu and choosing Convert to Smart Object or pressing Ctrl+Comma or Command+Comma on the Mac, if you have that keyboard shortcut available to you. I will rename this new smart object, max, because it is my son, Max, afterall.
Now with the selection outline still intact, notice the selection outline just sitting there, waiting for me. I am going to go up to the Filter menu, and I am going to choose Blur, and I am going to choose this guy right here, Average, which will average all of the colors inside of the selected region of the image, like so. So we get a heavily average version of Max's skin right here. It's not only taking into account the skin tones, the areas inside of his flesh, but it's also taking into account all the other colors inside of the image. So it's averaging the coat, the green of the coat, and the blue of the hat, and the blue of the blanket in the background, and so on.
Now that works out okay in our case because there is so many flesh tones that it ends up evening things out a little bit. But now that we have the average, this is a pretty muddy look that we have created for Max's face. So we need to blend these average colors somehow. What I am going to have you do is double-click on that little slider icon there, to the right of the word Average, here in the Layers palette, and I am going to switch the blend mode, for starters, from Normal to Color. See what it looks like, if we go ahead and colorize his flesh using these muddied average hue. And because it's such a low saturation color, it's rubbing his face of saturation as well. So it looks pretty darn bad.
Now what I would rather do is separate color into its components. So I would like to keep not only Luminosity values which we are keeping right now, but I would like to keep the Saturation values from his original skin tones as well and just blend in the new Hues. So I am going to switch Mode from Color to Hue, like so. That ends up delivering this wonderful mix of colors right here. Can you believe it? It looks so great. Now I am going to go ahead and reduce the Opacity value to 70%. So even though, it's a really rotten image, I have to admit; that's just a snapshot, I was just shooting through the window here, and Max is making a goofy face, and I am using a cheap camera. It still ends up coming out really nicely, thanks to this fairly simple modification. So Hue, Opacity 70%, I will click OK.
So I am going to go ahead and zoom in on Max so that we can check him out in more detail here. I will go ahead and make my Layers palette a little narrower, so we have a little more room to work. Here is the original version of the photograph without the average filter and here it is, with the average filter, an incredible correction very simply pulled off as well. Thanks to the care that we into our corrective mask.
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