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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."
Okay gang I have got a couple of images open on screen right now. One is called Background & Text.psd and the background image that we are seeing right now, it originated as an Illustrator file actually created by a guy who goes by the handle AndyDesigns at istockphoto.com. Now I have modified the art work significantly and I rasterized it and bought in to Photoshop but this swirling artwork here is all a function of the original artist as I say "And He Designs".
And you can see that I have got the background artwork and then a couple of rasterized text layers that are turned off currently. The Background layer should be active inside the Layers palette. Then I want you to open this image called "water in glass.jpg" and incidentally both of these images are found inside the 11_Layer_Masks folder. This image comes to us also from an ice. photo.com artist, photographer Isabella Haber. And what we are going to do is we are going to move the Glass layer from this image into the other composition and the easiest way to do that is to select the Background layer here, go to Layers palette menu, choose Duplicate Layer.
Let's go ahead and call it glass, what the heck, actually we are going to call it "glass shadows" and I am going to choose from the Document menu, I am going to choose Background & Text in order to move it into that Background & Text image and then I am going to click OK. Now let's Ctrl+Tab over to the Background & Text image, right here and you can see that we now have a new layer in front of the Background layer that's called "glass shadows" and the reason I am calling it glass shadows is because I want to retain the highlights and shadows in this glass layer but I am not really going to be able to get away with applying a Contrast Blend mode. We can try that actually just to get a sense of what it will do. So with the glass shadows layer active and one of the selection tools active as well, we can press Shift+Alt+O or Shift+Option+O on the Mac to switch to the Overlay mode.
And that looks just terrible. It's way too tepid. So we are keeping the highlights and shadows, we are dropping out the mid-tones which is a good thing, that's what we want to do with glass but the result is just way too light. So let's try out something else. If I press Shift+Plus we will go to Soft light, that's not going to be any good. Shift+Plus again gets us Hard light, and that's probably the best of the contrast modes where this glass is concerned. The problem is we have way too many highlights inside of this glass layer. This entire upper region is just filled with Highlights because that's where the light source is and it's absolutely ruining the effect.
So we don't stand a prayer with the blend mode, as basically when it comes down to, but just so you believe me, we might as well try the other ones. Here is Vivid light, terrible. Here is Linear light, not much better. Here is Pin Light - oh my goodness! Yuck! And then of course, Hard Mix; who expected that to work? Nobody. All right so let's approach the Shadows and Highlights independently. I am going to switch back to the number one Shadow mode, right. Which is Multiply. Shift+Alt+M or Shift+Option+M on the Mac. All right. You know its okay, it's again a little tepid, I would say, the shadows aren't surviving all that well and specially against this busy vivid background here. So we need something that is a little beefier.
So let's go ahead and press Shift+ Plus for Color Burn. Well that's got more contrast but it has also got crisper edges and I don't really like that. I want something smoother and higher contrast. And that's going to be Linear Burn. So I will go ahead press Shift+Plus to advance to Linear Burn or if you want to just cut to the chase you can choose a Linear Burn Blend mode from the blend mode pop up menu here. So much for the shadows, they are turning out pretty darn good actually. Let's now attempt to preserve the highlights in some way shape or form.
I am going to go ahead and press Ctrl+ Alt+J or Command+Option+J on the Mac in order to jump this layer and let's call it highlights and I am going to change the Mode from Linear Burn to let's try Screen, right see how that looks and I will click OK in order to accept that new layer. And this is the screen version of the glass. Oh my goodness! How over the top is that? I mean, we are just blasting this composition with the lightness from this layer and we could back it off by trying something like the Lighten mode. If I press Shift+Minus but that's not looking any better to me and none of the other highlight modes are going to look better. Because they are more than screen, right. If we switch over here to Color Dodge. Oh my goodness! And Linear Dodge, that would just look wretched.
So let's go back to Screen, may be we can take advantage of Luminance Blending if we are lucky. Let's go ahead and double-click on the highlights layer thumbnail right here inside the Layers palette to bring up the Blending Options panel with the Layer Style dialog box and we could try forcing through the Underlying Layer like so but that's not really going to work for us. The slider bar that's more likely to work is this layer and I could go ahead an try to remove some of the highlights like so maybe down to here and then Alt+Drag in order to create a transition between the two points. But then we end up losing the good highlights down here inside the glass and then we could get rid of the shadows, of course, as well and Alt+Drag or Option+Drag that triangle apart.
Actually this is just looking like a big mess. This isn't working out for us at all and that's basically the way it is. These Luminance Blending functions, albeit extraordinary powerful, are not going to work for this specific image. We are going to have the resort to a layer mask instead. So go ahead and press the Escape key in order to abandon all the hope where the Blending Options are concerned and we will begin to create our layer mask starting in the next exercise.
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