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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 Smart object.psd file that's available inside of the 10_Advanced blend folder and the only change I have made to the file is to select the tiles layer, change its blend mode to Hard Mix, and change the Fill value right here, the Fill opacity value to 60%. Now some of you may be wondering, specially if you were with me in the previous exercise, you may be wondering why I keep calling this the Fill opacity value when it's most obviously just the Fill value. What in the word gives? Well, we have to look at the Blending Options panel of the Layer Style dialog box in order to answer that question.
I can't get to it just by Double Clicking on the thumbnail here because that will enter the Smart Object, since we are working with the Smart Object. So instead, I will go down to this fx icon at the bottom of the Layers palette and I will choose Blending Options. Here is the reason right there; it really is called the Fill Opacity value. The standard Opacity is right there. Notice that these options are the exact same options that are at work at the top of the Layers palette. So there is blend mode set to Hard Mix, there is Opacity, it's set to 100%, and there is Fill Opacity set to 60%. Thing is, the words Fill Opacity don't always fit here inside of the Layers palette when the Layers palette is as thin as it gets, for example. So it's been truncated to just the word Fill but it really is Fill Opacity. All right, anyway, I am going to Cancel out of there.
Our next step is to apply a couple of smart filters to this smart object and then change their blend settings because we need to get this swirling background effect. We are going to get that swirling background effect using the Radial Blur Filter. So first step, click on the smart object thumbnail, the thumbnail that has the tiles right there, in order to make sure that we are applying the filter to the smart object and not accidentally to its layer mask, for example. Then I want you to go up to the Filter menu, and I want you to choose Blur, then choose this guy right there; Radial Blur.
Now this is a really great filter in my opinion. I like it a lot but it's a real old style filter as well, meaning that it has no preview, whatsoever. There was a dark day of Photoshop when previews were not available to us; back before Photoshop3; everybody thinks of Photoshop3 being the version of the program that introduced layers and it was that version, of course, but it was also the version of the program that introduced filter previews. Back in the days before Photoshop3, not CS3 but Photoshop3, we didn't had previews for filters; we were just shooting in the dark. Nowadays, we do have previews associated with most filters but not with Radial Blur, we are still shooting in the dark but here is the settings I want you to apply. Go ahead and raise the Amount value to 20, leave the Blur Method set to Spin, a Quality setting of Good is just fine. Then I want you to drag the center of the affect over to the right, just a little bit, like so; just about to this point here so that the center of the affect is under the C for Cancel.
Otherwise, though up and down, it's just centered inside of the box. Here I will go ahead and move it down a little bit so that it is truly centered. The reason is we are trying to move the center to about here inside of our face but we don't know where the heck that is, we are just guessing here inside of this Blur Center option. All right, but that's good. Go ahead and click OK in order to accept that filter and apply it to the image. There it goes, it went ahead and spun the tiles around that center point and you can see that the center point is located at a pretty good position, at least you can see that inside of this thumbnail right there, but we are not really seeing the effect very well out here inside of the image window. So why don't we go ahead and change the blend mode.
Now the dandy thing about having waited, until after we established the smart object to assign the blend mode, is that we can still assign the blend mode. That's another problem that you can have with smart objects, you could, before establishing smart object, you could give it a blend mode, and a fill setting, or an opacity setting. Then you convert the layer to a smart object. If you were to do that, which is a very bad thing to do; if you were to work that way, then you have to Double Click on the thumbnail for the smart object to change the blend settings, which is a big pain in the neck. It's not like it's destructive or anything, it's just widely inconvenient. So anyway, things are very convenient for us because we worked in the right order.
So let's go ahead and press Shift+ Minus a few times to backup to the Vivid Light mode, like so. So we have got Vivid Light now assigned to this top layer here, to the tiles layer, and I am going to reinstate a Fill value of 100% by pressing Shift+0. We now have a 100% Fill and Vivid Light going on in our swirling background image right here, which is in the foreground but, of course, it's in the background because of the layer mask. Now at this point, I am thinking, I would like to see a little more, just a tiny bit more, of the original tiles. So I want to go ahead and blend the Radial Blur Filter with the original version of the image here by adjusting the blend settings. These blend settings are right there. Notice this little icon to the right of the words, Radial Blur, here inside the Layers palette. If you Double Click on those little sliders, that's what that they are, they are supposed to be a little slider triangles.
If you Double Click on it, then you will bring up the Blend Options dialog box right here. I am going to now change the Opacity to 90%, so we are changing the opacity of the smart filter itself, of the filtered effect and blending it with the original unfiltered version of the image. You can now see that we are seeing the tiles ever so slightly, the little tile definitions in the background. I don't want you change the mode, leave that set to Normal, Opacity 90%, that's it, click OK. Now I want to apply yet another heaping helping of the Radial Blur Filter, this time set to a Lighten mode. We are going to do that by choosing the filter again; just go up to the Filter menu, make sure that the top layer is selected; so the smart object should still be selected. Go up to the Filter menu and choose that very first command because Radial Blur was the last filter we chose, it is now at the top of the menu, just go ahead and choose it.
Now normally, if we were working with the static layer or a regular pixel layer, then Photoshop would go ahead and reapply our last settings but because we are working with the smart object, Photoshop says, "Hey! You want to make some changes? You can, if you want to." I am not going to, I am just going to say, okay, exact same settings as we applied before. Another round of blurring here, of radial blurring. Now the new Radial Blur is on top and the old Radial Blur is on the bottom. I want to adjust the new Radial Blur, although I could still adjust the old Radial Blur, if I wanted to; I want to adjust the new one, I am going to double click on this icon to bring up the Blending Options dialog box, once again.
This time, once it comes up on screen, I am going to change the mode from Normal to Screen in order to screen that effect, like so. So that we can really see those highlights inside of the Radial Blur affect there and I am going to reduce the Opacity value to 65%, and then I am going to click OK. So we have two passes of the Radial Blur filter applied to a smart object, so they are smart filters and each one of the smart objects has different blend settings associated with it. So I am going to ahead and Shift+Tab away my Layers palette and there is the final version of that swirling background effect. Thanks to a combination of the smart object, a layer mask, a blend mode that's applied to that smart object, two smart filters, and different blend modes assigned to each one of the smart filters. Welcome to an amazing versatile world of advanced blending inside Photoshop CS3.
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