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Photoshop Masking and Compositing: Fundamentals is the introductory installment of Deke McClelland's four-part series on making photorealistic compositions in Photoshop. The course shows how to make selections, refine the selections with masks, and then combine them in new ways, using layer effects, blend modes, and other techniques to create a single seamless piece of artwork. Deke introduces the Channels panel and the alpha channel, the key to masking and transparency in Photoshop; reviews the selection tools, including the Color Range tool , Quick Mask mode, and the Refine Edge command; and shows how to blend masked images so they interact naturally.
In this exercise, we are going to take that more aggressive mask that we created in the previous exercise, and we will use it to introduce another copy of the model into the landscape background, and then we will refine the mask, so she looks very nearly at home. And I'm going to click on RGB here at the top of the Channels panel to revisit the color composite image. And then I will scroll down the list, and Control+click, or Command+click, on the thumbnail for that final overlay painting channel. And notice that there are two channels with the same name, so make sure you select the one at the absolute end of the list.
Then switch back to layers channel. You should see a lone base layer with no layer mask. Drop down to the Add Layer Mask icon, and go ahead and click on it to add a layer mask to that layer. Now right-click inside the Image window, and choose Duplicate Layer, and change the Document name to Multiplied model, which is that background image. And then I am going to name this new layer M2, for model 2, and click OK. Let's switch ahead to the composition in progress. Now obviously we have better details inside the face. This is what she looked like before we added that layer, when all we had was the woman multiplied into the background, and this is what we have now.
Also, by the way, I would like you to see the difference that the Multiply layer makes. This is what the composition would look like if we didn't have the M1 layer. I am going to go ahead and zoom in a little bit so you can see just how choppy and awful these details are, but by virtue of the fact I have got the M1 layer set to Multiply, we have much better transitions; a lot more hair detail as well. I urge you to keep your eye on the hair. The edges of the face, and the neck, and the shoulders are going to look just terrible. We will take care of those problems shortly.
Now, notice up here in the top left region of her head, we have got some pretty choppy details inside the hair. Let's smooth those over by clicking on the Layer Mask thumbnail for the M2 layer here inside the Layers panel, then go up to the Select menu, and chose Refine Mask once again, or press Control+Alt+R; Command+Option+R on the Mac. And I am going to take the Radius value from 0 pixels up to 10 pixels, and you can see that that makes a heck of a difference. It really smoothes out those transitions pretty nicely; they are not all the way. That's okay; we will make some manual modifications in a moment, but it's pretty darn good for an automated refinement.
All right, now go ahead and click OK. And by the way, I'm going to change the names of my layers just a little bit. This is going to be M2 R10. That will show me that I applied a Radius value of 10 to this layer mask, just so I remember. And this guy, I am going to change to M1 R40, because I applied a Radius value of 40 when refining that layer mask. Now what I want you to do is click on the M2 layer, and then Alt+click, or Option+click, on this layer mask thumbnail, so we can see the mask by itself, and I am going to zoom out just a little bit here.
And what we want to do is take care of these ratty edges up here in the upper right-hand corner. So switch to the Brush tool. I am going to right-click inside the Image window. I found that a Size value of 1300 pixels worked pretty nicely. I also went ahead and cranked up the Hardness to 100%. Notice that the mode is set to Normal, the Opacity is 100%; Flow is 100% as well. All right, now I am going to zoom out by pressing Control+0, Command+0 on the Mac, and let's reinstate some details while we are looking at the model.
So Alt+click, or Option+click, on the Layer Mask thumbnail once again, and I am going to click right about there. By the way, it's important that you are painting with white, so check that the foreground color is white there at the bottom of the toolbox. I am just going to click right about there, like so, and then I will click again right there, maybe a little more. And you might try clicking over here on the right-hand side of the models' face as well. Do not drag, because if you end up dragging even just a little bit too much, you are going to end up pretty well ruining the mask, like so.
So I will press Control+Z, Command+ Z on the Mac, to undo that change. Now I am going to zoom in, because I want you to see this other little detail here, and this is the kind of stuff that can end up driving you nuts when you are compositing your images. Notice that I have these kind of breaks in this one hair at a couple of different locations, and so what you can do is you can clone those breaks away. Making sure that the Layer Mask thumbnail is still selected, go ahead and switch, this time, to the Clone Stamp tool, which you can get by pressing the S key. And I am working with the very small cursor, as you can see. If I right-click, my Size value is 21 pixels; my Hardness is 0%. And I am going to Alt+click, or Option+click, in this little bit of hair between the two breaks, and that will go ahead and set the source for my clone.
Now I will click right about there on that break, like so, and that ends up healing the area pretty nicely, for me in any case. So this is what it look like before; Control +Z, or Command+Z on the Mac, and this is what it looks like after. So that gets rid of that break pretty nice. We have got some weird detail inside the hair, but that's bound to occur. When you zoom way in on a photograph, and you start evaluating the details on a molecular basis, even photographically realistic details may sometimes surprise you.
Now I'll go up the Options bar, and turn off the Aligned check box, and that way we are cloning from that same source point. Then I will move to this location right there, and click again. Notice we introduced a little bit of white around the edges. So in other words, that little bit of cloning went too far. So if you want to back off on any of your brushing modifications, then you go up to the Edit menu, and you choose, in this case, Fade Clone Stamp, or you can press Control+Shift+F, Command+Shift+F on the Mac, and I am just going to take the Opacity value down to 50%, and click OK. And that gives us this more organic transition right there, but I want to stress something.
If I press Control+0, or Command+0 on the Mac, to zoom all the way out, and then I press Control+Plus, or Command+Plus, to zoom in a click, taking in the image from afar, like so, we're just not seeing that problem right there. And a lot of your edge issues are going to disappear, especially when you go to print, so if you're printing on a high-resolution, a lot of the edges are going to resolve automatically. And then if you end up downsampling the image for the Web, those problems are going to resolve themselves as well.
It's just when you're printing at very, very large sizes that you really have to watch those edges, and make sure they look great, even when you're zoomed in at 100% and beyond. So the top of the head, and the hair; they all look great. It's when we start getting into the skin regions that things fall apart, especially over here on the left-hand side of the neck, and I'll show you how to solve those problems starting in the next exercise.
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