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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're going to add a Drop Shadow, we'll paint in a couple of other effects, and then we'll blend the nameplate with its photographic background. I've saved my progress as Gradient nameplate.psd and let's start things off by adding that Drop Shadow. With the nameplate layer selected, drop down to the fx icon at the bottom of the panel and choose Drop Shadow. Now by default, the color the Drop Shadow is black, which is really what you're looking for especially if you're trying to blend an image with an existing background. Your better approach is to go ahead and click on that Color Swatch to bring up the Color Picker dialog box and then lift a color from the background by clicking with the Eyedropper tool inside the image window.
In my case, I ended up coming up with a Hue value of about 30 degrees, a Saturation of about 65%, and a Brightness of 15%. Another school of thought has it that your better option is to apply a complementary color is the Drop Shadow in which case you would add 180 degrees and come up with 210 degrees instead. Now you can go either way depending on your taste. But I'm going to stick with the color of the current scene by setting the Hue to 30 degrees. Then click OK. Next, I'll take the Opacity value up to 100%.
I'm going to leave the Angle set to 40 degrees which is the Global Light setting inherent in this document. And then I'll tab my way to the Distance value, leave it set to 5 pixels, Spread should be 0%, and I'll increase the Size value to 8 pixels, like so. Then click OK. So we just have a slight bit of a Drop Shadow. Now I want to mimic that shadow behind the boot. And I'm going to do so by painting in a shadow by hand. So I'll switch to the Brush tool, and then I'll right-click inside the image window, Size value of 50 pixels works fine, but I want to drop the Hardness value down to 0%.
And then I'm going to press the D key to reinstate the default colors and I'm going to dial-in that same color that we used for the Drop Shadow, which is a Hue of 30 degrees, a Saturation of 65%, and a Brightness of 15%. And now I'll go ahead and change the mode setting up here in the options bar from Normal to Multiply. Now I want you to note something about blend modes when applied as brushes, they only affect the existing pixels inside the layer. So I'm going to turn off that Lock option here in the Layers panel for just a moment and I'm also going to press the X key to switch my foreground color to white.
Now as you may know, we'll be discussing blend modes in way more detail in the future course, but you may know that the Multiply mode always results in shadows. So it drops out white and it burns in the darker colors. So as a result, if I were to paint inside the nameplate, I wouldn't paint anything because I'm trying to combine white with the Multiply mode which results in invisibility. However, if I paint outside of the nameplate, then I end up painting in a white brushstroke. It's like I have the mode option set to Behind or something like that.
And that's because blend modes, when assigned to brushes, only affect the opaque pixels inside that specific layer. You're not going to have the blend mode interact with other layers inside of your composition unless you change the mode inside the Layers panel. All right! Having said that, I'm going to press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac in order to undo that brushstroke. And now I'll press the X key to restore that dark brown as my foreground color and I'm also going to take a moment to do this, I'm also going to lock down those transparent pixels once again so that I don't mess up my nameplate.
And I'll go ahead and click right about there in back of the boot and I'll Shift+Click on the ankle, and then I'll Shift+Click right about there on the side of the boot, Shift+ Click down below as well. Let's go ahead and click down here, Shift+Click and Shift+Click my way up. Notice this time I'm sticking a little tighter to the right side of the boot than I was on the left side. But that ends up creating a pretty attractive shadow. All right! Now let's add a big brushstroke, a big highlight right through the center of the nameplate. And I'll do that by zooming out a click, I'm going to right-click inside my image window, and take the size value up to 300 pixels and then press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac in order to hide that panel.
And now I'm going to dial-in a color that I ultimately found inside the image. This is one of the colors in the model's dress, and that's a Hue value of 25 degrees, so a slightly red orange. I'll take the Saturation value up to 100% and the Brightness value up to 100% as well. And then I'm going to change the Blend mode to the lightest of the brightening blend modes which is Linear Dodge and I'm going to click right about there outside the image as you see, and then I'm going to Shift+Click beyond the lower left corner of the nameplate in order to create this interaction of golds along with the original gradient. All right! Finally, what we need to do is change the Blend mode that's assigned to the layer because the only way to create interaction between one layer and the layers below it is to adjust the Opacity and Blend modes here inside of the Layers panel.
So I'm going to go ahead and change the Blend mode in this case from Normal to one of the ultimate contrast modes inside of Photoshop, which is Hard Light. And that goes ahead and burns in those shadows, lightens up those highlights, and gives me the effect you see on screen. All right! Now notice here on the PC, the Blend mode gets stuck and so I can't use my keyboard shortcuts anymore. And the solution is to press the Escape key and then that Blend mode option is no longer active and I can press the M key in order to switch back to the Rectangular Marquee tool, for example,. Now that trick works very often.
If you find that Photoshop is unresponsive to keyboard shortcuts, the two things I do, because it happens on both the PC and the Mac, the two things I do are click inside Photoshop to make sure it's the active application and then press the Escape key. So try those two tricks in a row, then press the keyboard shortcut that you're hoping would work and it should work after that. All right! Now I'm going to zoom in just so that we can get a sense of what our nameplate looks like so far. Now between you and me, I think it looks great. However, let's say I have a client and they want to make a small modification and that modification ends up breaking everything. What do you do? I will show you in the next exercise.
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