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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."
In this exercise we are going to further modify our image using an adjustment layer. You may recall in the previous exercise that we took an image from photographer Sharon Dominique, this image right here in fact, and we went ahead and added a pass of Gaussian Blur as a Smart Filter. Then we changed the Blend mode that's assigned to the Gaussian Blur Filter to overlay in order to get this heightened contrast skin smoothing effect, and then we relegated the effect to the lightest details inside of the image using a Luminance Mask that we grabbed from the red channel, from the image's own red channel.
Now in this exercise we need to take care of the negative repercussions of our modifications here. Notice her eyes, this is the original version of the eyes if I turn off Smart filters inside the Layers palette, and incidentally, if you are just joining me, I am working inside of an image called Luminance mask.psd, which is found inside the 12 Specialty folder. So check out her eyes, notice that her eyes have a fairly neutral color balance associated with them. They are little bit warm, but not nearly as warm as they become after we apply the Smart Filter. So they end up warming up considerably, and I don't want that. I want to bring back the neutral color that was originally associated with the eyes.
I could either dig into that Luminance Mask right there, which I can get to by Alt+Clicking or Option+Clicking on the Filter Mask icon here inside the Layers palette, and I could make the eyes black, and that would carve a hole into the Gaussian Blur effect, so that we are revealing the original eyes, so that's one way to go. The only problem is then we are harming that mask. At the end of the previous chapter I was telling you I hate to apply those kinds of destructive modifications to masks if I can avoid it. In this case I can't take advantage of a knockout layer the way I did back at the end of the last chapter, because you can't create knockout layers here inside of the Smart Filter's stack. So instead, I am going to apply an adjustment layer. So I am going to go ahead and Alt+Click or Option+Click on that layer mask icon again to return to the full color composite image, and then I am going to select one of these eyes using the Elliptical Marquee tool, wonderful tool inside Photoshop. So I am going to switch over from rectangular to elliptical marquee, and I am going to drag around the eye like so. I am using the Spacebar in order to get it in exactly the right position, so you can see I am selecting the left eye, her right of course. And I do want to be as accurate as I can, because she's got these big beautiful eyes here, so I want to treat them as gingerly as possible.
So I have selected the top edge of the eye. Now I am going to press the Shift and Alt keys or the Shift and Option keys on the Mac, and I am going to drag down like so in order to find an intersection of these two marquees. So I can basically describe a loss in shape around her eyes, like so. So I go ahead and keep the intersection of those two shapes. Once again, that's a Shift+Alt+Drag or Shift+Option+Drag on the Mac. And now that I have established a basic selection, I don't want to add the other eye at this point, because well I could add another shape by Shift+Dragging like so, how am I going to find the next intersection, if I do a Shift+Alt+ Drag at this point or Shift+Option+Drag, then I get rid of the other eye.
So we'll do one eye at a time, I'll go ahead and back-step a couple of steps here by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Z or Cmd+Option+ Z on the Mac a couple of times in a row. Now let's add our adjustment layer. I am going to press-and-hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and click- and-hold on this black-white icon and choose the Levels command. The reason I am pressing the Alt key or the Option key is, so I can name this layer as I create it. I'll just go ahead and call it eyes. I have now released the Alt or Option key incidentally. Now I'll click OK in order to create that new layer, and notice that even though the Smart Filter was active just a moment ago, the adjustment layer pops on top of the Image layer in front of the Smart Object layer.
Now adjustment layers, the great thing about them is they are equally applicable to layers and smart objects inside of Photoshop, so we can't heap an adjustment layer onto a filtered, a smart filtered smart object inside the program. So I am going to make some changes on a channel-by-channel basis here. I am going to go to the Red Channel and I do want to increase the brightness of the eyes in the Red Channel, just not too much. I am going to go ahead and take this White Point value there, and I am going to press Shift+Down Arrow to reduce it to 245? and you will see that the eyes get slightly more red, or at least this eye on the left-hand side will. The eye on the right-hand side is deselected, so it won't change.
Now I am going to press Ctrl+2 or Cmd+2 for the Green Channel and I am going to reduce that value. Notice it stays active, I am going to press Shift+Down Arrow three times in a row to reduce that value to 225, so then I am adding a lot of green to the eye, check it out here. And now we want to add some blue, I will press Ctrl+3 or Cmd+3 on the Mac, tab my -- oops! I was already at the value, I didn't need to tab anywhere. I'll Press Shift+Down Arrow four times in a row this time, in order to take that value down to 215, and you can see how much more luminous the eye is at this point.
I am feeling like pushing my luck a little bit, so I am going to press Ctrl+Tilde or Cmd+Tilde on the Mac to return to the RGB Composite image up here in the Channel option, and I am going to take the Gamma value up in notch. I went ahead and clicked inside that Gamma value and now I am pressing Shift+Up Arrow in order to raise the value to 1.1, and then starts lightning the pupil a little bit, so I'll click in the black point value and take it up to 10, by pressing Shift+Up Arrow as well. That looks pretty darn good to me, a nice bright eye going on, so click OK in order to accept that modification. Here's before without that layer, here's after with layer, and you can see that the eye doesn't brighten up. Now it has a little bit of a harsh edge associated with it, so let's go ahead and adjust the layer mask that's associated automatically with the layer, using the Brush tool. I am going to go ahead and grab the Brush tool here inside the toolbox and you want the mode to be set to Normal. You want to be working with a small brush, mine is about 30 pixels, very soft as well. Make sure that the foreground color is black as it is. Opacity and Flow should both be set to 100%, and now I am just going to click in this little fleshy part of the eye in order to paint it away. That's all I am going to do for now.
All right, let's move over to the other eye and let's select it using the Elliptical Marquee tool, and I want to avoid any possibility of auto-scrolling, so I am going to try to give myself room to work. There is the first of the three ellipses that I will use to describe this shape. The second is here, notice that her eyes sort of slants downward on this side, and I might want to go ahead and reduce the size of that ellipse a little bit so that we have less of a corner at the top of the eye. I do want to avoid any corner up there if I can. And then I'll go ahead and Shift+Alt+Drag or Shift+Option+Drag like this, in order to find the intersection of these two areas as well.
So these are all, I started off by dragging with the Ellipse tool and then I am Shift+Alt+Dragging or Shift+Option+ Dragging on the Mac for the other two ellipses. And I end up getting -- well, let's bring it down just a little bit here. Even though that cuts into her eyelids slightly, about here is where I wanted I think. Now I'll go ahead and release, if I ever decide I want to release there. That's what I want, all right, good. That's the final eye shape at least where the selection outlines are concerned. The layer mask for the adjustment layer is active, my background color is white, so I'll just press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac in order to fill that selected area with white, and you can see as a result that we brightened the eye. This is before, and this is after. So we now have a brighter, cooler eye as well.
Now I am going to get the Brush tool, and this time I want to paint down into the eye, so I want to add to the affected area. I am going to press the X key to make my foreground color white, and then I am just going to paint right there in order to paint some eye in, going into that fleshy zone down there. So I just clicked right there, by the way, because I keep moving my brush around, just want you to know. All right, so those are the modified eyes, let's go ahead and zoom in like that. Thanks to this adjustment layer right there. We probably want to make a few slight further adjustments here, and we are going to make those adjustments in the next exercise.
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