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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 test out our Blue Screen mask by using it to select this woman and place her into a different background. If you are just joining me, you can open this image right here. It's called My name is Rosalie.tif, because according to the metadata, her name is Rosalie.tif and it's found inside the 14_Calculations folder. And there is also this other image I want you to open. It's this guy, Rays of light.jpg. It comes to us from Pphotographer Tammy Peluso, and the full image at the iStockphoto.com image library.
also features the Scuba diver and some other extraneous stuff. I just wanted those rays of light going into the sea, nothing else. So I cropped this image and I modified it a little better. I removed some noise and stuff. Anyway, let's go back to her. We are going to take her and we are going to place her into the other image as follows. Here is what I want you to do. First, let's go ahead and load our mask as the selection outline by Ctrl+Clicking on it here on the PC, or Command+Clicking on it on the Mac. You could also press Ctrl+Alt+4 or Command+Option+4, in order to load that selection outline if you like.
Now let's go to the Layers palette and I want you to double-click on the background in order to convert it to an independent layer and we will call it Model because she is, of course, a model citizen, go ahead and click OK, of the Netherlands, I assume. And we now have a floating layer of this woman, of Rosalie. Now let's go ahead and convert the selection outline to a layer mask by clicking on the layer mask icon down here at the bottom of the Layers palette. Now notice that my checkerboard pattern is blue. That's because I changed it a couple of chapters. Yours may be gray and white. It doesn't matter.
One checkerboard is as good as another. Now let's go ahead and move this layer along with its layer mask into the other image by going over to the Layers palette menu and choosing Duplicate layer and let's not call her model copy that's senseless. Let's move her though, into the image called Rays of light.jpg and that's all we need to do. Now click OK. Of course, nothing appears to have happened. That's because we are looking at the wrong image. So press Ctrl+Tab to move to the right image and there she is, against the rays of light. Now initially, it's going to look like this is the most golden mask you have ever created in your life, because it so very nicely matches the background.
We have kept the hair and the shoulders look great and this area underneath her arm looks great and so on and so on. But the reason everything is working to our advantage is because she was against the blue background before, and by the way this is a heck of a tip. This may sound obvious. But you are going to do yourself a huge favor if your new background matches your old background to a large extent. So in this case, this just happens to be the background I want. It just happens to match, color wise match the blues in the old background. That's a great thing. It works to my advantage.
I am going to have a lot less work. Now of course, you can always work that way but when you can, go for it. Anyway, this is a little bit misleading because she does have actually a lot of blue fringing going on inside of her hair. Let's go ahead and fix it, just for laughs here, just because we can. I am going to go ahead and bring back up my palettes and just so we can see how she doesn't really match any in all environments. Let's go ahead and click on the Background layer here and we are working inside the Rays of light.jpg file, and I am going to Alt or Option choose the Invert command from this Black/White menu.
Here is the Black/White icon at the bottom of the layers palette. And that brings up the New Layer dialog box. I am going to go ahead and call this layer, color invert and I am going to change the mode from Normal to Color. Now we will ensure that we are only inverting the colors inside of the layer below. Go ahead and click OK at this point and sure enough, you went ahead and inverted the colors, but you left the luminance levels alone. And now you can see, yes, she has got some blue stuff in her hair. That's for sure. Lots of different ways to correct, that we have seen several different ways now to correct for color fringing.
I am now going to show you kind of a brain dead technique. I actually, that's a brush technique. So it's extensively kind of the most manual technique of them all but it's also one of the easier ones to pull off frankly. It's the best technique for this particular image. I am going to go, grab the Brush tool from the tool box, of course and right now, it's set to the overlay mode because I was doing some overlay painting in an earlier exercise. But I am going to switch it to Color by pressing Shift+Alt+C or Shift+Option+C on the Mac. Then I am going to Option+Click in her hair to lift the color. When I have got the Option key down or after I am working on the PC, it's the Alt key here.
When I press the Alt or Option key, I get the Eyedropper when I am working with the Paint brush, of course. And I clicked to lift a Foreground color right there. Now, I have got a nice soft brush. Make sure, you do as well. So it should be as soft as it can be. And then just kind of paint on the outskirts of her head and you will see that you paint that blue away and you replace it with that orange color, that's slightly sort of aberrant color that you lifted from her hair. Now, it might not match every thread of hair. But it's going to look pretty darn good. Now, you are going to have to get it tighter down in this region here and if you Shift+Click on the mask, on this layer Mask icon here inside the Layers palette, you will see that you are replacing the blues inside of that background and everything is getting masked by the layer mask.
That's actually pretty cool that you can do that, I mean, I could go ahead and let's go ahead and increase the size of the cursor. I could go ahead and just replace the entire background with a different color if I want to so that she showing up against the brown background instead of a blue background, like so. Now the hair is the stuff that's the most obviously in need of recoloring around the edges. But the skin needs a little work as well. If you are going to do the skin which you might very well want to do, I would go ahead and Shift+Click on the Mask again to mask the image and that way you can see what the color fringing is.
And then I am going to Option or Alt+ Click inside of a Flush tone and there are different colors inside this Flush tone. So you have to be careful. There are basically some colors going along the top of her shoulder. But then I can work on the left side here very well. So you can have to lift the different color to go down to the left side, her right of course. I just love to tell you when it's the model's right instead of left. I don't know why I do that. And then lets lift some of color from her hair again and then we will lift some color from her shoulder. So the idea here is you will lift a lot of colors.
So when in doubt, keep lifting, keep grabbing new colors, and that will ensure that you get the most accurate match possible. And there it is. Now she matches this new sort of orangish background. The only thing is that I don't like the new orangish background. It was good for being able to tell where we had some bad edges. Oh! By the way, I have got some stuff going under her arm as well that I might want to correct. Very carefully, actually more carefully than that because that was terrible. Let's go and zoom in here, because I don't want to replace the colors in her dress.
So let's lift a color there by Alt+Clicking and then I will just paint down the arm like so. And if you feel like you paint too much at any given time, you can always use the History brush in order to restore the original colors inside of her arm and else where. All right. So that looks pretty good to me. And now, I would say, Gosh! I don't like that orange color in the background. I really want to restore the blues. The orange has done, it's piece. Let's go ahead and turn it off and now we have this final composition, which I think looks pretty awesome actually.
Let's go ahead and tab away the palettes and switch to the Full Screen mode. All right, so there we have it. Thanks largely to the Calculations command plus a little bit of levels, a little bit of Overlay painting, a little bit of Color painting here inside of this image. We have managed to establish a very credible and almost a down-right angelic composition.
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