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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."
Now that we have matched the colors inside the girl to her new background, we need to work on these edges here and we're going to address these edges using a series of transitional layers that are basically transitioning from the background to the foreground in stepped phases essentially. So we'll create three different versions of this layer each set to different blend modes. Also, with slightly different layer mask configurations as well and the result will be an incredibly smooth, naturalistic blend.
In this exercise, we are going to establish the two transitional layers and then in the next exercise, we'll establish the top normal blend mode layer. So I am working inside of the most recent version of this composition which I have called Matched colors.psd found inside the 10 Advanced Blend folder. You can open that up if you are just joining me. Make sure that the Young Lady layer is selected and we're going to start things up because she has dark hair. You may recall a couple of chapters ago when we had that woman with dark hair all over the place. She was a lot easier to match as it turned out, but we're going to start things up in the same way by applying the Multiple mode. So go ahead and select this layer and then press Shift+Alt+M or Shift+Option+M on the Mac assuming that you have one of the selection tools active in order to apply the Multiply mode to this Young Lady layer.
I am going to go ahead and rename this layer, Multiply because it is set to the Multiply Blend mode. All right, now if you zoom in on this image, you will see that the hair details look just utterly and completely fantastic. These edges look like they absolutely 100% belong inside of this new background. If anything, the merge is a little bit too complete because she has become this chameleon creature that is taken on all the colors of the environment around her and that's just too much. So we're now going to establish a layer in between. So basically that the top layer is going to end up being a normal blend mode treatment, the bottom layer obviously is this multiply treatment. In between, we need another blend mode in order to establish a stepped transition and that's going to be another version of this layer set to the Luminosity mode.
So I want you to make sure the Multiply layer is selected, go ahead and press Ctrl+Alt+J or Command+Option+J in order to bring up the New Layer dialog box and jump this layer to a new layer. We'll call it Luminosity. Well, you know better yet, let's just call it Lum, then we don't have to spell that whole thing out and then I will change the mode from Multiply to down here Luminosity, and that's it. That's all we need to do inside this dialog box, now click OK and you will see the luminosity version of the layer. Now we're mixing the luminance levels from this layer with the colors that is the Hue and Saturation values from the composite of the Multiply and Background layers below. So she is still very much matching her background color-wise but she now has these restored edges essentially. Well, we need to choke away those edges, so we can reveal the multiplied good edges below. We're going to do that by choking this layer mask so we're going to expand the size of the black region of the layer mask and we do that using that filter that expands the minimum brightness value which goes by the name of course of Minimum.
So go ahead and turn the layer back on if you've turned it off like I did. Then, click in its layer mask. So click on the layer mask for the Lum layer in order to make it active because we're going to be working on this layer mask now. Go up to the Filter menu, choose Other and choose Minimum, and I want you to enter a radius value of 10 pixels just as I have here, and you can see those edges shifting inward and if we were to click right there to establish a good area to preview inside of the Minimum dialog box, you would see how those edges are moving inward. We have a lot of rough square transitions going on.
That's okay, we'll address those in just a moment but you can see we are moving, we are indeed moving the edges of this layer in 10 pixels, very obvious around the shoulder region for example. Go ahead and click OK to accept that change. Now, it's too much of a stepped transition there. So we have a very crisp transition between the dark edges and light interiors. We need to soften that transition, blur it away and we're going to do that using the Gaussian Blur filter. So go up to the Filter menu once again, choose Blur and choose Gaussian Blur or you can take advantage of that keyboard shortcut right there if you've loaded my deekies way back in the Preference. And I want you to set the radius value to twice what we set the minimum radius value to. So that would be a radius of 20 pixels and then go ahead and click OK, and you can see what a big difference that makes.
There is one problem however, even though the shoulder is now smoother, more contoured, more volumetric, more naturalistic, all those words I like to say over and over again throughout the series. We also have a halo. So if you zoom in a little bit there, I will press Ctrl+Z to undo. Notice that we have some darkish green colors going on right there over the cast of the shoulder and then if I redo the blur, you can see that I am now creating a bit of a bounce, a bit of a lightness bounce that's creating a halo around her shoulder.
We need to get rid of that and we're going to get rid of it like so, by reloading the original layer mask here, the original multiply layer mask and using it to sculpt away this edge. So here is what you do. Press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac and click on the layer mask associated with the Multiply layer. So once again, Ctrl+ Click or Command+Click on that layer mask for multiply. Then, I want you to reverse the selection by going up to the Select menu and choosing the Inverse command or pressing Ctrl+Shift+I, Command+Shift+I on the Mac, that selects the area outside of the young woman here.
Then, make sure that you have the layer mask for the Lum layer selected as we do here and I want you to assuming that the foreground color is set to black as it is for me, I want you to press Alt+ Backspace or Option+Delete in order to fill that selected area with black and you can see this was before with the halo, this is after without the halo. So we just cut the halo off, we've just shaved it away. All right, now you can press Ctrl+D or Command+D on a Mac to deselect the image. This is the version of the image we have so far. Bear in mind, these are the transitional layers. We are not done. We are going to re-establish the natural organic colors of this image in the next and last exercise of this chapter.
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