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In this exercise I'm going to show you the new and improved way to choke or spread a layer mask inside of Photoshop CS4. When I say new and improved, I mean really neither actually. It's not new because you used to be able to do this inside of Photoshop CS3. It's just that nobody knew you could do it because of the strange way that Photoshop presented this function. It's much more obvious here inside Photoshop CS4. And it is improved to the extent that we get better feedback but sometimes you get better results out of Gaussian Blur and Levels. So you never know. It's worth knowing about all of these techniques as I was saying before.
All right so we want basically reinstate the bad edges associated with our hadrosaur here and you can either do that by going up to the History palette and backing up a few steps to the step right before Gaussian Blur. So just click on that state there here inside the History palette and you will reestablish the bad edges, or you could go up to the File menu and choose the Revert command. That will work for you as well. All right anyway, we got the bad edges. Let's go ahead and zoom in on them so that we can keep track of just how bad they are. Now what I want you to do is make sure the layer mask is active. It's not for me so I need to click on it before I go messing up my image and the Mask palette will tell you, actually who's selected and who's not selected, because if you click on the image to make it active, then the Mask palette goes, hey no mask selected buddy. Then at that point you can either come down here and click on it in order to select it or you can click on this little icon and that'll switch you over to the layer mask as well.
All right so we have this Mask Edge function. Now what's amazing about this, by the way, if you click on it, it brings up this command called Refine Mask right there. We'll cancel out. This function used to be available to us. We would go actually up to the Select menu and choose the Refine Edge command and that would allow you to modify the contents of layer mask. It's just because it was here under the Select menu and it was called Refine Edge, we all naturally thought it only affected selection outlines but we now learned it affected layer mask as well. So either way it's fine.
You can choose this command and press this keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt+R, Command+Option+R on a Mac or you can just click on the Mask Edge button. These are the default settings right here, which are no good for our purposes. The first thing that's bad for our purposes is we're seeing the dinosaur against a white background. That's not helpful at all. Now we could see the dinosaur against a black background. Great! Now we see that the edges are a mess. However, wouldn't that be nice just to see the dinosaur against its new background instead of all this other stuff? We care about how the dinosaur looks against the otherworldly earth against earth background. So I want you to click on this first icon right there, this first mobius tube, and that will show you dinosaur against strange background but it also show you the Marquee.
So then press Ctrl+H or Command+H on the Mac and we're going to hide the ends and you will see exactly what you want to see. Now we've discussed these options in the past. We've got Radius, which allows you to blur into luminance levels inside of the image. We've got Feather, which is just a straight edge blur. We've got Smooth which is going to smooth out the jagged transitions. We've got Contrast, which is going to increase the contrast of the edges so that they're sharper. And then we have Contract/Expand, which allow us to either choke, in the case of contract, or spread, in the case of expand, our edges.
So what do we want? In the case of this dinosaur, let's crank down smooth. We don't need more smoothing because we're already getting some degree of smoothing out of the Radius and Feather functions. Then I'm going to change the Contract/Expand value all the way down to -100 so that we can see those edges contract all the way in. Beautiful thing. Looks totally awesome. We're getting rid of those edges. We are creating holes inside of the dinosaur in a few places but we'll address those in just a moment. But this is great. We're going to leave Radius set to 1, but now we can play with the Feather value in order to determine how much we really need to move the edges inward.
So I'm going to reduce this Feather value by pressing the down arrow key so I'm reducing it in 0.1 pixel increments. I'm going to take it down until I start to see edges pop up around the right side of the dinosaur because this is where the worst of the edge is or the worst of the color fringing. Even instead of 0.1, we don't have bad edges but we do have some edge details popping up. So I'll just go ahead and increase that value to let's say 0.4 pixels and we get this result here. Go ahead and click OK in order to apply that modification.
This is before my friends. Ah! How awful is that? Let's go ahead and zoom in. This is before, Ctrl+Z or Command+Z for after. Looks so much better, but we do have some holes popping up. So what I recommend to do is Alt-click or Option-click on the layer mask thumbnail so that we can see the layer mask by itself and let's go ahead and get rid of those bad things right there just using the Rectangular Marquee tool. I'm going to select this region and then Shift+Drag around here and Shift+Drag around here as well, and then press Alt+ Backspace or Option+Delete to fill that area with white because white is the foreground color. Nice! And you could paint around some of these other areas. So press Ctrl+D, Command+D on a Mac, get your Brush tool for what you paint here, make your brush much smaller if you're going to paint around these edges.
But I'm not sure that these are showing up that well. We can see them here, when we're seeing the mask by itself. But I think -- Oops! I definitely don't want to paint in there like that. I need to be careful if I'm going to do it. But I don't really think that these are showing up quite that much inside of the actual masked layer. Then what I recommend you do -- let's just make sure we get rid of the most obvious holes. That's the stuff I'm most worried about, like this right there and paint over these regions right here, these weird little holes is what I'm worried about, because these are single pixel problems that grew up and turned into blobs.
Alt-click or Option-click on the mask thumbnail in order to view the image again. Let's see what happens if we paint in there. Nope. That was a good edge. It was fine the way it was. Look at that. There is something going on right there. Press the X key to make black the foreground color and then paint, and oh hey that's not something that's binded by the dinosaur. That's a star. That's actually in the background. So that's okay. Where else do we have problems? Let's go ahead and zoom out here a little bit and see, Ooh! There is one. There's a good needy problem. Notice that highlight has disappeared on that bone right there on that vertebrae. So I'll press the X key in order to make the foreground color white and then I'll go ahead and paint that spine back into place and I've got another one right there that I'll paint in. So that's nice. You can see it happened right there on the fly. This is no mystery. It's the way there is with the Quick Mask mode. You can actually see how the foreground image and the background relate to each other, right there on the fly when you're working in the layer mask.
Anyway keep painting until you feel like you've done what you need to do. Now let's go ahead and zoom out. So I'm going to go ahead and grab my Rectangular Marquee tool. I'm going to drag around this garbage like so. Let's scoot it away from the beak of the mighty duckbill by Spacebar dragging a little bit. Let's go ahead and Shift+Drag around this area just to make sure that we don't have any problems there. We do have some problems along the bottom here, so Shift+Drag there. Go ahead and zoom out and then we need to fill that with black. Black is our foreground color. So all I have to do now is just press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac. And the deed is done.
We now have an expertly masked hadrosaur against this wild other worldly background but here's the deal folks. Even when you've done a splendid job of masking, you don't necessarily get credible results. For example, even though it's sort of a comic composition, we need it to be credible. So you sometimes have to apply a few compositional tricks in order to make the foreground and background match each other. The compositional tricks are coming in the very next exercise.
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