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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."
Once upon a time, there was like this entire branch of Photoshop activity devoted to a thing called channel operations or Chops. There were channel operation chat forms, people traded their favorite recipes, there was even a book that bore the famously repetitive title Channel Chops. The one thing that all channel operations had in common was that they relied on a command under the Image menu called Calculations. The Calculations command allowed you to merge channels using an opacity value, blend modes, and a few other settings. The advent of layers all but eliminated the need for channel operations. Techniques like Bevels, Glows, and Drop shadows, which previously entailed 20 step Chops, was streamlined by layer effects.
Chops still have their die-hard fans but if you ask me, they are just elaborate ways of creating effects that you can achieve more simply and with better results using layers. In other words, Chops are dead; but while Chops are dead and I mean stone cold dead, the Calculations command endures. Its unique ability to blend two channels to create a base alpha channel, makes it a fantastic tool for distilling masks; which is why we will be seeing a lot of it over the course of this chapter. So long live Calculations and the modern day masking operations or maskops, it affords. Maskops may not have the same ring as Chops but they are much more practical.
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