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Photoshop Masking and Compositing: Fundamentals is the introductory installment of Deke McClelland's four-part series on making photorealistic compositions in Photoshop. The course shows how to make selections, refine the selections with masks, and then combine them in new ways, using layer effects, blend modes, and other techniques to create a single seamless piece of artwork. Deke introduces the Channels panel and the alpha channel, the key to masking and transparency in Photoshop; reviews the selection tools, including the Color Range tool , Quick Mask mode, and the Refine Edge command; and shows how to blend masked images so they interact naturally.
In this exercise, we're going to finish off the boot mask, and I'll also pass along this really great method for gauging the quality of your masks. I've saved my progress as The painted boot.psd. I have the boot channel selected; we're viewing the RGB image as well. I'm going to go ahead and scroll up to this ankle region of the boot, and you'll notice that the mask appears to be in fairly good shape actually by comparison of what we saw before. So the Magnetic Lasso tool does a better job of following these sort of wrinkly contours better than it did the smooth contours at the base of the foot.
However, everything is not quite in as good as shape as it looks. If you press the tilde key or click on that eyeball in front of RGB in order to turn the RGB image off, then you'll see that we do have a fair amount of weird jagged transitions. So let's smooth them out by drawing a rectangular marquee using the Rectangular Marquee tool around this ankle region and then go up to the Filter menu, choose Noise, and choose the Median command. I ultimately came up with a Radius value of about 2 pixels; you could take it higher I guess.
You could take it to 3 pixels if you like. In fact, I think I will, and then click OK in order to accept that modification, and now go ahead and deselect the image and turn the RGB image back on. Now, you'll note that I applied the Median Filter while we were viewing the mask by itself. There are times where it's easier to gauge what's going on when you're not seeing the image in the background, because seeing the image was preventing us from seeing those little jagged transitions, for example,. Al right! Now, let's go ahead and switch back to the Brush tool. Note that my foreground color is white and I'm going to go ahead and sort of just drag around this little wrinkle there in order to unmask it, and then I'll go ahead and click and drag around this region as well because we need to scoot the mask out just a little bit.
Finally, notice this area here. Doesn't look like it's really a part of the boot, and yet the mask hasn't been assigned to this area. If you want to check that out, just go ahead and turn off the mask for a moment, so you can see the RGB image. There is no shortcut for this, by the way,. If you want to turn the mask on or off, you have to do so by clicking on the eyeball, and then I'll turn the mask back on, and sure enough, this area is part of the background. So I'll go ahead and click and it turns out I am painting with a wrong color, that kind of stuff happens all the time. So I'll just press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on a Mac, press the X key in order to switch my foreground color back to black, and then I'll click and Shift+Click right about there and Shift+Click here as well.
That looks like I've got a little bit of a corner, so I'll press the X key in order to switch the foreground color to white and then click here and Shift+Click there in order to scalp just a tiny bit of that corner away. All right! This looks pretty darn good to me. Now, we still have that problem down here toward the bottom where I have this unpainted region, and it's very tempting to just press the X key in order to switch my foreground color back to black and just paint this area away. But, what happens if you miss just a tiny little sliver like that as you're painting? Well, that can end up creating some big problems down the line.
For example, we'll ultimately be assigning a drop-shadow and an inner glow to our nameplate, and if I have so much as a couple of pixels gone wrong, then the Inner Glow effect will glom onto those pixels, and create a huge big halo. We don't want to do that. So we want to make sure every single pixel from the background has been masked away, which means I'm going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo that brushstroke. And instead, we're going to take a more scientific approach believe it or not, go ahead and turn off the RGB image, and next, I want you to select the Magic Wand tool from the Quick Selection tool flyout menu.
Now, we'll be discussing exactly how this tool works in a future chapter, because even though a lot of people roundly denigrate the tool. It does have its uses, and this is one of them. So for now, without necessarily knowing how these controls work, I want you to set the Tolerance value to 0 and I want you to turn off the Anti-alias check box, and then click in an obviously black region of the mask in order to select all of the black pixels. Now, you'll see exactly where the transition between black and non-black is inside of this mask.
Now, I want you to switch to the Lasso tool which you can get by pressing the L key, press the Shift key, so that you add to the selection and go ahead and drag around this region that needs to be masked away. All right! After you release, you should see marching ants tracing around the perimeter of the image as well as around the outside of the boot, but you shouldn't see any marching ants anywhere else. Assuming that's the case, make sure your foreground color is black as it is for me and then press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete on the Mac in order to absolutely mask those pixels away. All right! Now, you can press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac in order to deselect the image.
All right! And now that I have a chance to see my mask by itself, I can see that I've got a little bit of a weird transition down here at the toe, and so I could go ahead and take care of that once again using the Brush tool, and I'm going to paint with black I think to slightly cut a little bit of the boot away. So I'll click right about there, and then I will Shift+Click at this location, and that ends up cleaning up those transitions. All right! That's it! We have now finished off the boot mask. In the next exercise, we're going to take both the nameplate and boot masks, and convert them to a single selection outline.
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