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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."
So here I've created a High Pass mask, at least I've created the beginning of a High Pass mask. I've gone ahead and duplicated the Green channel, applied High Pass, increased the Contrast, and used the Lasso tool along with the Invert command in order to make sure that the black edges are evenly distributed around the outside of the parrot and the white or light edges are on the inside of the parrot. And by parrot, I of course mean this animal is a macaw. I just like to call it a Parrot, because it's not a Canary. I just got that going for it.
We are now ready to paint the interior of this High Pass outline that we've created. If you want to catch up with me, I'm working inside of an image called High Pass mask.tif, found inside, of course, the 16 Tough stuff folder. I'm working on the sixth channel here, High Pass, which you can get to by pressing Ctrl+6 or Command+6, if you want to. Let's go ahead and just get rid of the stuff that's obviously on the inside of this animal, whatever its name is. So I'm going to switch to the Lasso tool and I'm going to Alt+Click around the interior. Notice that I'm staying way inside of the edges. I just want to get rid of the stuff that it's absolutely the most confusing and the most obvious stuff to get rid off and we'll go down here like so and I'll click my way over here.
Once I've selected that region, I'll press, in my case, white is the background color. So I'll press the Backspace key or the Delete key to fill that area with white. I could even go in tighter in certain areas and grab more information like so if I want to, just to get rid of more of this garbage here. So it will feel like I'm looking at some kind of medical X-ray or something. Then, I'm going to zoom back out. I'm going to Alt+Click around the outside of the animal, like so, and come in to these areas and then go back down.
Obviously, I'm doing a very rough job, I'm just trying to get the big work taking care of first and I'll press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete to fill that area with white. All right, now let's zoom in. Now, you're going to need help figuring out who is in and who is out, as you're working inside the mask. So this is why I suggest you do. First of all, go ahead and press the Tilde key in order to show the RBG image. At the same time you're looking at the High Pass mask. Now at this point you might say, well, gosh Deke, this really isn't helping me.
I could tell what was going on before, now it's a complete mess. I can't tell what's going on. That's because you're seeing the High Pass overlay as a rubylith, you don't want to see it that way. Here's what you want to see. You just want to see the black of the mask as black and the white as translucent. And here's how you do that. Double-click on the High Pass thumbnail right there inside the Channels palette. Click on the Color, make it black, click OK so that 0, 0, 0 for HSB. Click OK, then change the Opacity to 100%, click OK and why is it calling it black, we don't want it to be called black. It may rename the channel for us, let's see.
I'll go ahead and click OK and it thinks it's the Black channel now, no, no, no Photoshop, bad Photoshop; High Pass is still High Pass, thank you very much. But, see here's the great thing, that we can see our black outlines from the mask very clearly and we can see the animal at the same time in the background. So now we just press the Tilde key to send that area to white and press Tilde again to see the white area filled with macaw, so that we can decide what needs to painted white and what needs to be painted black. So now go ahead and grab your Paintbrush tool and you want to work with a pretty big, well, a semi-big brush, something like this 40 is probably good.
But you want it to be hard, so press Shift+Right Bracket four times in a row, at least, to make sure that you have the hardest brush possible. That way you're not introducing new edges, you want to subscribe to the edges that the High Pass filter has given you. Then I'm going to press the X key to make sure that my foreground color is white and I'm going to paint in like so to get rid of the garbage that's really part of the macaw that's on the inside of the macaw, like so. Actually, at this point, I would kind of drag like this in order to paint the area into the bird. Then I will press the Tilde key so that I'm seeing just the straight outline once again. When you press Tilde, when you turn the image on and off, you often time switch the foreground and background colors. I don't really like that behavior from Photoshop, but it sometimes does it for you.
So I'll go ahead and undo that modification there. I'll press the X key to switch back to white again. I'll paint like so in order to paint in so that the area inside of the beak is white, which of course is something that I want, fairly desirable, since that's inside of the bird. Now I'm going to go with a smaller brush. Click there in order to paint the tip of the beak and paint up like so in order to paint this area away as well. You can work through pretty quickly, although you are going to have to be careful; you do need to observe your outlines.
If you have the kind of teacher in grade school who got sort of grumpy with you, if you colored outside of the outlines, just when you be in the grade school, what it would be, it would be more like kindergarten or something like that. Then you're all set because you were trained to stay inside the lines. It's very possible, your teacher was prescient and she saw High Pass masking in the future, like she had talked to some kind of fortune teller who told her all about High Pass masking. And she was just trying to do you a favor, in which case she really did, because it is very important.
I don't think it's very important where coloring books are concerned, but where High Pass masking is concerned, you do want to stay inside of those lines as much as you can. Now sometimes, you're going to have to make decisions about which is outside and which is inside, as I say that's just something you're going to have to do. Now notice that I'm just painting with white and black, I could approach this, if I wanted to I could approach this with the Dodge and Burn tools, but our edges are pretty ratty and so dodging and burning is going to bring out noise that you may not want to bring out. So, when you get here to something like this, I recommend that you click and Shift+Click like so, in order to connect each one of your click points with a straight segment there. So it's analogous to Alt+Clicking or Option+Clicking with Lasso tool, but that's Shift+ Clicking once again with the Paintbrush.
Photoshop chooses to use a different shortcut analogy at that point. All right, let's go ahead and click and Shift+Click and Shift+Click around the horn here, around the cape of good hope, where the beak is concerned, I suppose. Then, I'll paint this away and so on and so on. Now you can tell that this is a tedious experience. I think this is becoming very evident to you. But it can also be Zen, right, turn on some music that you like, you can turn on the news, if you want to, whatever your favorite variety of news is or if you like some AM thing, then you can listen to that as well.
You can just sort of get into it, because really, you can just send your mind elsewhere, while you're working on this. This is brain dead stuff. I mean, you can just go into sort of Auto mode or you can just sit there and nash your teeth and hate every minute of it. I sometimes call this technique, padded cell masking, because by time you get down with it, you're going to be ready for a padded cell. But it is so accurate, that's just the thing. I mean, it really does do the work for you, really does show you where those edges are. Now, of course it's up to you to interpret those edges as I'm doing here fairly willy-nilly. But it does show them to you and it does make them obvious for you. You can see how quickly I can work through this.
Again, I would say masking this fellow here's about 20 minutes sort of technique, which would mean it takes me about half-an-hour to 45 minutes narrate for you, so I'm not going to do it. But I'm just going to show you, we've gotten this far, with me jabbering away, you can imagine that you can move through it. If you want to, you can get the whole darn thing done. I definitely encourage you to do so, if this is a kind of technique that you think are going to have to take advantage of if you get some really nasty images that you're asked to mask. This guy is your ticket; High Pass is your ticket baby! And especially if you've got the time to do, if you're being paid hourly, it's a great tool; it's the tool of choice.
So anyway, go ahead and give the macaw a try, call it a parrot if you want to, I don't care. In the next exercise, we're going to see something that mentally is much more challenging, but it's also much more automated so we'll work through it, more quickly. That is, we're going to take advantage of some calculation variations, coming next.
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