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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."
All right, so here we are looking at the top portion of the bird that we selected in the previous exercise by duplicating the Blue channel, applying a couple of arbitrary maps to different sections of the top of the head using the Marquee tool and the Curves command, and then just using the Dodge and Burn tools in order to fix the area in between, and make it hunky-dory. So that we have a nice transition along the top of the head. By the way, I am working inside of a catchup document called Selected head.tif, that's found inside of the 16_tough_stuff folder. We can compare the mask, so far, to the bird by turning on the eyeball for the bird or pressing the Tilde key, of course. Everything looks pretty darn good. I have to say, I think we have done a pretty outstanding job of selecting this region of the bird.
Some of the red stuff is getting cropped out a little bit but that's okay. I don't really find that to be much of a problem, frankly. So let's go ahead and turn the bird off again and focus on this region. So you should have the mask channel selected, of course, I am going to Shift+Tab away my palettes, and I am going to zoom in to the 100% view size. So that I can exactly select the region of the bird, that I want to select. So I am using my Rectangular Marquee tool, I am selecting exactly along this top edge, notice that, and I am going to grab this region here because I want to make sure that we don't have any seam at this location or as little of the seam as possible. Then I am going to Shift+Drag down like this.
Notice, where I am Shift+Dragging through this seam right there, notice how the beak, sort of, cuts at that point. So I am aligning my Marquee with that location, the right side of my Marquee and dragging over to include the hook of the beak right there, but I don't want to select down into the feathers. Then I might just go ahead and grab that area too. We got an unfortunate auto-scroll there but I just wanted to make sure that I am selecting far enough into the beak, so that I have a lot of room to modify things with the Dodge and Burn tools, if need be.
Now then I am going to zoom out to 50%, I am going to press Ctrl+M or Command+M on the Mac, drag along the entire top. This is stuff that you would figure out, of course, by using the eye dropper, and watching the bouncing ball, and seeing where it lands, but for now I am just going to, sort of, breeze through these settings. Drag all the way across the top to set everything in this section to white and then come down here to the bottom and start at an Input of 72, watch the Input value, start at 72, and drag down and over to actually 108, was what I wanted. So I went too far. So I will go to the top here, make sure the Input value is set to 109, and drag over to the right. This is what I get, so we went from 72 over to 108, to be set to black, everything else to white.
Click Smooth, just once, actually is all we want this time around, for this beak. It's not super successful because again the beak, it doesn't really lend itself to an arbitrary map, this is what it comes down to, but this is about as good as we are going to get. If you want to load my preset, you can go over here to the Preset options, choose Load Preset, and go in to the Macaw arb maps folder, which is inside the 16_tough_stuff folder, switch Files of type over to Map Settings, down here at the bottom. I wish this dialog box wouldn't be so big under Windows Vista all the time, but that's Windows Vista for you and it always likes to give you a big hunking Open dialog box, it takes up the entire screen, no matter what you did last time, but I digress. I love it!! I am going to go ahead and select Forward bill.amp and I am going to click Load in order to load that. You can see it's exactly the same thing, as I showed you before. I am starting to accumulate a lot of presets though, that's kind of nice. Not necessarily, the kind of presets that I am going to be coming back to over and over again, but still I could, I could try them out later on other things, if I wanted to; and click OK in order to apply that modification.
Now then, let's try this area down here, Ctrl+Shift+I, Command+Shift+I on the Mac in order to find the inversion of the selection, that is, reverse the selection using the Inverse command. Then I will Shift+Alt+Drag, thank you for the auto-scroll, Shift+Alt+Drag; that was sarcasm by the way. Shift+Alt+Drag or Shift+Option+Drag around this region of the image, in order to get this kind of backward double Utah, sort of, selection thing; or you could think of it as, I don't know what? Oklahoma on it's side and, sort of, the wrong direction, I suppose. No, that would be the right direction. Yeah. that's where the pen handle is.
All right, but this isn't a geography lesson, this is the selection that we want to use here and you can see how it does trace the area that we want to modify. I don't really care about this area back here; we will just be getting rid of it. Let's go ahead and try out another arbitrary map, Ctrl+M or Command+M on the Mac, and this time around, I am going to create a selection that looks like this. I am going to go over to 53 at the top, here. When I am telling you these settings at 53 Input, so look at the lower left corner of the dialog box, you see the Input value is 53. Then I am going for this guy down here and I am going for 54 now, 54, all the way over to the right, like so. Click the Smooth button. I might click the Smooth button a couple of times, not really sure at this point, it looks like we get a big flare over here to the left of the bird.
If you want to load that preset, you can go to the Load Preset option right there, you can change Files of type to Map Settings. You can go ahead and load this guy right here, Bottom feathers and click the Load button. Apparently, I only click the Smooth button once, in order to create the setting, that's fine. I will go ahead and click OK in order to apply that. Now I am none too happy with either of these modifications, I have to say. The bill is not really working for me too well and this area of feathers, man; it's going to be tough to deal with those. I mean, I could give it a shot and I would do that actually by bringing back up my Channels palette. I would press the Tilde key, so that I can see the bird in the background, while I work on it. I think, I am going to go ahead and change my mask color to a standard ruby lithe overlay here by clicking on the color. I double-clicked on the mask, by the way.
I am going to switch the color to red, click OK, and let's take the Opacity value down to 50%, click OK again. So that we might be able to see things a little better than before. I am now just going to get the Lasso tool actually and just, kind of, Alt+Click along here and see if I can just say, "Well, okay, this area is inside and this area is inside as well" and I am just, kind of, doing a vague selection. I am trying to stay inside of the feathers of the bird, I am just trying to give myself some guidance and see, how well the mask is doing, in general.
Then I will go ahead and Alt+ Click over here, this is, of course, Option+Clicking on the Mac and release. So get that gargantuan area, let's fill it with white by pressing Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete, de-select, press the Tilde key in order to hide the bird, so that we can just focus on the feathers and see if they ended up rendering out okay and they are---- whatever, kind of bad, kind of good. Let's go ahead and get rid of this region of bird right there, just so that we feel like we are making some, sort of, progress. Once again, I have managed to change my foreground color. So I am going to press the D in order to switch to the default colors and press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete to fill that region with white. Let's go ahead and zoom in on the bird's bill and that is such a mess that I feel like----We can work on it, we can try to make it work, if you wanted to; and by we, I mean, you can try to make it work, if you want to; I am not.
The route I am going to take and the route I suggest you take as well, is to go to the Paths palette, grab Bill outline, go ahead and select it, and let's Ctrl+Click on it or Command+Click on the thumbnail in order to load it as a selection outline. I will switch back to the Channels palette because we are done with that. Let's go ahead and press Alt+Backspace to fill the area inside of the bill with white; that's Option+Delete on the Mac. Then I am going to press Ctrl+Shift+I or Command+Shift+I on the Mac in order to reverse the selection. I am going to get my Lasso tool. I am going to press the Shift and Alt keys; that's Shift and Option on the Mac. I am going to drag around here very carefully, like this, and then I am going to come back in carefully, right there. All right, and what I am trying to do is make sure I am selecting the right portion of the background there. Let's Alt+Drag around here to get rid of that; that would be an Option+Drag on the Mac.
So I have selected just this region, I am going to press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac in order to fill that with black. Then we would go ahead and select this garbage over here and Backspace or Delete it away; select this garbage right there, Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete that away. We are really trying to follow this specific technique all the way through, just so that we can actually select this bird here. I am going to grab this little region there as well, after zooming in on it, and this region here too, and Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete it away as well. Let's get rid of that stuff too.
All right, so just really trying to select this bird to the best of my ability. The one thing that I don't feel like I have selected properly, is this region down here, I think, it's a complete disaster, frankly. That's why, I have got one more arbitrary map exercise in which we are going to grab some information from a different channel, bring it on in, make it work, bring the bird home. Join me, if you will.
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