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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 gang, in this exercise, we are going to combine the pen mask along with the flesh mask and then we are going to apply it as a layer mask to the RGB composite image, so that we have masked the hand holding the pen, away from its background. So if you been following along with me, you are looking at what I am looking at on screen. If not, you can open this document called The lassoed pen.psd, that's found inside the 16 Tough Stuff folder. I want you to go ahead and click on the pen mask in order to make it active. Then I am also going to click the eyeball for the flesh mask, so that we can see the two at the same time. I am going to zoom in here and you can see that we are seeing a bluish mask for the pen against a cobalt mask for the flesh mask here because I had slightly altered the colors a little bit, so we can tell them apart from each other.
Notice that the flesh mask traces in around the palm, and the third finger right there, and then it traces outward from the thumb. So wherever we are seeing white, we are seeing areas that are selected, both in the pen and flesh mask. The pen mask cheats inward on the thumb and goes around the thumbnail and so on, and cheats inward around the flesh, in general, but does a good job of selecting the pen, of course. Whereas, the flesh mask goes out beyond that edge and accurately traces all of the flesh details.
So all we need to do at this point is add the two masks together in order to create yet another alpha channel and we are going to do it, like so. Go up to the Image menu and choose the good old Calculations command. You want to make sure that both Source 1 and Source 2 are set to the image that you are working on, which is the lassoed pen.psd, in my case. Let's go ahead and change the Layer to hand for both of these images, instead of Merged. Let's work with these two channels, we want flesh mask for one channel and then pen for the other channel.
Currently, we are seeing the differences between those two channels because I have Blending set to the Difference mode, but I am going to change that to Screen. Screen is going to add those two masks together and we get this effect right here, looks awesome. Go ahead and click OK, the Invert check boxes should be off. In fact, all check boxes should be off, except for Preview, and then click OK to accept that new mask. Let's call this one hand & pen, just so that we know that it's every thing. Then Ctrl+Click on it or Command+Click on its thumbnail here to load the mask as a selection outline. Then we will go back to the RGB composite at the top of the Channels palette here, switch over to the Layers palette, and then we are going to go ahead and convert this selection outline to a layer mask by clicking on the layer mask icon, down there at the bottom of the Layers palette, and this is it, folks. Does that not look awesome? Especially, what looks the best of anything? It is the pen nib that we drew with the Lasso tool.
So the Lasso tool, absolutely, came to the rescue here. It did a brilliant job. If you are little worried, actually if we zoom in here very closely, you will see that we have got a little bit of a green edge along the bottom of the pen. If you are worried about that at all, like gosh, the Lasso tool is doing so great here, just go ahead and Alt+ Click or Option+Click with the Lasso tool along this edge, a little bit. Notice that I am clicking several times in a row here, while pressing the Alt or Option key, in order to trace that little bottom edge. I will go ahead and fill it with white, fill the layer mask with white in this region, by pressing Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete, and we get a nice edge going right there.
So sometimes the old school tools do a brilliant job and the Lasso tool, a very underrated tool, does a fantastic job in many cases, specially combined with Alt or Option key. We do need to make a few additional changes here. I feel like the shadow is too light. So I want to bolster that shadow. I also want to enhance the saturation of the flesh and we will be doing that in the next exercise.
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