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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.
All right! So here I am looking at the final version of the nameplate and you can see that it's created using a combination of the nameplate and boot channels. So I essentially converted the nameplate channel to a selection and then subtracted the boot away from it. And I'm going to show you exactly how that works in this exercise. I've saved my progress as Completed boot mask.psd. I'm going to zoom out by pressing Ctrl+ 0 or Command+0 on the Mac and then click on the RGB image to make it active. Because I was viewing the boot channel by itself, that went ahead and deactivated the channel as well as turning it off.
Now I'll switch over to the Layers panel and we don't need that adjustment layer anymore. It's definitely not contributing anything positive to the overall composition. So I'm just going to select it and press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac in order to get rid of it. Next, I'm going to create a new layer by pressing Ctrl+Shift+N or Command+Shift+N on the Mac and I'll call the layer nameplate and click OK. Now let's go ahead and load up the nameplate selection by switching back to the Channels panel and Ctrl+Clicking or Command+ Clicking on the Mac on that nameplate channel. Now we need to go ahead and subtract the boot away from the selection and there is a couple of different ways to accomplish that.
One way is fairly obvious, but a little bit tedious as well. The other is more convenient in my opinion. However, it requires some keyboard tricks that you'll need to memorize. So we'll start with the more obvious one. Go up to the Select menu and choose Load Selection, and that brings up the Load Selection dialog box. And then you want to make sure the Document option is set to your foreground image. And change Channel from nameplate Transparency, which is, by the way, what's known as the Transparency Mask that's associated with the nameplate layer.
So that would go ahead and trace the selection outline around the portions of the layer that are opaque. And because in our case the entire layer is transparent, that would deselect the image. The other option is to select one of the alpha channels. In my case, I'm going to select boot. Now notice we have these operations down here. If you leave the Operation set to New Selection, then you will just go ahead and trace the selection outline around the boot and deselect the nameplate area. However, you also have the option of adding the selections together, subtracting the new selection from the existing one, or finding the intersection of the two selections.
Obviously, what we want to do is select the Subtract from Selection option and then click OK. And now we've managed to subtract the boot away from the nameplate. And you know what, I'm going to zoom in a little bit so we have a better sense of what's going on here, go ahead and scroll down as well. All right! So that's one way to work. Choose the command, walk your way through the dialog box. Here's another way. I'm going to go ahead and press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac to deselect the image so we can start over here. Inside the Channels panel, Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on the nameplate channel in order to convert it to a selection.
Once you've established that selection, we have the following keyboard tricks to choose from. Move your cursor down to the boot layer. If you Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on it, then you're going to replace the nameplate selection with the boot selection instead. Go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Command +Z on the Mac to undo that change. If you press the Ctrl and Shift keys; that would be Command and Shift on the Mac, notice that your cursor gets a little plus sign in front of it. And if you then click, you will add the boot to the nameplate selection.
We don't want that either, so press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac to undo that modification. Now I'll try this one. If you press the Ctrl and Alt keys; that's the Command and Option keys on the Mac, then you'll get a little minus sign inside your cursor. Click and you go ahead and subtract the boot from the nameplate which is exactly what we want. However, I'm going to take a moment to show you one final trick that's available to you. So I'll press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo that modification and I'll press and hold Ctrl+Shift+Alt all at the same.
That would be Command+Shift+ Option all at the same time on the Mac. You'll see that you get a little x inside your cursor, go ahead and click, and that will find the intersection of the nameplate selection and the boot selection. And you'll just select this kind of negative D space inside the boot. All right! So I'll press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac to undo that change. What we want is WIKKED minus boot, so you would Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on the nameplate channel and then Ctrl+Alt +Click or Command+Option+Click on the boot channel and that gives you exactly the result we're looking for. All right! So you decide which way you want to work.
You can work with the Load Selection command or those keyboard shortcuts. I'll continue to document those as we work our way through the course. In the meantime, let's go ahead and switch back to Layers panel, confirm that the nameplate layer is active, and press the D key just to make sure that the foreground color is black, and press Alt +Backspace or Option+Delete on the Mac in order to fill the selection with black. And now I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+ D or Command+D on the Mac in order to deselect that image. What we've done is we've established the pixels that need to be opaque on this layer by filling them with black.
In the next exercise, we'll replace those pixels with a gradient by locking down the transparency.
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