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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."
In this exercise, we are going to add the super suit layer and we are going to do so by combining our paths into a layer mask, this time, as opposed to a vector mask. The reason we are going to work that way is it's just going to simplify the approach and it's also going to give me the opportunity to share with you some new techniques. The big reason is simplification because otherwise, we would have to combine these paths down here with this zigzag path that constitutes the costume hem. Then we would have to figure out another path in order to surround her face to take it out of the equation because the super suit should only cover this area, to the right of the hem, not her face.
So a layer mask, easier solution. Now I am working inside of a catchup document called Costume hem.psd, found inside of the 15_paths folder. I tell you what? I keep noticing some problems with the shoulder here, that new shoulder path that I drew a few exercises ago, and I am going to fix it now, while the fixing is good because after we get done creating a layer mask, it's going to be a little more difficult to fix it. So let's go ahead and click on the vector mask thumbnail associated with the Profile layer here inside the Layers palette. I am going to press the A key to get my white Arrow tool because it's the last arrow tool I used and I am going to move this line down a little bit. I am going to move that point down in order to drag the segment down slightly and it was just a little movement, not much.
Now I will press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac, just to check my work. It still could go down a little farther than that, I think. So I am going to move it over, like this, to take it down farther, like so, and then press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac in order to check out how things look and I think that's looks pretty darn good. Let's just make sure things are as smooth as they should be by taking that control handle down, making sure we are not revealing anything over here on the left side of the shoulder, and so on. Those paths, they are infinitely flexible, I said it before, I say it again.
All right, so we fixed everything. I fixed it again, I am just obsessing about details but that something that paths allow you to do, for a better or for worse. Incidentally, in our previous exercise, when we took that zigzag vector mask, that represents the hem of her super suit and we added it to the dynamic fill layer, we manually created a traditional shape layer here inside of Photoshop. If you want to learn about more standard ways, simpler ways to create shape layers in Photoshop, then you can check out my full Photoshop CS3 one-on-one training series available to all of you, who are subscribers to the Lynda.com Online Training Library. You would want to check out the Advanced Techniques portion of the series, that would be Chapter 20 Vector Based Shapes, is what you are interested in.
So we took the harder approach, the more manual approach but that's because we wanted to work with an existing path. So I just make that clear, it would have been, actually, a lot more work to try to draw that shape layer from scratch; I am clueing you on that. All right, so here is what we are going to do. In order to make the super suit layer, go ahead and click on the blue 1 layer to make it active because we are going to create a copy of that layer, that's going to be called blue 2, that's sandwiched between blue 1 and blue 3. So with blue 1 selected, press Ctrl+ Alt+J or Command+Option+J on the Mac to bring up the New Layer dialog box. Let's change the name to blue 2. I don't know why Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask isn't on, by default, here? Since we are sandwiching it inside of an existing clipping mask but go ahead and turn it on manually, just so that we don't ruin anything here.
Let's change the Mode to Hue. I want to accept the existing luminance levels and saturation values inside of her flesh and just make some new hue values here. So I will select Hue, I will click OK. It creates this new layer. Let's double click on it to bring up the Layer Style dialog box and let's reset the Underlying Layer values here, so that black is 0; I had to drag it a couple of times there; and white is 255 without any slashes. Then click OK and you end up with this result right here.
Now how do we go about masking this layer so that it falls exclusively inside of her flesh? Well, first thing I want you to do and this isn't absolutely necessary because since we are already working on a clipped layer, it would be clipped by this Profile mask down here but I want to give you a better sense of how things work inside the Paths palette. So we are going to do a little bit of extra labor here. Go ahead and click on the Profile layer to make it active and then if you go into the Paths palette, you will see that we have our Profile Vector Mask available to us. I want you to Ctrl+Click on that path inside the Paths palette and that would Command+Click on the Mac.
The reason you have to do it here, is because if you go over to the Layers palette and you Ctrl+Click on the vector mask thumbnail, you will select just the lowest of the three paths and not the rest of them. I don't know why that is, but that just happens to be the way it works. If you Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on the layer thumbnail itself, on the pixel based thumbnail, then you select the entire rectangular region. So you don't observe the mask at all. So let's go back to the Paths palette, Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on that vector mask thumbnail. Then I want to subtract the costume hem from it but just in case, we made any modifications to the layer. Let's go back to the Layers palette and I want you to press the Ctrl and Alt keys or the Command and Option keys on the Mac and click on that blue 3 vector mask thumbnail, like so, to de-select the hem from the selection; I carve it away from the selection.
Now I should mention, you can also add to a selection, you can subtract from a selection, as we just did, and you can find the intersection. That happens just the same way it does with channels. In other words, Ctrl+Clicking or Command+Clicking on the Mac, creates a new selection; Ctrl and Alt or Command and Option on the Mac, subtracts; Ctrl and Shift or Command and Shift on the Mac, adds; and Ctrl+Shift and Alt on a PC or Command+Shift and Option on the Mac, find the intersection of two paths, or of a path and the existing selection outline.
All right, so now we need to go back to the Layers palette here. Click on the blue 2 layer to make it active, and then go down here to the layer mask icon, and just go ahead and click on it. Don't Alt+Click, or Ctrl+Click, or do any of that fancy stuff, just click on it and that's it. You will go ahead and convert the selection to a layer mask. Now I am going to Alt+Click or Option+ Click on that layer mask in order to view it independently of the image and isn't it beautiful? I mean, these smooth edges takes us in a graphics territory, which is, where I really live. I just love graphic art and we have still got the face.
Now go on, we need to get rid of the face. So why don't we just get rid of it? We are going to have to do this manually using the Lasso tool. Now I am just going to Alt+Click or Option+Click with the Lasso tool to take advantage of that polygonal lasso function. I am going to dig my way down here and across in front of face, like so, and then I am going to press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete on the Mac to fill that area with black. Now let's press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac to de-select the image. Alt+Click or Option+Click on that layer mask thumbnail to switch back to the full color image and the deed is done. People, we have now added a super suit to the woman and we have done it by combining paths into a layer mask and quite successfully, I might add.
In the next exercise, we are going to add the waves over her hairline here and we are going to do that by applying a path based vector mask and a pixel based layer mask to the exact same layer. It's incredible, people, we can combine layer mask and vector mask together, if you want to, inside Photoshop. It is that powerful.
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