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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.
In this exercise, we are going to select that left eye, using Path outlines once again. And then we will combine the two eye outlines inside of a single vector mask. I have saved my progress as Right eye masked .psd found inside the 09_layer mask folder. I am going to scroll over just a little bit, so I can keep an eye on that left eye. As I was saying, this gets pretty tricky when we are trying to mix and match a bunch of path outlines together. So we are best of, isolating that left eye inside the Paths panel. So I am going to go ahead and hide the Adjustments panel for now.
And then switch over to the Paths panel and let's create a new path By Alt or Option+Clicking on the little page icon at the bottom of the panel and because, I Alt or Option+Clicked that brings up the new path dialog box and I'll go ahead and call this one left eye and then click OK. And now because left eye is selected in the Paths panel, we will automatically draw our outlines into that path container. All right, I am going to start things off using the Ellipse tool once again. I am going to drag around the left portion of that left eye and of course, I'm using the spacebar for alignment purposes.
After I have laid down the first path outlines I will press and hold the Shift and Alt keys with the Shift and Option keys on the Mac. I will begin drawing that's going to create a circle from the center outward, so I will go ahead and release the keys, now that I've told Photoshop I am looking for an intersection. And that will allow me to create a free form ellipse and I will use the spacebar in order to align the ellipse more or less into place, like so. Go ahead and release in order to set that path down, have faith that we are finding the intersection because we have the Shift and Alt key down.
Now press the Shift and Alt keys again, or the Shift and Option keys on the Mac. And then go ahead and begin drawing. With your mouse button still down, go ahead and release the Shift and Alt keys in order to draw free form ellipse and let's go ahead and move that guy into place by pressing the spacebar. And I need a pretty slim ellipse as you're seeing here. That doesn't quite select everything that I'm looking for, I am going to zoom in a little bit farther. Notice that the corner of the eye remains deselected or at least it's not surrounded by a path outlined at the moment.
This time I want to add an ellipse. So I will just draw with a tool like so, and I can go ahead and sort of align it into place with the spacebar, but I'm looking at this ellipse and it seems to me that it wants to be a bit rotated. So after I get done drawing it, I will switchover to my black your tool, which allows me to select Path outlines here inside Photoshop. And then I will click on the outline to make it active, it will go up to the Edit menu and notice the Free Transform command now reads Free Transform Path, it still has the same keyboard shortcut Ctrl+T, Command+T on the Mac and I am going to drag outside the ellipse to rotate it slightly, and then I am going to drag it into place.
And I want to make sure that the top edge of that ellipse, as very nearly as possible exactly aligns with the intersection of the two ellipses around it. Now I will press the Enter key or Return key on the Mac in order to accept that rotation and it looks like, I am a little bit far away, it's really going to serve my purposes if I am right on. So I will zoom way in. I have got the image zoom to 600% at the moment. And then I will use the arrow keys to nudge that ellipse around, bearing in mind that you have more precision when you are farther zoomed in because when you press an arrow key, you're always nudging in screen pixels as opposed to actual pixels inside the image.
All, right that looks pretty good now I am going to go ahead and center my zoom, actually I want to zoom back in a little tighter there. Now let's take those path outlines and add them to our existing vector mask and I will do that, once again armed with the Path Selection tool, you need to marquee all of the path outlines and you only need to partially marquee them, by the way, you don't have to completely surround them. All right, I have got all of the left eye path selected, I am going to go up to the Edit menu and choose the Copy command or press Ctrl+C on the PC or Command+C on the Mac and now go ahead and click on that bottommost path that's italicized, that's your Vector mask, by the way,.
So just as you see pixel-based layer masks as temporary Alpha channels inside the Channels panel, you also see Vector masks as temporary path outlines, here inside the Paths panel. Go ahead and click on it to make it active and you'll see your right eye paths, the ones you drew in the previous exercise. Now go up to the Edit menu and choose the Paste command or press Ctrl+V on the PC or Command+V on the Mac. Now thing to bear in mind, those of you who are familiar with Adobe Illustrator, what you would normally do in this case is you would choose Paste in front, right because that way you register the paths in the place.
The Paste command when applied to path outlines inside Photoshop works just like paste in front in Illustrator. So you not only paste the outlines in front, but you register them as well. So I will go ahead and choose a command and there are my new path outlines inside of the vector mask. I am going to switch back to the Layers panel here, so that I can confirm that I am indeed working on the Eyes layer and I am of course working inside the vector mask as well. Now, notice that we have a problem, we are no longer seeing the effect applied to the right eye, and that's because of all these intersections that are going on, for example, if I click off one of these path outlines and let's say, I click on this one right here.
I will notice up in the Options bar that the third icon in intersect shapes areas is selected. Now I could change it to something else if I wanted to, of course I don't I want to leave it that way. But my point is that this path outline is intersecting every thing and so because it doesn't pass through any portions of the right eye, we are no longer seeing the right eye. And so what we have to do and this is where I believe the process gets as gnarly as it can possibly get, where vectors are concerned inside Photoshop, is we need to combine the path outlines associated with each of the eyes independently. And here's how.
Go ahead and partially marquee those three path outlines that are associated with the right eye, make sure none of the left eye paths is selected. Then go up to the Options bar and click on Combine and that will go ahead and fuse them into a single path outlined. Now do the same for the left eye path, so go ahead and partially marquee all four of them and then once again go up to the Combine button and click on it and we've not only fused the left eye paths, but we've also revealed the right eye path because the two path outlines are being added together.
Now what I would like you do is press Ctrl+H or Command+H on the Mac to hide the outlines, and let's soften them a little bit by bringing up a Masks panel and I am going to change the Feather value from 0 to 3 and that will apply a nice degree of softness to the edges of those eyes. Finally, I want to paint away this little corner of the eye, just ever so slightly so that the adjustment fades in and to do that I will need to add a pixel-based layer mask because you can apply the Feather value incidentally, independently to the vector mask and the layer mask.
However, you cannot independently feather path outlines inside of a single vector mask. All right, so what I am going to do is with the Eyes layer selected, I will drop down to the bottom of the Layers panel and click on the Add layer Mask icon which will add a pixel-based mask, and then I will switch to my Brush tool and I will right-click inside the image window, so I can show you that I've changed the settings, the Size now is 45 pixels, the Hardness is 0%, press the Enter key in order to hide that panel, the mode is set to Normal, the Foreground color is black and I'll just go ahead and click right about there and I may click a second time as well to create a little bit of an additional fade.
All right folks, for better or for worse, you've now seen how to combine a bunch of path outlines, inside of a single vector mask here inside Photoshop.
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