Photoshop CS3 Channels & Masks: Advanced Techniques
Illustration by John Hersey

Combining paths in a vector mask


Photoshop CS3 Channels & Masks: Advanced Techniques

with Deke McClelland

Start your free trial now, and begin learning software, business and creative skills—anytime, anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts.

Start Your Free Trial Now

Video: Combining paths in a vector mask

Okay gang, now it's time to take those smooth paths, the one that I drew around the face, which you can draw too if you want to. If you are out for it, you can go for that face path if you want to. But I am just skipping that for now because it's more the same thing that we just saw, it is more intricate than the shoulder path. We are going to add it to this new shoulder path that we created together, or you could use my old shoulder path, either one is going to work for you. Then we are going to take those two paths and more, as it turns out. We are going to need another path that really makes things work. We are going to combine them together to create the final vector mask around this woman's face, the one that's really going to do the trick and look super great. You will see, it's just a thing to behold.
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 2h 12m
    1. The Odyssey Continues
      2m 39s
    2. Mapping one image onto another
      7m 12s
    3. Making a custom contrast mode
      7m 9s
    4. Luminance blending
      8m 39s
    5. Forcing the visibility of underlying layers
      4m 3s
    6. Adjusting the appearance of clipped layers
      4m 33s
    7. Selecting a Blend If channel
      6m 11s
    8. Enhancing highlights by hiding them
      5m 8s
    9. Smart Object first, layer mask second
      7m 22s
    10. The Fill Opacity Eight
      4m 30s
    11. Blending Smart Filters
      7m 24s
    12. Cleaning up edges
      7m 38s
    13. More fun with luminance blending
      6m 22s
    14. A first peek at the Calculations command
      12m 11s
    15. Masking a softly focused model
      11m 46s
    16. Moving layers and masks between images
      7m 34s
    17. Matching colors
      9m 12s
    18. Building transitional blended layers
      6m 33s
    19. Restoring normal colors
      6m 49s
  2. 2h 32m
    1. Layer masks, clipping masks, and knockouts
      1m 20s
    2. Rotating and stretching
      7m 54s
    3. A jet of motion blur
      9m 17s
    4. Keyboard tricks
      5m 4s
    5. Merging sky and landscape
      6m 2s
    6. Masking an adjustment layer
      6m 37s
    7. Creating two windows into an image
      7m 42s
    8. Whitening teeth and adding other highlights
      3m 46s
    9. Mapping a texture onto an image
      4m 0s
    10. Isolating a texture with a layer mask
      6m 44s
    11. Welcome to the glass composition
      3m 18s
    12. Balancing shadows and highlights
      5m 51s
    13. Masking the glass
      7m 24s
    14. Masking the text
      9m 23s
    15. Adding and blending the goldfish
      8m 44s
    16. Assembling the perfect group photo
      5m 12s
    17. Aligning photographs automatically
      5m 26s
    18. Masking in each person's best shot
      5m 18s
    19. Masking densely packed people
      6m 17s
    20. Crafting the perfect final poster
      5m 15s
    21. From the improbable to the impossible
      1m 56s
    22. The fantastical "world of clones" effect
      10m 0s
    23. Upsampling and blurring a background
      8m 39s
    24. Adding a knockout mask
      8m 3s
    25. Choking edges with Gaussian Blur and Levels
      3m 46s
  3. 2h 26m
    1. The corrective power of masking
      1m 6s
    2. The amazing luminance mask
      7m 21s
    3. Brightening and neutralizing the eyes
      8m 21s
    4. Adjusting a nondestructive composition
      5m 52s
    5. Creating a corrective mask
      6m 3s
    6. Averaging away irregular flesh tones
      3m 52s
    7. Modifying specific colors
      7m 46s
    8. Initiating the color mask
      5m 59s
    9. Refining the color mask
      6m 39s
    10. Adjusting the edges around fabric
      7m 55s
    11. Perfecting hair
      9m 34s
    12. Sharpening with a High Pass layer
      10m 12s
    13. The also-amazing density mask
      4m 47s
    14. Adjusting the knockout depth
      8m 48s
    15. Fashioning a depth map
      6m 12s
    16. Invoking a depth mask from Lens Blur
      6m 38s
    17. The perfect depth-of-field effect
      6m 25s
    18. Sharpening an archival photograph
      7m 7s
    19. Creating an edge mask
      8m 29s
    20. Making a High Pass sandwich
      7m 45s
    21. Applying the edge mask
      6m 1s
    22. Customizing your sharpening effect
      4m 6s
  4. 2h 3m
    1. Channel Mixer, I am your father!
      1m 39s
    2. Three ways to gray
      7m 48s
    3. Meet the Channel Mixer
      8m 26s
    4. Mixing a custom black-and-white image
      7m 9s
    5. Creating a professional-level sepia tone
      5m 36s
    6. Employing the Black & White command
      8m 0s
    7. Extreme channel mixing
      4m 50s
    8. The infrared photography effect
      6m 42s
    9. Taking shadows to the brink of black
      3m 56s
    10. Elevating highlights, leeching saturation
      5m 58s
    11. Deepening a black-and-white sky
      5m 49s
    12. Infusing luminance levels with color
      5m 43s
    13. Creating an opposing colorization scheme
      4m 58s
    14. Bolstering contrast with the Green channel
      5m 37s
    15. A tiny improvement to a terrific technique
      7m 38s
    16. The simple (but wrong) approach to red-eye correction
      6m 39s
    17. Channel-mixing red pupils
      9m 17s
    18. The expert approach to red-eye correction
      5m 20s
    19. Fixing problem coronas (pupil edges)
      8m 8s
    20. Making pupils match
      4m 7s
  5. 2h 33m
    1. Chops are dead; long live maskops
      1m 36s
    2. The Calculations command
      8m 16s
    3. Blue Screen blending
      7m 40s
    4. Refining the Blue Screen mask
      5m 53s
    5. Brushing away color fringing
      7m 24s
    6. Locking the transparency of a layer
      6m 21s
    7. Nondestructive layer painting
      7m 36s
    8. How the Add blend mode works
      8m 40s
    9. How the Subtract blend mode works
      6m 43s
    10. Focus, noise, and other masking challenges
      5m 32s
    11. The Add mode in action
      7m 51s
    12. The Subtract mode in action
      8m 24s
    13. Comparing two channels with Difference
      5m 23s
    14. Enhancing the contrast with Curves
      9m 10s
    15. Gathering details with Apply Image
      9m 43s
    16. Dodge highlights, burn shadows
      6m 6s
    17. Dodge and Burn in action
      8m 24s
    18. Painting in the scalp
      10m 0s
    19. Painting away the face and chin
      4m 52s
    20. Compositing complementary images
      4m 13s
    21. Multiply, Minimum, Blur, and Apply Image
      6m 40s
    22. Crafting the final composition
      7m 7s
  6. 1h 57m
    1. Mark of the Pen tool
      1m 34s
    2. The big paths project overview
      6m 51s
    3. How to make a path
      8m 24s
    4. Corner points and freeform polygons
      8m 6s
    5. Editing paths with the arrow tools
      5m 2s
    6. Adding and deleting endpoints
      5m 14s
    7. Adding and deleting interior points
      6m 6s
    8. Converting a path to a selection
      3m 35s
    9. Converting a path to a mask
      6m 38s
    10. Smooth points and control handles
      8m 57s
    11. Making cusp points
      5m 59s
    12. Combining paths in a vector mask
      7m 54s
    13. Turning a path into a shape layer
      8m 57s
    14. Combining paths to make a layer mask
      7m 52s
    15. Mixing layer and vector masks
      10m 14s
    16. Editing character outlines as paths
      8m 39s
    17. Using the Convert Point tool
      7m 8s
  7. 3h 17m
    1. Where there's a will, there's a way
      1m 18s
    2. Masking natural cast shadows
      4m 9s
    3. Applying the cast show
      4m 2s
    4. Creating a difference mask
      3m 7s
    5. Applying an arbitrary map
      3m 50s
    6. Making the flesh mask
      7m 16s
    7. Roughing in an object mask
      6m 48s
    8. Drawing missing details with the Lasso tool
      4m 7s
    9. Combining flesh and object masks
      3m 52s
    10. Amplifying the cast shadow
      4m 10s
    11. Selectively choking edges
      3m 58s
    12. Power duplication in Photoshop
      7m 8s
    13. Masking blond hair
      5m 48s
    14. Using Levels to mask iterations
      3m 14s
    15. Drawing an iteration boundary
      4m 54s
    16. Merging the best of two Levels iterations
      4m 4s
    17. More fun with Dodge and Burn
      6m 14s
    18. Fixing edges with the Pen and Stamp tools
      7m 28s
    19. Pulling from another file with Apply Image
      4m 52s
    20. Blending clipped layers independently
      5m 42s
    21. Building the flame mask
      9m 21s
    22. Amplifying the flame
      3m 52s
    23. Masking an image against a busy background
      5m 15s
    24. The Freeform and Magnetic Pen tools
      6m 52s
    25. Masking with arbitrary maps
      9m 32s
    26. A more deliberate approach to arb maps
      10m 51s
    27. Combining arb maps with paths
      9m 28s
    28. Masking with the help of the History brush
      11m 38s
    29. Creating a High Pass mask
      7m 24s
    30. Coloring in the outlines
      8m 31s
    31. Mastering Calculations
      7m 28s
    32. Subtracting and merging the beak
      11m 5s
  8. 1h 33m
    1. The meaning of bit depth (and why you care)
      2m 49s
    2. Scanning line art in 8-bit and 16-bit
      5m 8s
    3. Measuring the 16-bit difference
      8m 8s
    4. Correcting 8-bit images in the 16-bit space
      9m 31s
    5. Opening a raw image directly in 16-bit
      6m 12s
    6. Editing in Camera Raw, opening in 16-bit
      8m 21s
    7. 16-Bit/channel vs. 32-bit/channel (HDR)
      8m 17s
    8. Working with auto-bracketed photographs
      5m 6s
    9. Using the Merge to HDR command
      5m 59s
    10. Adjusting the HDR preview
      6m 0s
    11. Building a 32-bit sky mask
      6m 29s
    12. Properly exposing land and sky
      4m 24s
    13. Modifying a layer mask in 32-bit
      4m 56s
    14. Converting to and correcting in 16-bit Lab
      12m 7s
  9. 2h 8m
    1. Photoshop flirts with the third dimension
      1m 13s
    2. The displacement map
      8m 24s
    3. Making custom waves
      7m 14s
    4. Creating a Gaussian distribution
      4m 31s
    5. Using a two-channel displacement map
      6m 27s
    6. Creating a rustic edge effect
      8m 21s
    7. Distorting and shading with a DMap
      6m 33s
    8. Moonlight reflecting off water
      8m 48s
    9. Mapping the reflection onto the water
      7m 3s
    10. Dipping the moon into the water
      6m 18s
    11. Turning flesh into stone
      7m 55s
    12. Wrapping the stone around the face
      7m 27s
    13. Softening a displacement map
      8m 4s
    14. Making a repeating watermark pattern
      9m 21s
    15. 3D embossing with Lighting Effects
      10m 47s
    16. The amazing credit card type effect
      6m 56s
    17. Lightening the credit card letters
      6m 16s
    18. Wrapping the background around the text
      6m 27s
  10. 1m 43s
    1. Goodbye
      1m 43s

please wait ...
Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop CS3 Channels & Masks: Advanced Techniques
20h 48m Advanced Nov 21, 2007

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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."

Topics include:
  • Distorting and shading with a DMap
  • Understanding bits and channels
  • Creating paths with the Pen tool
  • Using blend modes and the Dodge and Burn feature
  • Understanding channel mixing
  • Using layer masks, clipping masks, and knockouts
  • Applying Smart Filters
Design Photography
Deke McClelland

Combining paths in a vector mask

Okay gang, now it's time to take those smooth paths, the one that I drew around the face, which you can draw too if you want to. If you are out for it, you can go for that face path if you want to. But I am just skipping that for now because it's more the same thing that we just saw, it is more intricate than the shoulder path. We are going to add it to this new shoulder path that we created together, or you could use my old shoulder path, either one is going to work for you. Then we are going to take those two paths and more, as it turns out. We are going to need another path that really makes things work. We are going to combine them together to create the final vector mask around this woman's face, the one that's really going to do the trick and look super great. You will see, it's just a thing to behold.

I am working inside of this catch-up image called Two smooth paths.psd, found inside the 15_paths folder. Of course, there is more than two smooth paths in there, but there is only two smooth paths that we are really concerned about right now, face and new shoulder. All right, so here is what we are going to do. We are going to start with the new shoulder path, because that's the one that we just got done creating together and we are going to convert it into a vector mask for this layer. We have to bring over the two paths independently of each other, because they are actually inside of different entries here. There are different paths inside of the Paths palette, and you can't select multiple paths at a time.

All right, so click on new shoulder, we will go over to the Layers palette. Make sure that the Profile layer is active, then I want you to go down, the simplest thing to do, right, is to go down here to this Add a layer mask icon and Ctrl+Click on it on the PC or Command+Click on it on the Mac. That goes ahead and places that Profile image inside of the vector mask. And all we have is her shoulder. So the fish win, end of exercise, they ate her head, opp! Too bad, very sad. I am going for an exercise, I am afraid but that's it, that the way it works. Barracudas are savage creatures, don't you know? Now, actually we are going to bring in her face too, and here is how. Go back to the Paths palette, I want you to click on the face path to make it active.

Then I am going to press the A key in order to switch over to the Black Arrow tool and I am going to click on this path to select the entire thing as you can see here, then I want you to copy it, by pressing Ctrl+C or Command+C on the Mac, or of course, you can go up to the Edit menu and choose the Copy command if you prefer. Then go over to the Layers palette, click on the vector mask right there for the Profile layer. Make sure it's active, make sure you can see the path outline down here at the bottom of the screen, and then I want you to either press Ctrl+V or Command+V on the Mac or go up to the Edit menu and choose Paste.

When you do, you will paste her face into the layer along with her shoulder. Now, we've got a big problem. She doesn't look right, not at all, I don't think. I will go ahead and Shift+Tab away the palettes for a moment here. So you can see that not only are we missing the back of her head, because we haven't bothered to actually encircle it with the path yet, but we have also got a bad intersection between her face and her shoulder, where the two paths intersect, we are getting a gap. That's because by default, paths intersect using exclusion as their method of intersection. By that, I mean, at any point where the two intersect each other, we are going to create a hole. So the intersection is actually a point of exclusion. We can fix that though by changing these icons up here inside of the Options bar.

So as long as your Black Arrow tool is selected -- it doesn't work when you have the White Arrow tool selected, I don't know why. But when you select the White Arrow tool, you don't have any options up here in the Options bar and that is complete nonsense, in my opinion. It's like, it will still give us those options we need access to, I wouldn't do, but anyway, they don't. So you have to have the Black Arrow tool active, and then you see these guys right here. They allow you to change the way that the paths intersect with each other. It's very important that you have the face path selected and you are defining the intersection of that path with any paths below it, with any paths behind it.

The order of the paths is defined by the order in which you added them to the vector mask. So the shoulder path is at the back, it's the background path. Then the face path, because you added it second because it's the foreground path. So notice that they are set to exclusion right now, so Exclude overlapping shape areas. You could switch it to Intersect so that we get just that part we were missing a moment ago. Fish win once again, barracuda ate her. Or we could subtract the face from the shoulder, so that we are cleaving inward there, we are cutting inward. Or we could add the two together, obviously. We want to add the two together so that we would have one path adding to the other, and we keep this little wedge inside of the neck. That's a great outline now. That works wonderfully.

Let's go ahead and switch to the Full Screen mode by pressing the F key and I want to add one more path, don't I, to include this area of the fish that are showing through behind her head so that we have her full ear and neck and her other implied shoulder and her hair and so on. We are going to do that. We are going to add it the simple way using the Rectangle tool. So now each one of the Shape tools, they add paths as well. They all draw paths, it's just that they draw predetermined paths, so paths with predetermined shapes like rectangles, and rounded rectangles, and ellipses, and polygons, and blah, blah, blah. So I am going with, yes, the Line tool as blah, blah, blah, so is the Custom Shape tool. We will actually come back to Custom Shape later in a later exercise; go for rectangle right now, however.

You should see these options selected up here in the Options bar. You should see that we are going to draw a path, because we are working with an existing path. I will go ahead and Shift+Tab up my palettes again, because my vector mask is active. So the vector mask thumbnail is active and I can see my paths here inside the Image window. All right, I will Shift+Tab that away again. You also want to make sure that this icon right there, Add to path area (+) is turned on, because otherwise you are going to cut a hole or find the intersection with this rectangle that we are about to draw.

Then I want you to draw a big rectangle like so here, in order to surround this area. But keep it on the inside of this intersection right there because you don't want to go out into this area, otherwise, you will get rid of that little wonderful wedge that we have. You will complete her face, isn't that a wonderful thing? It is actually, and she looks great, the whole darn thing looks awesome! Now it is a little disconcerting to have all these paths intersecting each other so that we can't see what the heck is going on. So why don't you just go ahead and click on that thumbnail, or we could have pressed the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac because we have a Shape tool active. That would have worked too, that just goes ahead and hides the paths. The paths are still active though. They are still working on the layers, so the layers are still masked.

I will go ahead and Shift+Tab away those palettes again and that is the quite beautifully rendered path outline that traces every detail in her face. If you zoom in here, you will see that we have done an awesome job of tracing along the lips and the underside of the nose and so on.But if you find some problems, if you are sitting there thinking, you know what you didn't really get that lip right, Deke. Why then? You can bring back up that palette, you can click on the vector mask in order to make it active. You can grab your White Arrow tool, and you can modify the path if you want to. You can just bring it in a little bit, so bring that point in, maybe bring this control handle up a little bit, where we see other issue, let's go ahead and click that path away. Along the nose also, I think, could do some work. So turn it on again, then go and click here, and bring it up like so, and bring this up like so, and we will get rid of that little area.

So, always editable, amazing creature these paths are. Once you come to terms with drawing smooth points, working with control handles and so on inside Photoshop, you are going to just up your masking skills through the roof. The Pen tool is a heck of a precision tool for drawing smooth masked edges inside Photoshop.

There are currently no FAQs about Photoshop CS3 Channels & Masks: Advanced Techniques.

Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.

Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

* Estimated file size

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.

Mark all as unwatched Cancel


You have completed Photoshop CS3 Channels & Masks: Advanced Techniques.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.

Become a member to add this course to a playlist

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member ?

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

The classic layout automatically defaults to the latest Flash Player.

To choose a different player, hold the cursor over your name at the top right of any page and choose Site preferences from the dropdown menu.

Continue to classic layout Stay on new layout
Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.