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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 I'll show you how to combine the functionality of two different selection tools, specifically we'll be using the Elliptical Marquee and the Magic Wand and that gives you more flexibility when you are creating selection outlines in Photoshop. I am still working inside the file Big eye.psd and let's say I want to apply an effect to this iris. However, I don't want the effect to engage either the highlights or the pupil; I just want to select the yellows and browns inside the eye and of course, I want to avoid the flesh and other portions of the image as well.
Probably, the best way to select those areas is to use the Magic Wand tool. So I'll drop down to the Quick Selection tool and before we switch over to the Magic Wand I do want to mention that the Quick Selection tool is the one tool that behaves differently than the others where selection calculations are concerned. Notice that by default, the Add to selection icon is active up here in the Options bar. That means that after you create a selection, if you continue dragging, you'll automatically add to it, like so. If you want to subtract from the selection, you press and hold the Alt key or the Option key as you paint.
There is no option for finding an intersection. So if you press both Shift and Alt or Shift and Option on the Mac, you'll just continue to subtract. Anyway, that's not the tool I want. So I'll press Ctrl+D, Command+D on the Mac and I'll switch over to the Magic Wand tool. I'm going to adjust the setting. I haven't showed you so far. If we go to the Eye Dropper tool and click on it, then you'll notice up here in the Options bar there is this item that says the sample size and by default it's set to Point Sample, and what that means is that you are sampling the color, that is you're lifting the color of a specific pixel, just the pixel on which you click.
However, if you want to average the color of multiple adjacent pixels, then you can change the Sample Size to something like, in my case, I am going to change it to 11x11 average. So 11 pixels wide 11 pixels tall around the click point and Photoshop will find the average color. Well, this setting also affects the behavior of the Magic Wand, believe it or not. So what that means is if I grab the Magic Wand tool now and I click inside the iris then I'm going to go ahead and sample an 11x11 area of that iris as well in order to find the base color, and then it's going to go ahead and find all the adjacent pixels that fall inside the Tolerance range.
Well, obviously, my Tolerance setting isn't high enough. So I'll press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac and I'll change that Tolerance value to 80, and then I'll press the Enter key or Return key again in order to accept that value. I'll press Ctrl+D or Command+D on a Mac to deselect the image, and then I'll go ahead and click on a point inside the iris and you can see in my case I've have ended up selecting way too much. Now if you are working along with me, you may get different results, but the point is, we want to just keep those iris colors. So we're better off selecting that iris using the Elliptical Marquee tool so that we can constrain the behavior of the wand.
So we'll go ahead and press Ctrl+D or Command+D on a Mac to deselect the image and now I'll switch back to the Elliptical Marquee by clicking on it, or I could press the M key, of course. And I am going to press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and drag from the center of the eye outward in order to create a shape from the center out. Now you may have noticed that I just press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and I just told you in the previous exercise that you Alt+Drag or Option+Drag in order to subtract from an existing selection.
So how in the world did this work? Well, it worked because no selection was active in the first place and that's when you can press Alt or Option in advance of drawing the selection to create the selection from the center out. What if you want to create a selection from the center out? For example, let's say, I want to subtract away the pupil from the center of the eye and you want to do that to an existing selection outline. Well, then it's all the matter of when you press the key. So if you've got an existing selection and you press Alt in advance and I'll go ahead and center my cursor right there, press Alt in advance or Option in advance in the Mac, then you are going to subtract from the selection outline.
If you now want to draw that selection that's in progress from the center out, you do this very strange trick, but it works beautifully. You leave your mouse button down, you release the Alt key or the Option key on a Mac because you've already told Photoshop that you want to subtract from the selection. Then you press and hold Alt or Option again and keep the key down and now you're going to draw the selection from the center outward. I could even use the spacebar for alignment purposes and then release. The same goes for the Shift key, by the way.
Remember, how you can press the Shift key to create a perfect circle. Well, if you press the Shift key in advance, you're going to go ahead and add to the selection outline. If you want to add a perfect circle, you keep your mouse button down, you release the Shift key, then you press the Shift key again in order to constrain the shape to a perfect circle like so and you keep that Shift key down until you're done. Go ahead and release the mouse button and then go ahead and release the Shift key. You can mix and match those if you want to. You can start by subtracting a shape by pressing the Alt or Option key.
Go ahead and start drawing like so and then release the Alt key or the Option key and press the Shift key now in mid -drag in order to subtract a perfect circle. So you have a lot of different options available to you. It's just a matter of when you press that key. I am going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo those various selections. I just want to start with the base iris selection here. Now I want to get rid of that little bit of eyelid at the top. So I'll press the Shift and Alt keys or Shift and Option on the Mac and draw around the big eye shape. I went ahead and accidentally engaged the auto-scroll there.
That's definitely not something I want to do. So I am going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac, because I can't see what I'm up to. Press Ctrl+0, Command+0 on the Mac in order to zoom out. Let's try that again. I'll go ahead and Shift and Alt or Shift and Option on the Mac and I'll try to be a little more conservative with my movements here. So there is a lesson for you. You don't want to engage that auto- scroll, because it messes up everything. Anyway, once I get the larger marquee where I want it, I'll go ahead and release the mouse button, release the keys as well, and I clip away that little bit of eyelid. I am going to go ahead and zoom in here so I can get a closer look.
Now the next step is going to be to keep the iris colors using the Magic Wand tool but first I want to soften my selection outline and I'll do that by going up to the Select menu, choosing Modify, and then I'll choose the Feather command. I have to wing it, because I can't see a preview, but I am going to set the Feather Radius to 12 pixels and click OK, and that softens the selection outline even though it doesn't seem to have much of an effect on the marching ants. Now I'll go ahead and grab that Magic Wand tool again which I can get by pressing the W key and because I want to keep the intersection of these two selections, the one I'm about to draw and the one I've already drawn, I'll press and hold the Shift and Alt keys or the Shift and Option keys on the Mac.
Notice I get a little X next to my Magic Wand cursor, and now I'll Shift+Alt+Click roughly that same point. That's a Shift+Option+Click on the Mac and I keep just the portion of the iris that I want that was drawn inside of the original selection. Now the next step is to apply the special effect. I am going to start things off by pressing Ctrl+Alt+J or Command+Option+J on the Mac to jump this selection to an independent layer and I'll go ahead and call the layer Iris and click OK and notice we now have the iris separated on an independent layer.
I'll turn off the Background layer so we can see what it looks like. Turn it back on. We are now ready to apply that special effect and I'll show you what that effect looks like in the next exercise.
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