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In this installment of his popular Masking & Compositing series, Photoshop guru Deke McClelland shows how to select hair—down to the individual strands—and composite portraits against new backgrounds. The course covers how to mask out hair, paint in detail, blend hair, merge channels, and match light sources. Deke also explores special techniques for working with both dark and light hair, as well as extracting hair from complex backgrounds.
In this final exercise we're going to take our flame mask and we're going to use it to build a bright shining flame in our final composition. If you're working along with me, make sure the Flame channel is selected here inside the Channels panel and when I went to use this mask, I noticed that it was a little dimmer than I'd like it to be. So I'm going to brighten it up by pressing Ctrl+L or Command+L on the Mac and reducing that white point value to 125. In other words, any luminous level, 125 or brighter will be clipped to white and that basically doubles the brightness of the mask.
Now I'll go ahead and click OK in order to accept that change. Notice, by the way, that because the Flame channel is the second alpha channel it has a keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+7 or Command+7 on the Mac that will be important in just a moment. I'm going to click on RGB to return to the composite image then switch to the layers panel and I need to reassemble my composition by pressing the Alt key or the Option key on a Mac and clicking the horizontal line between the top two layers, and then I'll Shift+Click on the layer mask thumbnail in order to turn it back on.
With the top layer selected go ahead and press Ctrl+Alt+7 or Command+Option+7 to load up that Flame mask, and then we're going to jump to an independent layer by pressing Ctrl+Alt+J or Command+Option+J on the Mac which will bring up the New layer dialog box, let's go ahead and name this layer Flame and change its mode from Normal to Screen, so that we're creating a brightening effect and then click OK and we end up with a much brighter flame as you can see something much more credible I think.
Now notice because we have had a selection active before we press Ctrl+Alt+J or Command+Option+J we end up with the static layer, in other words, it's not layer with the layer mask this time, which gives us less flexibility if we wanted to modify the flame in the future. However, because it's such an incidental item, that's not going to cause this problems. However, I do want to brighten the flame still further, so I'm going to press the Alt key or the Option key on a Mac, click the black white icon at the bottom of the layer panel and choose Brightness/Contrast, this is just going to serve as a dummy layer, we're going to be applying the brightness exclusively using a blend mode.
So let's call this layer X2, because we're essentially doubling the brightness of the flame. Turn on the Use Previously layer to create clipping mask checkbox, so that we're brightening the flame independently of the rest of the image and then go ahead and change the mode from Normal to Screen and click OK and you can see that we have a brighter effect still. I'm going to go ahead and collapse the Adjustments panel so I've a little more room to work. It seems to me that flame is now little bit too bright, so I'll press the 7 key in order to reduce the opacity of that adjustment layer to 70%.
Now I'm going to click on the Flame layer, because this one more thing here thanks to the interaction of this orange flame with a blue background, we end up with these pinks around the flame and I don't like that at all, so I want to add a little additional color to the flame and I'm going to do that using a layer effect I'll drop down to the fx icon and choose Color Overlay very important, by the way, that the Flame layer is selected and not the Adjustment layer and then inside the layer dialog box go ahead and click on the Color swatch and let change that Hue value to 30 degrees for orange and make sure the Saturation and Brightness values are set to a 100% a piece and then click OK.
And now I'm going to change the blend mode from Normal to Overlay and as giving us the best effect. Now we have this extremely orange flame indeed, I'm going to back it off by taking the opacity value down to 50% and that is the final effect folks. I'll go ahead and press the F key a couple of times in order to switch to full screen mode and then zoom out by pressing Ctrl+0 or Command+0 on a Mac and the result is some impeccably masked blonde hair along with this bright shining flame.
Thanks to the wide range of masking and compositing options available to you in Photoshop.
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