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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."
All right, we are now ready to take the blue hair dude and move him into a background. So the images I want you to open, you could be working with your own Superhero hair document and have created the mask yourself, which, of course, I encourage. I am so happy, you have done that; or you can go ahead and catch up with me and open this document. It's called our hero masked.tif. If indeed, this guy is still our hero, we have been with him an awfull long time here and you know that, "Familiarity breeds contempt". We want to take him and move him into this image, which is called Painted metal.psd and this one comes to us from photographer, Daniel Brunner, also with iStockphoto.com from the good old USA. So here is what I want you to do.
Let's go back to Our hero masked.tif. Let's bring up the palettes here, the Channels palette, specifically. Actually, let's switch, first we are going to switch over to the Layers palette. I want to go ahead and convert this guy to an independent layer and assign a layer mask, so that we have as much flexibility as possible when we move him into this other image. So double-click on the layer and let's call him something, like Somewhat tarnished or something along those lines, you can call it anything you want; Layer 0 is just fine, and click OK. Then I am going to go back to the Channels palette and I am going to load my channel. Now in my case, my final mask is called, Final mask here and it's the fifth channel but you could also work with masker, which is that version of the mask I created a year ago, when I first came up with this sample document here.
Again, I encourage you to use your own mask, if you have got it. Use them, if I you have got them. All right, but I am going to go with the new and improved Final mask here, that's my most recent version. So I am Ctrl+Clicking on Final mask or Command+Clicking on the Final mask thumbnail on the Mac. Then I will go back to the RGB composite image. So let's go back to the Layers palette, let's click on the layer mask icon down here in order to add a layer mask. All right, so far so good. So we have masked the guy. Now let's Ctrl+Drag him into his new home; that would be a Command+Drag on the Mac. There is no need to press the Shift key because these images are not of the same size. In fact, he is much too big to fit his new home. So I am going to press the F key, a couple of times, to switch to the Full Screen view and then make sure that the image and the mask are linked together. So you will see a little chain icon, that's good.
Now Ctrl+Drag the guy down and to the right, a little bit, so that he snaps into position. The top left corner of his head should snap to the top left corner of our background image. In order for that to happen, you can confirm that under the View menu that Snap is turned on, which it should be, and that Snap To is set to Document Bounds. You should feel the snap, you should feel go clink, clink; and feel his, the top left corner was held snapped into alignment with the top left corner of the image.
All right, now I am going to press Ctrl+T or Command+T on the Mac to enter the Free Transform mode. Go up to the Options bar and click the top left corner in order to anchor that down, then turn on the link icon between W and H and change the W value or the H value, doesn't matter anymore because they are linked together to 72%. Then press the Enter key, a couple of times, in order to scale that guy. Now if you wanted to be really careful, you can go ahead and covert him first to a smart object and then apply the transformation. That way, you are going to get a non-destructive transformation and you can change your mind in the future. If you do that though, you are going to have to pull your mask out of the equation because we need that mask outside of the smart object.
So if you just want to work along with me, just do what I did or find the way we are. We will next, set about compositing the sky into his new home. You can see that we have got some outrageous, radical, wonderful edges. These hairs just look totally dynamite but they do have a little bit of edge fringing, you may notice the blue around the hairs; that's to be expected. So we are going to composite the hair in to the new background, so it looks just absolutely at home against the rusty metal, starting in the next exercise.
We have only got two more to go, peeps, and it's going to be great.
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