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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."
In this exercise, I am going to show you how to take a path outline that you have created here inside the Paths palette and convert it to a selection outline so that you can actually use it to select an image. I am working inside of this image Ready to mask.psd its catchup file for those of you who might just be joining me or want to see what in the world I created and it's found inside of the 15_Paths folder. Make sure that your Paths palette is up on screen and then you have selected the Paths that's called free-form polygon right here, so that you can see the Path outline. Now there is a few different ways to convert a path outline to a selection. One way, the sort of you know, the chumps way because it takes choosing a command and all that it has is just to go over here to the Paths palette menu and choose the Make Selection command. You have down something selected, you have to have a path selected to invoke this command and then it brings up the dialog box it says hey, would you like to feather this selection as you are creating it which of course is no. you can always feather it later if you want to.
And do you want to Anti-alias it? Presumably you would like have to a little bit of Anti-aliasing there because this is real Anti-aliasing by the way. This is the real deal not the faker either we give with the Magic Wand tool for example and then we can create a New Selection that's our only option because we don't have a selection outline going right now and then you click OK and you would get a selection outline but as I say that's, why would you do that when there is other options available to you ? I will go ahead and press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z to bring to back my path outline and get rid of the selection.
Here is another way to convert a path through a selection. You go down to a bottom of the Paths palette and you will notice that this is little icon here that looks like a dotted circle and it says Load path as a selection and that's what it does. If you click on it then you go ahead and convert the path outline to a selection outline just like that and it goes ahead and once again and hides the Path outline from view, so that's method number two. But here is the method I prefer. I am going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo that modification. Here is my favorite method, you just go ahead and press the Ctrl key on the PC or the Command key on the Mac and click on the free-form polygon thumbnail there to convert to it to a selection outline and a reason that I am partial to that method not that's an easier than going down here to the icon. I am partial to that method because it's just like it is when you are converting a channel to a selection outline or a layer transparency mask to selection outline. So it's something we are all already familiar with.
You can use it here too. All right, so we now have a selection outline version of this path outline. So that means we can go to Layers palette and I could do, for example, I could jump it if I wanted to I could press Ctrl+Alt+J or Command+Option+J on the Mac so that I can name this layer and I can call it face only and I could click OK and notice I have just jumped the face and only the face because I had a selection outline going. I can now turn off the Profile layer and I would see that I have managed to mask her face outline and I have done a pretty good job.
As I say it's not super accurate if you start zooming in there you are going to find some weired edges going on but it's darn accurate; it's better than what I can get using say the Lasso tool and it's better than some of the masking methods that are available to me. it's not best, it's not the best I can do and we will see better way to work when we start adding smooth points to our Paths, but that's how you do it, that's how you make a selection outline convert a path to a selection outline inside Photoshop. I am going to undo the addition of that new layer right there because I am going to show you a better way to work. We are going to go and convert this path to a mask to layer mask and also a vector mask as you will see in the next exercise.
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