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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."
Now for the final effect, we are going to reestablish that chin because we can see through the fellow's chin right now and we are going to apply a Channel Mixer effect in order to merge the blue hair into the background so the hair is no longer blue essentially. So that it has more of a rusty appearance. So let's go ahead and open rusty here. He is called Man on metal.psd found inside of the 14 Calculations folder and you can see how we are seeing through his chin, all right that's a function of our layer mask bleeding into his face and we need to eliminate that problem right now by Shift+Clicking on the layer mask icon for the Normal layer. So make sure that the Normal layer is active. Then Shift+Click on this layer mask to deactivate it.
Now I want you to go up to the Select menu and choose the Color Range command, which is you may recall always works from the composite version of the image. Click inside of the fellows face and then Shift+Drag around inside of the face as well. Don't Shift+Drag over the shadow. So leave the shadow details alone but you can gather a fair amount of information from the mid tones if you want to and the highlights inside of the face and it's okay to drift out into the background as well. We will take care of that in a moment. Then raise that Fuzziness value to about a 100, I think look pretty well. So you should see a mask along these lines right here. Let me see if I can gather that bottom portion of this chin and I can, actually this looks pretty good.
Now I will go ahead and click OK in order to accept that selection. Now a drift sat into the background. We don't want that. So we are going to limit this selection using this mask right here. So notice that we can find the intersection of the selection and the mask if we want to and we would do that by the way I just Alt+Clicked or Option+Clicked on this Layer mask thumbnail in order to look at it. We don't have to be looking at this layer mask. We do have to do this. So you press the Ctrl+Shift and Alt keys on the PC or the Command+Shift and Option keys on the Mac and click on that thumbnail and now you are finding the intersection of that layer mask and your selection that you just created. Now let's go ahead and Shift+Click on the layer mask for the Normal layer. Go ahead and click on that layer mask to make it active and notice that we are seeing the layer mask only at this point. I am going to press Ctrl+H or Command+H on the Mac in order to hide the selection outline.
Notice your foreground and background color. In my case the background color is white and I want to fill the selection with white. So I am going to do that by pressing Ctrl+Backspace or Command+Delete on the Mac and we get this space inside of this hair effect almost like to cover of that James Blunt album that one that has You are Beautiful that all the ladies love so much. That one, but it's a cool effect I think. Oh heck, I like this song too. I like a guy telling me I am beautiful what the heck, it's great to know.
Now I am going to go ahead and restore the full color version of the image by clicking on the thumbnail for the image or I could have Alt+Clicked or Option+Clicked on the layer mask thumbnail. This looks pretty darn good. We have indeed restored the chin as you can see so it's no longer translucent. Now what do we do about the hairs? Do we leave them blue which we could by the way. I am going to go ahead and switch to the Full Screen mode and Shift+Tab away the palette. That's not necessarily a bad aesthetic choice. It's completely up to you is what I am saying, if you want to leave that hair blue and merge it with that rust background, I think that works nicely.
But I am going to make a different choice here. I am going to go ahead and switch out the color throughout the hairs and make them more of a rusty color. And I am going to do that by first selecting the hair, so I will press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac to make sure I don't have anything selected. Then while viewing the entire composite image I am going to go back to the Select menu, choose the Color Range command again and I am going to click in the hairs and I am going to Shift+Click and so on. I am going to try to lift as many hair details as possible here because I really want to lift all that blue and I don't want quite that high of a Fuzziness value so I will take it down to 70 and click OK. Now of course that's selects a lot of background details as well. That's not a problem.
If we observe the next step, we are going to channel mix this image a little bit by pressing the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and clicking this Black White icon and choosing the Channel Mixer command because you have Alt or Option down, you force the display of the dialog box. Let's go ahead and call this rusty hair or something along those lines. Make sure to turn on, Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask, very important. Click OK. This will be a clipped layer that's also a masked layer, notice that. We are going to change the Red Channel, which comes up first to 0 Red, Tab Tab 100 Blue, like so. Then let's switch to the Blue Channel and we will change it to a 100 Red Tab Tab 0 Blue, so we are swapping the Red and Blue Channels with each other. Notice we are getting some rusty hair out of the deal.
Now let's switch back to the Green Channel and let's go ahead and add 40% Red and then 60% Green, like so and we end up getting a slightly rusty hair effect anyway. Go and click OK and if you felt like you wanted to make some more details rusty, you can just go ahead and grab the Paint Brush tool, make your cursor larger, make sure it's a nice soft brush of course and we just paint in white. I will go ahead and switch the foreground color to white. We would go ahead and paint it white in the layer mask right there and I am going to take care not to paint into his chin because if I start painting into his chin then I am going to make his chin all Blue as you can see. Actually this isn't a bad effect either, you could go ahead and make the guy sort of this bluish color if you want as well.
All right but anyway, I am actually pretty happy with my original sort of version of this hair effect. I just paint in a few different hairs here and there throughout. And now I am going to go ahead and Shift+Tab away my palettes and let's go ahead and zoom in on the effect at this point. I am going to go ahead and switch to the Full Screen mode with a black background, Tab away my palettes entirely and zoom in and notice how great that hair looks against this background.
The edges are just absolutely fantastic and it looks really great and this is the combination of Multiply working with the layer mask. So we do have the layer mask turned on in this case. Now we even have a little bit of a faint hair at top, you can just barely see it and it's just as faint as it is in the original image. So that's fantastic, these hairs are also faint. They just look absolutely perfect. We have got a little bit of rough transition associated with that blue, but as I say if you are worried about that you could either try to do a better job of selecting the blue in the first place using the Color Range command or let's just go ahead and Shift+Click on that layer mask thumbnail in order to turn it off, so that we have a blue flesh. I actually think that looks really stellar.
It compliments the rusty background very nicely and that is the final version of our effect. Thanks to having crafted an initial layer mask so many exercises ago using the Calculations command and then working through those many new varied compositing option here inside Photoshop.
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