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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 generate a shadow from the shark, so we cast the shadow onto the grass below. I've saved my progress as Deeper and more colorful.psd found inside the 06_color_range folder. The first step is to go ahead and lift the outline of the shark and we do that by Ctrl+Clicking or Command+Clicking on that layer Mask thumbnail for the shark layer and that will go ahead and give us access to the Selection Outline which we'll need to create the shadow. Now, go up to the Select menu, and choose Transform Selection and the idea is we want to go ahead and flip the selection and scale it.
So I'm going to drag this top handle all the way downward beyond the bottom handle like so, and then go up to the options bar, notice that the Height value has changed to some negative value. I want you to change it to exactly -35 %, and press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac a couple of times in order to accept that modification. All right. Let's go ahead and scroll down and let's scoot the Selection Outline downward by pressing Shift+Down-arrow 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 times in a row, so that, that top fin is scooted slightly outside into the pasteboard. All right.
Now, we need a new layer. So click on the background layer to make it active and then press the Alt or Option key and click on that Black/ White icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Solid Color from the top of the list, and we're going to go ahead and call this layer shadow obviously, and then click OK. That will bring up the Color Picker dialog box. It should be dialed in to black automatically, which means the HSB values should all be set to 0. Then, go ahead and click OK. Now, the advantage to working with the solid color layer is that our selection is automatically converted to a layer Mask, and then we can go ahead and modify that layer Mask parametrically from the Masks panel.
We're going to do that, but first, let's reduce that Opacity value to 35%. Then, go up to the Window menu, and choose the Mask command in order to bring up the Masks panel. Now, all the options are dimmed and that's because layer Mask is not currently selected. So go ahead and click on that layer Mask thumbnail to make it active, and then I want you to crank up the Feather value to 30, and that is as I say a parametric modification, so we could always decide to change our mind later. But, 30 is the value I'm looking for, so that's what I'll accept.
Then, I'll go ahead and collapse the Mask panel and that's all there is to that one. So I'll go ahead and center the zoom by pressing Ctrl+0, Command+0 on the Mac. So this is what the image looked like before without the shadow, and this is what it looks like now. Not a true 3D effect, in other words, the shark isn't really casting the shadow mathematically perfectly, but it creates an awfully good look. In the next exercise, I'll show you how to mask a layer effect, so we get rid of those obnoxious highlights in the tail and elsewhere across the top of the shark.
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