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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.
Now, when we last left off, as you may recall, the model's hair was looking absolutely great; her face looks great as well. But the bottom portions of her jaw, and along her neckline, and into her shoulders looks absolutely wretched. And so what we need to do is create a third layer of the model in which we mask her flesh tones away from her hair. This time around we can go ahead and create the mask directly inside of our composition at hand. Now, you may recall that the Channels panel is always seeing the composite view of the image.
So what I need you to do, if you are working along with me, is press the Shift key and click the Layer Mask thumbnail for the M2 R10 layer. And that'll go ahead and temporarily turn that layer mask off, so that we are revealing the original model. Now switch over to the Channels panel. We need to find the channel that does the best job of distinguishing the flesh tones from the hair this time around. That's not going to be the Blue Channel, because both the flesh tones and the hair are very dark. If we switch to the Green Channel, we will see those flesh tones brighten up, and while the hair brightens up just little bit, not so much. We've got a lot of contrast going on.
And then you switch to the Red Channel, and that's it. We have got some very bright flesh tones. We still have some dark hair. So that's the channel we are going to work from this time around. Go ahead and drag that Red Channel, and drop it on to the little Page icon. And of course, the model needs to be bright, and the background needs to be dark, so press Control+I, or Command+I on a Mac, to invert the image, and make that hair in particular very bright. And now let's increase the contrast by pressing Control+L, or Command+L on a Mac, and I'm going to take that black point value up to 100, and I will reduce the white point value to 200.
And these are some values that I just came up with through trial and error. I will click OK. Of course, I want to rename my layer, so I remember what in the world I did. So I will call it R invert 100/1/200, and press the Enter key, or the Return key on a Mac. All right, now we need to go in and selectively enhance the contrast. We need to darken the luminance levels inside of her skin tones, and brighten those inside of her hair. And you may feel like that's exactly the opposite of what we want to do, because after all, don't we want it somehow keep her flesh tones in this third layer, and make the hair go away? Well, yes, but this is going to get us to that goal, because what we are going to do is we are going to select the hair, and we are going to make it black. You'll see, but this is the approach that we are ultimately going to take.
So however you get there, by the way, however you distinguish the hair and the flesh tones doesn't really matter. Whether you make one white, and the other black; doesn't really matter what specific approach you take as long as you get them to be the opposite of each other. And we are going to do that using the Brush tool. So press the B key in order to get that brush. I am going to right-click inside the image window. I am going to take that Size value up to the usual 1000 pixels, where this image is concerned. Take the Hardness value down to 0%; press the Enter key a couple of times in order to accept that change. Press Shift+Alt+O, or Shift+Option+O on a Mac, to switch to the Overlay Blend mode.
I am going to back out a little bit here. We are going to start things off by painting with black. So black is my foreground color, and I am going to go ahead and paint inside of her face. Now, you are going to a big number on that face, incidentally. We are not really worried about maintaining smooth transitions this time around. If things start getting a little jagged, that's okay. I am going to take another swing at her neck, and then her chin, like so. Reduce the size of the cursor by pressing the left bracket key, and paint into that eye; maybe paint into the left eye as well, although ultimately we are not going to be able to separate that left eye nearly as successfully as the right.
Now increase the size of your cursor, and press the X key so that we are painting with white, and we want to make that hair as bright as possible. So we are looking for really sudden transitions, as you can see. That looks pretty good to me. So I took about four swipes at it. Let's go ahead and zoom in a couple of clicks here. Reduce the size of the cursor; increase the Hardness. And probably the easiest way to do that in this case is to right- click inside the image window, and take that Hardness value up to 100%, then press Shift+Alt+N, or Shift+Option+N on a Mac, to reinstate the Normal Blend mode up here in the Options bar.
And I am going to decrease the size of my cursor, press the X key so we were painting with black, paint that right eye away, like so. Then paint those remaining portions of her mouth. I think that's what's going on there. And the bottom of her chin; we want that to go away too. Believe it or not, this wretched looking mask is going to end up doing it for us. So don't worry about the left-hand eye. We can't really distinguish it very well. You could try to do this kind of number where you kind of paint it away, but no matter what, you are going to end up with the little bit of harsh edge, so why even bother? I am going to press Control+Z, Command +Z on the Mac, to undo that change.
I might get rid of that a little bit there, and you could get in to the top portion of that eye, like so, but I am telling you right now, it's not really worth the effort. We are going to get some very nice results out of what we have so far. All right, so we have now created a highly accurate hair mask, but you know what suddenly occurs to me? I was telling you how rigorous I like to be where my channels are concerned. I like to go ahead and create a duplicate of the channel before I start brushing inside of it, and I totally forgot to do that this time around.
If you're interested, I am going to show you how to resolve that problem, so we have two different alpha channels for this mask: one that represents R invert 100/1/200, and the other that represents our brush modifications, in the very next exercise. If that doesn't interest you, then skip to the exercise after that, in which I will show you how to employ this hair mask in order to regain the skin tones inside the model.
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