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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, we are going to start the process of restoring the details inside the model's face and head, and we're going to do so by creating an alternate, and more aggressive mask. That is, we're going to choke away more of the hair, and more of the background. I've saved my progress, where the background image is concerned, as Multiplied model.psd, found inside the 08_everyday folder. I've also saved my changes to the original model file as layer with mask.psd, also inside that same folder.
So however you're working along with me, go ahead and return to that original model file, and let's get rid of the layer mask here inside the Layers panel by right-clicking on that mask thumbnail, and choosing Delete Layer Mask, because it's already served its purpose, right? We've already moved that layer, along with its layer mask, into the base composition, and so everything is ready and waiting for us, completely intact. And eventually, what we're going to need to do is bring this layer over with a new layer mask, so we have to start with the clean slate. All right! Now switch over to the Channels panel, and this time we want to mask away more of the bright details.
And so, instead of starting with the channel that provides us the ultimate degree of contrast, which is Blue, we're going to start instead with the channel of provides us with the ultimate degree of detail, which is Green. So go ahead and grab that Green channel, and drag it and drop it onto that Page icon at the bottom of the Channels panel in order to create a copy of it. And, of course, we still need her to be bright, and the background to be dark, so go up to the Image menu, choose the Adjustments command, and then choose Invert, or press Control+I; Command+I on the Mac.
You can see that we end up with a darker version of the interior of the model this time around. In other words, we're going to end up with a darker mask that chokes inward into the hair and other edge details. All right! Now let's increase the Contrast. In my case, I'm just going to press Control+L, Command+L on the Mac, to bring up the Levels panel. And I'm going to take this black point value up extremely high to 140, and notice how that is encroaching on the details inside the model like crazy.
So we need to go ahead and compensate with a white point value, and I'm going to take it down to 200. So we've got a black point value of 140. We are not changing the gamma value; it's 1. And we have white point value of 200. Click OK in order to accept that modification. Now, she's looking pretty gruesome, but that's okay. We're going to be painting away an awful lot of details inside of the model's face, but let's take a moment to jot down our progress. I'm going to double-click on the Channel name, and change it to G invert, and this time the values are 140/1/200.
Again, that way I know what I did, and if I have to go back and make some modifications, I can duplicate the Green channel, invert it, and then apply, for example, some slightly different Levels values. Anyway, I happen to know this is going to work out well. Now, the next step is to set in painting inside the image, but because that's a manual modification, a destructive one as well, let's go ahead and create a copy of this channel, and I did so by dragging our newest alpha channel, and dropping it onto the Page icon. And I'm going to go ahead and call this one overlay painting, because that's the technique we're going to use this time around. And I'll press the B key in order to switch to the Brush tool.
This time the background is already dark enough. What we need to do is brighten the foreground, and so I'm going to press the D key in order to reinstate white as the foreground color. Right-click inside the image window to make sure I have a big huge brush with 0% Hardness; all looks good. And I'm going to change that mode from Soft Light, to Overlay. And, by the way, that mode has a fairly easy shortcut to remember. I'm going to review these very quickly here. If you press Shift+Alt+N, or Shift+Option +N on the Mac, you switch to the Normal mode. If you press Shift+Alt+O, or Shift+ Option+O on the Mac, then you switch to the Overlay mode. And, just so as you know, if you press Shift+Alt+F, or Shift+Option+F on the Mac, you switch to Soft Light.
So think of the F at the end of the word Soft. All right! So those are the shortcuts you need to know when you're painting inside of a mask. I'm going to press Shift+Alt+O, or Shift+ Option+O, to switch back to the Overlay mode, and then I'm going to paint fairly aggressively here inside this image. And I'm going to back out, too, by pressing Control+Minus; Command+Minus on the Mac. So notice I just applied one brushstroke all over the image, actually. I just painted all over her face, and her hair, and her neck, and so forth. I'm going to do it again, because we didn't get far enough that time around.
And I might even go at it with a smaller brush. So I'll press the left bracket key a few times, and revisit these details around her shoulders, and that's going to do quite the number on the contrast. Notice that I'm painting all over the place, actually. That is going to increase the contrast along the edges. In other words, we're going to get some pretty jagged transitions, as you can see here. Very, very ratty indeed. That's okay. We're going to end up restoring those details in a subsequent exercise. But for now, I want you to reduce the size of your cursor a little bit, bring up of the Brushes panel, increase the hardness to 100%, because now we need to go ahead and paint some details away using the Normal mode.
Press the Enter key a couple of times, the Return key a couple of times on the Mac, in order to hide that panel. Press Shift+Alt+N, or Shift+Option+N on the Mac, to restore the Brush mode to Normal, and then I'm going to go ahead and paint, like so, inside this lower region of her shoulder. I'm trying to stay in from the edge, as you may notice. So I'm just sort of painting along this edge a little bit. We're going to get some sharp transitions right there, as you can see. If you don't want those, and actually they are a little bit nasty, then you can undo your modifications and just paint sort of slightly lower.
No matter what, you're going to get some harsh transitions in that region. As I was mentioning, that doesn't really matter, because we're going to have to restore her necks, and cheeks, and shoulders using a third layer, as you'll see in an upcoming exercise. All right! I'm going to click to get rid of that little bit of the chin over there, then I'll paint up into this region. That little thing needs to go away. So let's click, like so. So the more you can click instead of drag, especially along the edges, the better your outcome is going to be. All right! This little area we want to leave in place, so I'm not painting; I'm just showing it to you.
Now I'll go ahead and zoom out, increase the size of my cursor like crazy, and then paint in these big details that I want to get rid of, like so. And we end up with this very aggressive, very jagged mask. Now this would not work if it were the only mask that we're employing to create the composition, but because it's a support mask, it's going to work out brilliantly, as we'll see in the very next exercise.
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