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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 we are going take this custom black and white mix of this image from Alexander Heathman. And by the way if you are just joining me, once again I have got a catchup document for you. It's called B&WS.psd, which stands for Black and White Smushing, because this guy is smushing this woman right here, and it's found inside the 13 Channel Mix folder. We are going to be taking this custom black and white mix, and we are going to be imbuing it, actually we are going to be enhancing the contrast just a little bit. And then we are going to be imbuing the image with a little bit of color to create a professional quality Sepia tone. So subtlety is the game at this point.
All right, so let's bring up the Layers palette here. We've got this B&W Layer which is a Channel Mixer adjustment layer. Underneath if we were to turn it off, we have available to us the original RGB image, in case we ever want to come back to it, it's there. So let's go ahead and turn B&W back on. Now I want to add a little bit of contrast as I was telling you, and I am going to do that using a Curves adjustment layer. So I am going to press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, click the Black White icon and choose Curves. Then I will ahead and name this layer contrast since we are going to add some contrast at this point and I'll click OK in order to bring up the Curves dialog box.
And I am going to darken the darks actually -- well you know what, I am just going to anchor the darks actually. I am just going to click at this point right here, at this lower quadrant in order to set a quarter point on the curve line. And you can see that both the output and the input levels are set to 64 at this point, at least for me, you can go your own way if you want to of course. Then I am going to click at this 3 quarter point up here and I am going to raise the highlights, I am going to increase them. Now notice here inside the Histogram if you have the Histogram palette up on-screen, you'll see that you are not in any way, shape or form clipping any highlights at this point, because the white point is still locked down in the upper right-hand corner. And if you want to make sure that's the case you can of course update that Histogram. Now you will see some breaks inside of the Histogram, that's okay. That's not the best news on earth but it's as good as we are going to do inside of this image, we are going to create some breaks at various points. So that's not the end of the world is basically what it comes down to. Something to bear in mind but not a horrible thing entirely.
And actually that's pretty good. We could set a half point here. We can set a mid-point inside of the graph as well and drag it down slightly if we want to. So your curves should have more or less this shape right here in order to just elevate the highlights a little bit more and some contrast to the image. Then I'll go ahead and click OK in order to accept that Contrast layer. So this is what the image looks like without that elevated contrast. This is what the image looks like with the elevated contrast. I am just offering this technique this Curves adjustment layer by way of an example of another way to add contrast to the image. So you don't have to do all of the work in other words with that Channel Mixer function.
The next step is to add a little bit of color to the image. And I am going to do that by once again pressing the Alt or Option key, clicking in this Black and White icon and choosing Solid Color. And we'll call this new layer, because I had the Alt or Option key down, we will call this new layer sepia, and then click OK. And that will bring up the Solid Color dialog box right here, the Color Picker dialog boxes as it's known. I want you to dial in this values, a Hue of 30% which is orange, and a Saturation value of 45% which is a little bit saturated. It's almost half saturated, and a little less than half. And then let's take the Brightness value very high indeed up to 80%.
Now that's going to give us a very light sort of low saturation orange. But that's what we want, because we are going to multiple this color into the image. So we want to start light. Go ahead and click OK in order to accept that new layer. Now I want you to change the blend mode for the layer from Normal to Multiply right here. And that's going to go ahead and multiply sepia throughout the image. Now I just want to affect the darkest colors inside the image. So I want to imbue the shadows with sepia. I also want to add a little bit of sepia to the mid-tones, but I don't want to affect the highlights at all. And so I am going to add a Density Mask. Turns out we've already got a Density Mask inside of this image. Let's go ahead and collapse the Histogram palette so that we can see it, it's down here. We've got a Density Mask already assigned to the High Pass Filter.
Now what I would like to be able to do is just drag that Density Mask on to the layer at this point, or Alt+Drag it or Option+Drag it in order to clone it, but you can't do that. You can't move a mask from a filter on to a layer. I don't know why, but Photoshop doesn't let you do it. I think it's an over side quite frankly. So here is what we have to do instead. Go ahead and Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on the Mac on that Filter Mask right there in order to load it as a selection outline. Then with the sepia layer selected, go down to the bottom of the Layers palette and click on this circle on the Rectangle icon right there in order to convert the selection to a mask.
So we have identical Density Masks assigned to the High Pass Filter and to the sepia layer. And this is the result that we get right there. A very nice subtle sepia tone, thanks to this combination of the Curves adjustment layer, and of course that's Solid Color Dynamic Fill layer here inside of Photoshop.
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