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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 these next couple of exercises I am going to show you not only how we can apply a custom wave pattern without getting this wrap-around edges. But I am also going to show you how we can take the very same Displacement Map that we used to distort the image and apply it as a shading tool as well, and that's one of the great things about Displacement Maps is they can be used both as distortion and shading functions. So here is how it's going to work. In this exercise I am going to show you how to -- sort of the some of the preparatory steps we need to take in order to avoid this edge junk and I am also going to show you this really cool trick for creating a rustic edge effect, it's another masking trick. And then in the next exercise we'll actually apply the Displacement map both to distort the image and the to shade it.
First things first, let's go ahead and revert the American flag to its original appearance by pressing the F12 key, and I am working inside of an image called Rough trade.psd found inside the 18_Displace_Maps Folder. I also have open this Displacement Map right here, it's called Wave V&H.psd, it's found inside that dmaps sub-folder. And the ideas is this, I wanted to create a file, a single channel file that will serve to distort both the horizontal and vertical axis of the flag.
And so I came up with this guy right here, and you might be looking and then going wow, that's really cool Deke, how would you make that one? And the plain fact of the matter is I hate to admit this but I wish you hadn't asked that question, because I cannot for the life of me remember. I remember being very proud of myself when I got down with this file. But I didn't take any notes, I just assumed, I just made the natural assumption that I would remember a few days later. And I've only made that assumption about a million times working in Photoshop. And this was another example, I just, I have no memory whatsoever of how I made this file. I am guessing that I created some ellipses and I blurred the heck out of them and used the Offset filter to move the edges to the other side so we had some symmetry going on, but that's not exactly right.
So I suspect alien intervention that's my guess. So we'll be coming back to this file later. For now, you might want to just go ahead and have it open. Let's go back to the Rough trade.psd image. In order to avoid those wrap-around edges we need to increase the canvas size, we need to get the boundaries of the canvas away from the boundaries of the flags, so here is what we are going to do. I am going to bring up the Layers palette so that I can see this background layer here, let's just go ahead and convert the background layer to a floating independent layer by double-clicking on its thumbnail, and then we'll name this layer something like flag, something fairly obvious I think and then we will click OK.
Now I need to add a new background layer, this is kind of a pain in the neck in Photoshop frankly, to make a new background layer. You first click on little Page icon just to make a new layer. Don't do anything special. Don't name it, don't try to apply a blend mode or anything like that. Then go all the way across the screen to the Layer menu, how convenient is that? And choose New, and choose Background From Layer, and that's how it works. So you have to create a new layer first and then you'll apply the Background From Layer command, just weird in my opinion. But anyway that's the way been for aeons and aeons. Then I am going to up to the Image menu, and I am going to choose the Canvas Size command, or you can press Ctrl+Alt+C, Command+Option+C on the Mac. And you make sure that the Relative check box is turned on, make sure this central chicklet is highlighted there and I want you to enter a Width value of 500 pixels, and a Height value of 500 pixels as well, and then click OK in order to expand that canvas outward.
Now, I want to fill the background with kind of a rustic color, so I am going to go up to the Color palette and I'll change the R value to 80, and the Green value, the G value to 70, and that's it. We want the B value to be 0. And then I am going to press Alt+Backspace or Options+Delete to fill the background with this sort of muddy color here, I am going for kind of Grandma Moses sort of rustic effect what have you. All right now, notice this is where the whole creating a rustic edge effect comes into play here. Notice right now that we have this American flag with all of this wonderful canvas texture going on and is very harsh rectangular edge, so very mechanical edge. And we want to give it more of a rustic edge, more of a natural edge. So we are going to try to do in the most automated way possible. Which mean its still is going to look a little bit mechanical but it would look better than it does now. Here is what I want you to do.
Step one: Go ahead and click on the flag layer and add a layer mask by clicking on the little layer mask icon down here at the bottom of the palette. Step two: Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on the thumbnail for the American flag right there in order to load its selection outline. Then go up to the Select menu and choose the Inverse command in order to reverse the selection. And let's fill this area with black. So black is my foreground color. I am going to press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete to fill that area with black. Now it's not going to change anything so far it's just a precaution. All right, press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac in order to deselect the image.
Now I want you to switch to the Paintbrush tool right here. And one of the great things about the Brush tool, if you want to create a Framing effect around any image, you can use a custom brush, you can combine a custom brush along with a path outline, and then Photoshop will basically, automatically trace the path outline with your custom brush. So let's setup the custom brush for start that's here. I am going to bring it the Brushes palette by clicking on little palette icon up here in the Options Bar, or I could press the F5 key. And then notice this list of brushes that ships along with Photoshop here. There is this guy right here, if I hover over its called Oil Pastel Large, I want you to click on it to select it there. And we are going to modify this brush just a little bit here, I am going to make it smaller, I am going to reduce its size to about 42 pixels.
And I am going to add some noise to the brush like so. So go ahead and click on the Noise checkbox right there. And I am also going to twirl the brush around a little bit so I am doing this number in order to rotate it to about 99 degrees as I recall works pretty well for this. And then let's increase the Spacing value to about 25%, that should look pretty nice there, because we want some pretty scrappy edges. Next, we need to create the path outlines. We've made the Custom Brush that's good to go. Make sure you've got your settings set like mine. I'll go ahead and close the Brush palette now.
Now, I want you to go down here and Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on that American flag thumbnail yet again in order to load its selection outline again. And we are going to convert that to a Path outline, we have got to do it. So go over to the Paths palette, go down to the bottom of the Paths palette, see this little guy, Make workpath from selection, click on it. And that's going to create a new workpath right there, new path outline, it also deselects the image by the way. Let's go ahead and name it something like rectangle. And now we have a rectangular path outline.
Next, you still got the Brush tool selected, make sure you do. The foreground color should be black, if it isn't make it so, and then go down to this icon down here at the bottom of the Paths palette, the one that says Stroke path with brush, and click on it. And you will stroke the Path outline with that brush. Now click under the path outline in this empty area at the bottom of the Paths palette in order to get rid of the path outline. So we can see what we've done. And if you zoom in you can see that we've got this roughness going on along the edge, which looks actually pretty darn nice. And then if you decide -- for some reason if you decide it's not enough and you want to do some more work. You can do some manual work too. You could go ahead and revisit the Brushes palette right here.
I could rotate the brush again to a different angle like so. Then I could close the palette and then I could basically kind of drag while pressing the Shift key in order to paint the edge or something along those line, actually that looks pretty bad, that's not what I want. Or you could just go at the edges manually like this, all right. So whatever you want to do you can increase the size of the brush, you can change the Spacing value a little bit what have you. Anyway, I am going to undo that just a little bit of roughness works fine for me I think. I am going to go ahead and switch back to the Marquee tool and zoom out. We are now ready to distort this flag with a Displacement Map and to shaded as well, and we are going to do that in the very next exercise.
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