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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 will show you how to create a synthetic rainbow effect inside of Photoshop. one that actually looks pretty darn good as you can see here inside of this final version of the composition. I've saved my changes as More subtle highlights.psd found inside the 06_color_range folder. Now, the first thing I am going to do is click on the Background layer to make it active and we need to create a new layer to hold our rainbow. So press Ctrl+Shift+N or Command+Shift+N on the Mac. Name the layer rainbow and then click OK.
Now, I need to draw a rectangle, and fill it with a rainbow gradient, and I am going to do that by dialing in some very specific values for my Rectangular Marquee tool. So go ahead and select the Rectangular Marquee, change the Style to Fixed Size, and the values I came up with were 1840 for the Width because that's the entire width of this particular image and then 187 for the Height. Now, you don't have to follow these exact values. But again, these are the values required to get the final effect. So I will go ahead and enter those values and then just click with the tool in order to create that selection outline.
Then, I will go back up to Style, and change it back to Normal. Next, drop down to the Gradient tool which you can get by pressing the G key and I want you to click the down-pointing arrowhead up here in the options bar next to the Gradient fountain. Now, Photoshop ships with the kind of Rainbow Gradient that's called Transparent Rainbow, but it doesn't include orange and the reds are too squished and it also includes cyan, which is just bizarre. There is no cyan in any rainbow I've seen. Go ahead and click the right-pointing arrowhead, and load a gradient that I've created for you by choosing the Low Gradients command, and you will find it there in the 06_color_range folder, it's called Rainbow colors.grd.
Go ahead and load it on up and these are them right there. I want you to click on rainbow colors in order to select it. Now, if you want to get a sense of what's going on with this gradient, just in case you don't have access to this file, I will click on the gradient fountain to bring up the Gradient Editor dialog box and you can see that I added orange at this location. I also moved the red and yellow farther apart from each other and I took down the cyan quite a bit, so it's not nearl-y so bright. I also went ahead and added a violet Color Stop, just to give you a sense of what's going on there.
I'm going to go ahead and cancel out because I don't want to make any changes and then drag from the top of the selection to the bottom while pressing the Shift key in order to fill that selection with that Rainbow Gradient. Now, you can press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac in order to deselect the image. Then, I want to convert the rainbow to a Smart Object. We want a Smart Object because that way we can make changes to our transformation anytime we like, and since this is such a radical transformation, and if you were wandering through this file trying to figure it out on your own, you would definitely want that flexibility.
With the layer selected, go up to Layers panel flyout menu and choose Convert to Smart Object, or press Ctrl+ Comma, Command+Comma on the Mac; Command+Shift+Drag this rainbow down a little bit, so that I have a little more headroom here to work. That doesn't look anything like a rainbow which is why we need to warp it. So I am going to switch back to the Rectangular Marquee tool, and then I will go up to the Edit menu, and choose a Free Transform command. I will press Ctrl+T, or Command+T on the Mac, click on that Warp icon in order to enter the Warp mode, change the Warp Style here from Constant to Arc, change the Bend value to 90% and what that does is it creates a full half-circle, filled with that rainbow pattern.
Then, I want you to click on that Warp icon again to exit the Warp mode. You're still inside the Free Transform mode however. Go ahead and click the Link icon between the W and H values and change either value to 70% in order to reduce the size of the rainbow, and then I drag the rainbow down to about here, but I came up with some specific positioning values just so that we get this exactly right. I will click the upper-left Reference point in that tiny little Reference Point Matrix.
I'll change the X value to 450, and then I will tab over to the Y value and change it to 98 and then press the Enter key, or the Return key on the Mac a couple of times in order to accept that modification. All right. That's a great rainbow. It's a little garish however, a little too cartoony which is why I will show you how to mask the rainbow, and blend it into the scene in the next and final exercise.
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