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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.
All right, so far we have this warm and colorful variation on the toucan that we've assembled in a Multi-Channel mode, but we ultimately want it to look like this. So we still have some work left ahead of us. Notice that this final version of the image is an RGB file. If you're following along with me, you want to make sure that you have that original image Baseline toucan.psd open and waiting for you on screen. And for what it's worth, I've gone ahead and saved out my progress as Multichannel image.psd. All right! So far, we've got this image that says it has Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black channels, but notice that there is no composite view at the top of the stack.
And if you switch over to Layers panel, you're not going to see a very good preview of the image. In fact, we're just seeing the contents of the selected channel, which happens to be cyan, and therefore, the thumbnail is entirely white. What we need to do is assign some sort of meaning to this image. Now, we can't just convert the image back to RGB, because I will go back to the Channels panel for a moment. What Photoshop will do is it will convert the Cyan Channel back to Red, Magenta back to Green, Yellow back to Blue, and then we'll have this channel called Black, that's just sort of hanging off as a spot color.
We need to tell Photoshop, this is a CMYK image, by going up to the Image menu, choosing mode, and then choosing CMYK Color. Photoshop will give me that same message about how I am going to convert to that US Web Coated profile. I will just go ahead and click OK to let it happen and now notice that we have a composite view of the image called CMYK at the top of the Channels panel. Also, over here in the Layers panel, we can see an actual thumbnail of the image. You may have also noticed a slight color shift on screen. If I press Ctrl+Z, or Command+Z on the Mac, this is the before version of the image in a Multichannel mode.
If I press Ctrl or Command+Z again, this is the after version of the image. It brightened up slightly, not because Photoshop did anything to the channels, the channels are exactly the way they were before. So converting in and out of the Multichannel mode is altogether nondestructive. What's happened is we're now seeing a color -managed display of our image. All right! Now we're safe to convert the image back to RGB. So go up to the Image menu, choose mode, and choose RGB Color, and you will go ahead and retain the appearance of the image even though Photoshop this time has applied the so-called Destructive Modification and rewritten the pixels inside the image to generate Red, Green, and Blue Channels. All right! I will switch back to the RGB composite again. All right! Now, let's say I want to restore that original version of the image, and by that I mean, I will go up to the Window menu and choose the History command in order to bring up the History panel.
If I click on the very first snapshot at the top of the list that reads Untitled followed by a number, then I will see that original full-color photograph. That's the one that I want to go ahead and reinstate on an independent layer. So I'll once again click on that last state, RGB Color, go ahead and hide the History panel, switch back to the Layers panel, and press Ctrl+Shift+N or Command+Shift+N on the Mac in order to create a new layer, and we'll call this layer original, and click OK. Now, I want to fill this layer with the History state.
So I would check my History panel to make sure that I have a little brush in front of that snapshot, that tells me that the original snapshot is the source state for this next operation, and here's what you do. You go up to the Edit menu, you choose the Fill command, and you set the Use option up here at the top of the dialog box to History, and then click OK. I am going to click Cancel, because I am going to show you this awesome keyboard shortcut. Most people don't know about this one. You may well know it, maybe not, I don't know, but I am going to tell you anyway. If you press Ctrl+Alt+Backspace or Command+Option+Delete on the Mac, then you'll go ahead and fill the current layer with that History State, and what it means is we've got the original image back, so everything we've done has been a nondestructive modification, even though we've gone in and out of three different modes.
Then, go up to the Blend mode popup menu, there in the top-left corner of the Layers panel, and change the Blend mode to Saturation. Now, we'll go ahead and take the saturation values from the original layer and blend them with the Hue and Luminance values of the background layer, and as a result, we get a higher saturation image. This is the Multichannel variation there. Watch this area inside of the bird's eye, when I turn this original layer back on, it's so much brighter. The colors in general are just so awesome in my opinion. All right! Now, I'm going to switch back to that Baseline toucan.psd image and I'll click on that grad layer to select it and then right-click on an empty portion of that layer, that is, not on either of the thumbnails or on the layer name, and choose Duplicate layer, and I'll change the Document option to Multichannel image, which is my image in progress and I'll click OK. All right! Now, let's switch back to that image, and you'll see that I've gone ahead and added back in that blue to violent background, and we end up with this final effect.
As I say, this isn't the kind of thing that you're going to see people do on a regular basis. But multichannel tricks, well, a little bit wacky, can be an awful lot of fun even though multichannel is really just designed to hold desperate masks. All right! So consider that your introduction to the Channels panel. In the next chapter, we'll take our first look at creating masks.
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