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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 to add a dramatic sky to this image. We are going to deepen and darken the sky and we are going to mask it. Actually, it is a very simple masking procedure that we are going to apply, but it is also very much a custom mask. We are not going to be working from any of the channels inside of the image. You will see how easily it comes together and this is a technique you can apply to your own images as well. The name of this particular image is called Lovely young radicals. It is found inside of the 13 Channel Mix folder and I am calling it Lovely young radicals because now at this point, I no longer imagine them to be working for a major corporation. To me now, it looks like they just toppled a government at some place and they are on the run.
All right so, let's add a sky. This is -- no matter how you cut it, no matter what the back story is, I think we have got a beautiful black and white photograph here, just a wonderful high impact piece. All right, so let's bring back the Layers palette and in order to create the sky layer I want you to go ahead and click on this Infrared layer right here. I will go ahead and drag open the palette a little bit so you can see its name, so there it is, the Infrared layer because we are going to put this new layer in front of the Infrared. It is another Channel Mixer layer so go ahead and press and Hold the Alt Key or the Option key on the Mac. Click that black white icon and choose the Channel Mixer command and I am going to call this one deep sky and I am going to click OK and I want you to turn on the Monochrome checkbox as before -- as always actually inside of this project and the values that I want to enter, I am going go ahead and take the Blue value down to -60 here in order to really sink it because we want to make those blues in the sky very dark. So we are using the sky to darken itself essentially by taking the blues negative.
And then we will go ahead and raise the red value to 80 just in order to offset, there is really not too much sky action going on in the red channel so you can see it makes them lighter, it makes the flush tones lighter but it leaves that sky and dark and then we will take the green value actually 40% is exactly what I want. So we want 80, 40 and -60. Technically, it's another infrared effect but we really going forward to a deep sky. And then we will click OK in order to accept that modification. Now I just wanted to affect the sky. Notice that it is effecting their flush tones as well as everything else. Because the values don't add up to a 100% at this point. They only add up to 60% so we are doing a lot of darkening in the image. So here is what I want you to do. I want you to Alt+Click on the Layer mask icon down at the bottom of the Layers palette. That would be an Option+Click on the Mac. In order to fill that entire layer mask with black and now we are going to paint in the sky and we are going to do that using the Gradient tool. I want you to go ahead and grab the Gradient tool here inside the toolbox and then make sure that your options are set up like mine that is reverse is off, Opacity 100%, mode Normal, we are working with a Linear gradient and you should see Foreground to Transparent up here in this fountain.
And I am going to press the D key so that the foreground color is white so we are going from white to transparency here. I am going to Shift+Tab away my palette so I am going to drag, actually I am going to switch to the full screen mode, so I can move my image a little. I am going to move it down and I am going to drag Westley with the gradient tool so from outside the image down into the image like so. So I started up here and the pace board as it were. And then I will drag down a little bit here and I will drag over here as well. So you are going to be dragging multiple times with the gradient tool in order to add this sky and notice I will drag this direction too, little bit into her face. You can go ahead and drag into their faces if you want to a little bit. So start at the outside, drag in and notice this, we are doing this, we are getting this wonderful sort of rays of God lighting around her head which looks really great.
So that is actually accomplished by the original image itself. It already has this sort of straighted cloud patterns going on there so that is kind of nice. And drag in over here a little bit may be dragged behind his head as well. Now at this point I have gone ahead and added some darkness back inside of their flush tones. I want to paint that away. So I am going to go ahead and grab my paintbrush tool right here. And I am going to go with a very large brush like so. I want the hardness to be about 50% actually somewhere in the neighborhood you don't have to get as exactly right. Then go ahead and switch your foreground and background color so that the foreground color is black. Actually I make my brush a little smaller and then just paint inside of your models, inside of their faces.
Now in my case it didn't really do much to her because again, it really encroached upon her very much. But this guy needs a little help. I should think unless I have gotten very good at making this sky effect here because I have done it a few times and then I will go ahead and paint inside of his shoulders as well. So you don't have to do great job of painting. I am not asking you to exactly follow the contours of these people's heads. Just go ahead and re-establish the highlights and let's go ahead and bring back up the layers palette and take a look at the layer mask that I have applied and it looks pretty garbagy. Just go ahead and Option+Click on that layers mask icon or Alt+Click on the PC. And it just look like a big whole lump really it doesn't look like much but it does a great job of bringing the sky region in, the dark sky in around the perimeter of the image.
So it does the job we are looking forward to do. So just remember that if you want to go with the dark sky then take that blue value down, go ahead and assign a Channel mixer adjustment layer. Take that blue value down and offset it with a little bit of red and green and then paint it in using the Gradient tool. It works out very nicely indeed.
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