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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."
Now I suppose at this point we could well consider this to be a successful composition and move on to the next project. But there is one more thing I want to do. I want to take the moon and I want to bring it down, so that it kisses its own reflection, so that it's just sort of resting on the water, very romantic effect. A little bit impossible of course, but I think it will look just great and it still falls under the larger umbrella of masking as you will see. So it fits into the series very nicely. If you would like to perform this modification along with me, why then go ahead and if you like open this catch up document, Rippled moon.psd which is found inside the 18_displace_maps folder. And I need to grab this moon and pop it to a different layer. Right now it's on the background as you can see.
So go ahead and click on the Background layer to make it active and I am going to move my composition down a little bit here. And I am going to switch over to the Magic Wand tool. If you have been working along with me, it should be set to a Tolerance of 0, Anti-alias off, Contiguous On and Sample All Layers off. Very important that you have your settings setup like mine. Now I am going to go ahead and click somewhere inside the area of the background outside of the moon, well outside of the moon, and you will select just this gob of black pixels out there. So this is just huge area of black and work outside the moon. Next I am going to press the D key and the X key in order to establish black as the background color and I am going to press Ctrl+Shift+I or Command+Shift+I in order to invoke the Inverse command right there.
So I am reversing the selection and with the Background layer active, I want you to press the following keyboard shortcut, Ctrl+Shift+Alt+J or Command+Shift+Option+J on the Mac. So match your fist on the keyboard and press J and what that does is instead of jumping the moon it's going to remove the moon, it's going to extract the moon from the background, thanks to the fact that we had the Shift key down, and of course pressing Ctrl+J or Command+J that jumps the moon to a different layer. And then by virtue of the fact we have Alt or Option down, we bring up the New Layer dialogue box.
So let's go ahead and name this layer Moon, and then click OK and watch the Background layer, I want you to see what happens. Go ahead and click OK, and notice that we rip the moon out of the background. Thanks to Ctrl+Shift+Alt+J or Command+Shift+Option+J on the Mac. Then grab the moon, move it to the top of the stack and I am going to switch back to my Marquee tool so that I have a cross shaped cursor and I am going to Ctrl+Shift+Drag the moon downward so it sitting right here on its reflection. Now let's zoom in and see what's up, check out this effect and you can see that we have got a lot of jagged transitions going on there. Not a problem, let's zoom in even farther, so that we can see him up close and personal. That's not a problem at all, because we are going to easily solve this problem, by double clicking on the Moon layer to bring up the Layer Style dialogue box. And then we are going to use this Layer slider, we are going to drag that black triangle over to the right until the first value is set to 30 and notice how those jagged edge went away.
Then I want you to Alt+Drag or Option+Drag the left half of that triangle over to the left so we have a nice soft transition underneath the moon, and if that's not soft enough we can move this right half of the triangle over a little bit. But I am actually pretty happy with it here at 30. All right, now go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification. Let's go ahead and zoom out and notice by the way the reflection, the moon reflection is a little bit jagged. I will go ahead and zoom in a little more so you can see what I am talking about.
This is something I like to call ripped pixels, and it happens when you apply a very significant distortion inside of Photoshop especially an old styled distortion that has a tendency of increasing the difference between neighboring pixels as it's happened here. So the pixels looks like they have been ripped to sunder and to solve that problem, go to the Reflection layer, go ahead and click on it. I want you to go up to the Filter menu, choose Blur and choose Gaussian Blur and let's go ahead and set the Gaussian Blur, instead of 200 let's set it to 2 pixels, and now it will just give us a little bit of softness as you can see.
That I think it will lend itself well to this image, and I will click OK. And then I am going to go ahead and zoom out a little bit, and you can see how we have a nice soft reflection now underneath the moon. If that's too soft for you, press Ctrl+Shift+F or Command+Shift+F on the Mac to bring up the Fade command. You could also choose Fade from the Edit menu. Let's take the Opacity value down to something like 75 or maybe let's try 60%, see how that looks. That looks pretty good, so just a hint of softness on that moon reflection. You know what the heck, 70. We will try 70 and click OK. You can try any value you want in other words. Now let's zoom out and see what we have got. We have got the moon kissing its reflection, how romantical is that.
Now let's go ahead and soften that sort of black edge underneath the moon by going down to the Water layer. Clicking on its layer mask. Let's go ahead and grab the Gradient tool. It should still be set to Linear, Normal, Black to White, that's good. Also by the way let's Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on the Water thumbnail right there, in order to see where the edges are. And I am going to drag from here down, just little bit pass the moon like so, in order to darken those edges, so that the sea is just kind of declining into the moony background there. The background of the universe that the moon has brought down with it to match when it meets the water.
Then finally I am going to go over to the moon layer, I am going to give it a layer mask but first before I do, I am going to press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the mask to deselect the image. Then click on the Layer mask and now I am going to draw, just a tiny as little gradient to the bottom of the moon, so it looks like it's dipping into the water. Oh heavens! All right, now I will Ctrl+Down Arrow once, actually that looks great. My goodness, what an effect! All right, I am going to press the F key a couple of times, tab away the palette, doesn't it just melt your heart that the moon could do this to the water that it's meeting its own reflection. This is something that moon does at night when everybody is asleep. So we captured it, way to go! In the next exercise, we are going to try out another magical romantical effect. We are going to turn a guys flesh into stone. Stay tuned.
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