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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 that we understand how to selectively enhance the contrast of a mask using the Dodge and Burn tools, that is, by setting the Dodge tool to Highlights and the Burn tool to Shadows, let's actually do the deed here. I am still working inside of the Images applied.tif file that I opened in the previous exercise. The only change I have made is to duplicate the Curves modification channel and rename it Dodge and burn, that's all I have done. Now let's go ahead and grab the Burn tool for starters here but before we begin painting, I want you to bring up your History palette. I don't care, how many states you are seeing inside your History palette. I want you to click in front of the most recent state in order to assign it as the source state. What that does by the way, is it keeps the state from sliding off the palette, when you have more than 20 operations because once you start painting with the Dodge and Burn tools, you are going to paint more than 40 times, and you are going to ruin all the stuff that existed in the past, and you may want to come back to it; that's the idea.
So if you want to be doubly sure though, you could establish a snapshot by clicking on this little camera icon, and then you could rename it something, like Last good state or something like that; and spell it properly, that's always a good idea. So either way, which ever way you want to go, I am going to go ahead and work with the snapshot here and I will click in front of it in order to establish it as a source state for any future history brush modifications. Go ahead and hide the History panel, switch to the Burn tool, that's the tool that I have selected here, and make sure your Exposure value is set to something, like 30% will work for our first burn increments right here, first burn brush strokes.
You want to paint in pretty carefully. Now notice with an Exposure of 30%, not really doing too much damage to any of the hairs, which is good, but we are sitting in the background, the black, assuming that you are scrubbing enough. Now these hairs, right here, really don't make that much difference. If you are going to press Ctrl+Tilde (~), that is, switch to the RGB composite image, you can see that these are really fragile hairs right now, that's why I am painting them away. All right, now I am going to switch back to my tenth channel, which I can't get to from the keyboard because I am out of keyboard shortcuts at this point. All right, I am going to zoom in. Actually, one more thing that controls 0, would work for that but it doesn't, it switches you to the Fit in Screen mode. It actually zooms the image, isn't that interesting? I would like to tell you a little tidbits as we paint inside of an image.
All right, so let's go ahead and paint some more, like so. You can decide, how careful you want to be or how much hair you want to ruin. It is totally up to you. If you want to work quickly, if you are on the deadline, then you may choose to chop a few hairs off. If you have all the time in the world, then you want to create the most perfect mask ever created by man, that will go down on record in the Guinness Book of World Record. So it's the world's most perfect mask, then, of course, you can be very careful, if you like. I don't think such a category is ever going to be created but you never know, because Guinness Book is all about biggest, and badest, and stuff like that; not best. Anyway, at this point I think, I should press the O key in order to switch to the Dodge tool. I am going to reduce my Opacity value, just a little bit by pressing the 4 key for a 40% Exposure. Then I am going to go over this hair and see what I end up getting. I will go over this hair too, that looks pretty good.
I might zoom in on this area right there and paint over this hair but notice even though, I really want to save that hair, it's looking pretty darn choppy, and this exactly the, kind of, detail that I could bring back using the History Brush. We will come back to it, okay, don't do it yet. We will come back to it because we have got all the leisure time in the world. Thanks to the fact that we properly sourced that snapshot, it's going to remain there for us, no matter how many Burn tool and Dodge tools states we create. Notice we have got a ton and they are starting to roll of the palette, meaning that we have got more than 20 operations. When you get more than 20 operations, by default anyways, stuff starts rolling off. Okay, I just painted it with a wrong tool because I wasn't paying attention. So I will press the O key to switch back to the Burn tool and paint in this area right here, like so.
Now we are getting a little more freedom because these hairs are in pretty good shape. So what I recommend you do is just make sure that the black areas are nice and black by painting over them. In this corner, I am going to come in pretty tight, actually, with the small brush. Then I am going to increase the size of my brush and do this number here. Now don't give up on the image, you have got a lot more to do. Down here at the bottom, there is a big shoulder that you can miss, if you start getting too impatient, if you start feeling like, "Ah, I think I did everything". Then say like, "oh darn! There is some more image left that I haven't scrolled to." It happens all the time, believe me. Impatience is a big factor, when you are using these tools.
All right, anyways, it helps if you narrate what you are doing. I find that the time close by much more quickly. When you are listening to somebody narrating, it goes by very slowly. Anyway, this looks pretty good to me. I am now going to zoom out, like so. I want to test the blackness of this area to make sure I have got a good black boundary going, by switching over to the Magic Wand tool. Grab that Magic Wand, make sure the Tolerance value is set to 0, Anti-alias off, click in the black. I am in very good shape, that's good. If you didn't select a big swath of black here, if there is some areas left close to the shoulder, or the hairs, or that kind of thing, that you feel like that you need to get into, then you can do some additional burning, just go ahead and de-select the image, and burn very carefully into these hairs. I am not going to worry about it too much at this point.
I have got a big black border, I like it. I am going to now grab my Lasso tool and I am going to Shift+Drag around this area, like so, in order to select it, all right? To add it to the selection and then I am going to press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete because my foreground color is black, in order to fill that region with black, like so. Now the final thing I am going to do, after de-selecting the image, I am going to zoom in on these fragile hairs that I love so very, very much, and then I am so very concerned for it. My goodness, I am going to go really fairly tight to them with the Lasso tool. I am Alt+ Clicking or Option+Clicking with this tool in order to select this region because I want to get rid of those little dusty guys right there; Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete to get rid of them.
So again, you can be as careful or as fastidious as you want. I might actually--Let's see, I will go get my Burn tool and paint into this region too because we do have some dust going on here; but here is my point, what I really want to do more than anything on earth here, is I want to reestablish these hairs and they are looking pretty particularized at this point. So let's go ahead and grab the History Brush right there, there it is in the palette and I am going to reduce the size of my cursor a little bit, like so. I want to make sure that it's soft and then I am just going to paint along here. Oh, that's nice. That is very nice, I am happy. I am a happy person; I am a happy masker, happy musketeer, as I were.
All right, let's go ahead and paint up here as well along this hair to reinstate this as well and I think that's looks pretty darn good. I might paint in this region and paint over here. Now this is going to require that you paint very carefully. So it's up to you, if you want to get in there and do that. Now if you feel like you went too far --Actually, I am thinking these hairs look like a little bit to neon now. You could go ahead and back step, which I am going to, and then you could press the 5 key to reduce the Opacity to 50%. I am going to do one more thing, I am going to bring up my Brushes palette here by clicking on this little toggle the brush palette icon right there, you can also press F5. I am going to turn on the Noise option because that noise option--Notice, how my brush gets noisier on screen here. That noise option is going to allow us to better match the digital noise inside of this image.
Now close that palette and let's go ahead and zoom in, see if I can do a better job. I will paint along here and this is looking more natural to me, actually. Then I will paint on this little weird guy, this, sort of, bent leg of a hair over there and then I will paint right there as well in order to reestablish those details. All right, that's the, kind of, thing you can do. If you are feeling careful and fastidious, and you want to get that award for the best mask ever, there it is. In the next exercise, we are going to perform a little bit of manual magic by reinstating these hairs that we can't even tell what they are. We are going to paint that region back in, we are going to do our best and I would like you to join me, of course.
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