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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."
So here I am looking at the rough pen mask so far and, in fact, I am working on a catch up document, that's called Rough pen mask.psd, that's found inside of the 16 Tough Stuff folder. I have done an interesting job at any rate, of selecting parts of this pen. If I were to turn off the RGB, so we are looking just at the pen mask. This is what it looks like, pretty garbagy, pretty weird looking at this point. So let's go ahead and trace in that missing bit of pen using the Lasso tool.
Now as I was telling you in a previous exercise, it sounds like this is going to be a pain in the neck, that we have to actually draw a selection using the Lasso tool, of all things. We are not automating the process at all using one of the automated tools, like the Magic Wand, or the Magnetic Lasso, or the Quick Selection tool, or one of those but actually, this is the best way to work. You could get all fancy and use the Pen tool but what we are about to do, works just fine and this is pretty easy as it turns out. Let's switch over the RGB image by pressing Ctrl+~ or Command+~ on the Mac, so that we can see what we are doing here. I want you to Alt+Click up here in this top region, sort of, above and to the left of the nib. This would be an Option+Click on the Mac, keep that Alt or Option key down as you go down the pen nib, like so. Going ahead and clicking a few times, notice that I am clicking at each point that I am pausing at here, while I have got the Alt or Option key down.
I am not going to try to trace around that nib right there, that little point. I will do that with the Elliptical Marquee in just a moment. Then come back, like so, and notice that I am Alt or Option clicking several times along that edge to create something resembling a curve right there. Then I will come over -- I just accidentally release the key for a moment, so I will try again. I will Shift+Drag around this region, while I have the Alt key down, and I will click around here as well, go back up in to this zone right there. With any luck, let's see if I have managed to create a good selection this time around.
Looks good. All right, so I have gone ahead and finalized the selection. Now what I want to do is I want to change the appearance of the mask, of course. I want to fill this region inside of the mask with white. Oh, first I have got to actually draw in the nib, don't I? So I will switch over to the Elliptical Marquee tool by pressing the M key, a couple of times. I will Shift+drag around this nib, like so, just to add it in there. It doesn't matter, if you make the nib a little bigger than it really is or something along those lines, that will just give it the appearance of a tiny bit of a highlight, a little bit of a glow. So that's okay.
Now let's switch down to the pen mask and make sure that you have selected all these weird little shadows. There is a shadow here, that's actually a highlight that you need to pick up, and this is a highlight that you need to pick up, and same with as well. So with the Lasso tool, once again, go and switch back to Lasso tool by pressing the L key. I want you to just sort of, Shift+Drag around these regions, like this, in order to select them. It may take a couple of sweeps at it. I am working with a mouse, so I am getting some pretty bad results out of the Lasso tool here; that is some pretty wiggly results, I guess, I would say. But that's okay, you can make them work, if you just Shift+Drag a few times. That's good.
Now I am going to fill that selection with white by pressing Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete on the Mac, and check it out. It looks great, actually. That one other detail, go ahead and scroll up toward to the top of the image. This is near the top left corner of the image and you will see that there is this other highlight, that's turned in to a shadow because we have inverted the image. There is this other highlight up in the shaft of the pen. So just go ahead and drag around it and then press Alt+ Backspace or Option+Delete to fill it with white. Now I am going to zoom out a little bit and you will see, this is what our pen mask looks like. Nothing to write home about it, doesn't look all that great.
In fact, we have got this weird blobby stuff going on in the thumb. That's actually, okay. In fact, it's kind of desirable. What we are going to be doing is we are going to be combining these two masks together, pen and flesh mask and the flesh mask, actually, accounts for the bad areas of the pen mask, and the pen mask makes up for the bad portions of the flesh mask, as you will see, when we combine these two masks together in the next exercise.
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