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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 in last exercise we bolstered the shadows. I was telling you we were pounding those shadows in order to create an extreme shadow effect without clipping any shadows away. And in this exercise we are going to create an extreme highlight effect, and we are going to try to avoid as much clipping as we can as well. Even though we are going to verge right on the edge of clipping, as you'll see. If you want to catch up with me I am still working on that image, a wonderful image from Alexander Hafeman and this version of the image is called Shady execs, and he is shady for obvious reasons, because he is wearing shades, and then she's getting shady, because we've deepened the shadows across the entire image. Hence the name just in case you are wondering.
So the next step is to add yet another extreme channel mixing effect. I am going to press-and-hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, click the black-and-white icon down here, and choose, once again the Channel Mixer command, because I had the Alt or Option key down, the new layer dialog box comes up, and invites me to name this layer. I am just going to go ahead and call it highlights or something along those lines. Something terribly mis-spelled, and I'll click okay. And this time around we're going to once again work on the Monochrome version of the image. And turn on Monochrome, so that we are getting a black-and-white effect. And the values that I want you to apply are 50 for red, 90 for green and -90 for blue. Now these values you may notice do not add up to 100%, they only add up 50%. And the reason is, because we are going to use these to increase the highlights, but we don't want to go too far, so I am keeping these values pretty dim here to start with.
And then I'll go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification. So it's kind of a half-hearted infrared effect essentially. Now I'll go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification. This time we want to apply a Luminance Mask to this layer, so that we are just effecting the lightest colors inside of the image. So Alt+Click on the eyeball in front of the background layer that would be an Option+Click on a Mac. Switch over to the Channels palette. Check out that blue channel, once again, it actually is very nice at isolating the shadows, not so good in isolating the highlights. In other words, we don't have a lot of highlights going on inside of the flesh tones in general, both her flesh tones and his. And that's a good thing, because I really want to not affect that many highlights. If I were to use the red channel, the Density Mask would include a lot of highlights. I just want a few highlights so that we are really limiting the amount of exposure of this layer that we are working on here.
So let's go ahead and load the blue channel once again, by Ctrl+Clicking or Cmd+Clicking on that channel. Then I am going to switch back to the RGB image. I am going to switch over to the Layers palette, I am going to Alt+Click, or Option+Click on the eyeball in order to show all of the layers once again. Make sure that your Highlights layer or whatever you call those, if you called it something more reasonable, is selected. And then I am going to go down here to the layer mask icon, and I am going to click on it. You don't have to Alt+Click this time, just click on it in order to create a Luminance Mask, so you can see; it's a positive version of the blue channel.
Once again this looks pretty silly, so we need a blend mode, and the blend mode that I am going to suggest you apply this time is Color Dodge. You could just go ahead and try Screen for starters, and that is pretty high impact effect, but I just want to go a little bit farther. So I am going to go ahead and press Shift++ in order to advance to Color Dodge, you could go as far as Linear Dodge, but I think that's too far, so let's go ahead and back it off to Color Dodge. I think that looks actually really, really great. So this is without that layer, this is with that layer.
And you can see that we are starting to clip a little bit, let's go ahead and update that histogram. We are starting to clip a little bit in some places. But most of the clipping is happening exclusively inside the red channel, the other two channels are green and blue channels, and I know this because I have inspected this image. The other two channels have some decent information going on that's offsetting that clipping in red channel. So this should print actually pretty darn good, it's a little hot for print, but it should work out pretty nicely. The next thing that I am going to do is convert this image to black-and-white.
Now we've already done all the work where balancing the shadows and highlights is concerned, so I don't want to apply yet another channel mixing effect at this point. I just want to get rid of the color saturation and nothing more. And when you want to do that, the best way just to rob an image of saturation is to Alt+Click or Option+Click once again on the black-and-white icon, this time we are going to choose Hue/Saturation. I am going to call this layer desat, and then I am going to click OK, and then I am going to reduce the Saturation value to -100, and that's it.
Now this is a different effect, this is yet another way to achieve a black-and-white image inside of Photoshop, it's just a rob it saturation, this is different than converting an image to grayscale. It's different than keeping a single channel, it's different than going to the lab mode, and keeping the lightness channel. This is a very specialized way of robbing an image of saturation. But it works, in our case, it's exactly what we want, because we are not mixing channels. I don't want to do any channel mixing, I just want to lose the color, and that's what I have done. All right, so I'll go ahead and click OK, and you can see that we've got a really great, a real high impact black-and-white photo, and we are left with some pretty good highlights. If I bring back up the Histogram palette, now I am going to update that histogram, and you can see that we don't have as much clipping showing up inside of the histogram as we saw before.
So that's a good thing and that is indicative of the fact that we do have some nice volumetric detail going on inside of the highlights, as well as this nice sizzling contrast, which I think really works for the photograph's advantage. In the next exercise we're going to deepen this guy in order to create a moodier effect for our young execs.
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