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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."
We're still working inside that almost Blue composition. In the previous exercise you may recall that we've used a combination of the underlying layer slider bar along with the Blend If option in order to reveal the flesh tones from the underlying Background layer. In this exercise we're going to bolster the highlights inside of this image so that we can really see the clouds inside of the goggles. We're going to do that by going with a more aggressive light and blend mode, also and more importantly we're going to get rid of some of the highlights on the Screen layer. We're going to make a lot of those highlights transparent. And by virtue of the fact that we're getting rid of some of the highlights we're going to draw more attention to the highlights that remain.
So ironically by getting rid of some of the lightness here we're going to make those highlights pop and sizzle inside of the composite image. You will see shortly. All right, so I am working inside of a catchup image called flesh revealed.psd that's found inside the 10 Advanced Blending folder. And I am going to switch over here to the Screen layer this time. We're done working on the Multiply layer for a moment. So go ahead and click on this Screen layer. Notice it is currently set to the Screen Blend mode. Let's try one of the other blend modes here. Let's go ahead and press Shift++ to switch to the Color Dodge Blend mode.
And you can see that that helps a lot. That is bolstering the highlights; we can now see the forms of those clouds going on there. But I am not happy with the saturation of the colors. The image is now officially over-saturated in my opinion and we're also flattening out some of the blues, and we're ending up with some posterization if you look carefully throughout the image as well. So I am not happy with this effect. So I am going to move on, I am going to press Shift++ again in order to switch to the Linear Dodge mode. That elevates the highlights that much more we don't have the color flattening that we used to have, so the colors aren't nearly as over-saturated as they were before. But we do have some highlight flattening going on. So even though the clouds are brighter, they look flatter, they look drabber they are less interesting. But if we drop out some of those clouds using Luminance blending I bet they'll look a heck of a lot better.
All right, so let's go ahead and rename this layer because this is no longer a Screen layer, right. It's now an Add Layer officially because this is the Linear Dodge in parenthesis, even though we can't see it here Add mode. I am going to press the F key to switch to the Full Screen mode so that I can keep an eye on this woman's face here. And I am going to double-click on the Add Thumbnail there inside of the Layers palette. All right, again we want to work from the Red Channel because the Red Channel is the channel that has all of the contrast inside of the underlying image.
Let's go ahead and switch Blend If from Gray to Red, and then, let's go ahead and make some of these highlights transparent. I am going to go ahead and throw away some of the highlights by dragging this layer lack slider triangle up to 95, it's the value I am going to start with right there. And you can see that some of the highlights are disappearing inside of the Active layer, inside of the Add layer in this image. Then I am going to Alt+Drag or Option+Drag the right half of that black triangle all the way up to 230. So very, very high indeed in order to create a big range of translucency inside of this image, fuzziness. So that we have a nice drop off between the transparent colors and the opaque colors subject to the Linear Dodge mode. And this is the effect that we get. So notice these clouds are a heck of a lot more clearer than they were before. We can really see the contours of the clouds in the volumetric detail and all that good stuff.
Now the one thing that I am just made by is the fact that we have so much smokiness against her hair right here. So I want her hair to look nice and jet black, the way it did before. I don't want to have a bunch of smoke interfering with it. Because then the clouds end up looking like smoke like cigarette smoke or something along those lines. And that's completely out of keeping with the rest of composition. So let's go ahead and move this black triangle that's associated with the underlying layer slider over to 10, and notice, even that small of a move reveals a lot of the hair in the background. Then I am going to Alt+Drag or Option+Drag the right half of that black triangle up to 60. And notice that takes care of all of the rest of the smoke that was inside of her hair. So looks great.
I'll go ahead and click OK in order to accept that modification and just so you have sense of how much of a difference that made. I am going to go ahead and Shift+Tab away my palette to move her over to the right a little bit. Here's before and here's after. So we're able to bring the highlights really toward the front, really make the highlights more visible than ever before by getting rid of some of the highlights. We didn't add anymore highlights after applying Linear Dodge. We got rid of them, and therefore the highlights that remained inside of the image are that much more obvious that much more valuable a contribution to the overall composition.
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