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Photoshop Masking and Compositing: Fundamentals is the introductory installment of Deke McClelland's four-part series on making photorealistic compositions in Photoshop. The course shows how to make selections, refine the selections with masks, and then combine them in new ways, using layer effects, blend modes, and other techniques to create a single seamless piece of artwork. Deke introduces the Channels panel and the alpha channel, the key to masking and transparency in Photoshop; reviews the selection tools, including the Color Range tool , Quick Mask mode, and the Refine Edge command; and shows how to blend masked images so they interact naturally.
In this exercise, I'll how you how to create the effect of blood, or if you prefer, raspberry syrup, oozing out of a guy's lips. I've saved my progress as Lips with blood .psd, found inside the 07_refine folder. I'm going to switch over to the Channels panel, scroll down to the bottom of the list, and you'll see an alpha channel that I've created for you in advance called blood trails. Now, I created this effect entirely using the Brush tool, along with the Smudge tool; that's it. So it's another one of these painterly effects; that's why I figured I'd just go ahead and give it to you, but to give you a sense of how I rationalize this particular mask, I'll go ahead and press the Tilde key, so we can see the mask is a Rubylith overlay on top of the composite image.
And you'll see that I went ahead and painted along the upper right ridge of the bottom lip, and I smeared that brushstroke into the lips using the Smudge tool, as I say. And then I went ahead and painted a few blood trails down the guy's face, and I figured, because he's got a beard, that those whiskers would actually affect the direction of the trails. So you want to make sure that you're painting along the contours of the actual portrait. I'll go ahead and press the Tilde key in order to turn off the composite image in the background. Notice that I painted in these soft areas of about 50% opacity, and that helps to create the effect of a little bit of smearing of that blood into the skin. Or, if you prefer, it might be a little bit of absorption as well. And I found, as I was working through this image, that that helped me achieve a more organic effect.
If you're working along with me, go ahead and load that alpha channel by Control+clicking, or Command+clicking, on blood trails, there at the bottom of the list. Then I'll go ahead and scroll up the list, click on the RGB image; switch to the Layers panel. I am going to click on layer below the lips layer, because we want to create these blood trails below that lips effect. It just ends up looking better. And now I'll press the Alt key, or the Option key on the Mac, and click that Black/ White icon at the bottom of Layers panel; choose Solid Color. I'll go ahead and name this new layer drips, and then click OK.
Photoshop, by default, is going to set the color to the foreground color, which in my case is black. It doesn't matter, because we're getting rid of the fill; we are going to be relying entirely on layer effects for this one. So just go ahead and click OK, and then reduce that Fill Opacity value right there to 0%, and you'll end up making the effect look entirely transparent. All right! Now what we want to do is fill in this layer using a gradient. In that way, we'll have variable color control. We're going to do that by dropping down to the fX icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, and choosing Gradient Overlay.
Notice that that goes ahead and creates an altogether implausible effect here. So I want you to go up to this Gradient bar, and click on it in order to bring up the Gradient Editor dialog box. Double-click on the black color stop, and let's change these values to a Hue of 0 degrees is fine. I want the Saturation to be 100%, and the Brightness value to be 25%. So that's that exact shade of red that we used for the lips. All right! Now I'll click OK, and I'm going to double-click on that final white color stop, and I'm going to leave the Hue value set to 0 degrees.
I'm going to take the Saturation value up to a mere 10%, and I'm going to take the Brightness value down to a mere 90%. So we end up with this pale pink. Go ahead and click OK, and then click OK again. Obviously, this is entirely wrong. What we are looking for is a different style of gradient. I want you to change it from Linear, to Reflected, so that we'll end up darkening the bottom portion of these drips more than the top area, which is already dark enough, in most cases. And now I'm going to turn off Align with layer.
This is a crazy, very difficult to explain check box, but essentially what it's doing is either aligning the gradient to the mask portion of this particular layer, or when it's turned off, its aligning the gradient to the overall composition. Anyway, the latter ends up working out better for us, if we go ahead and reduce the Scale value to 40%. And now I want you to drag the gradient around. Currently, the middle of the gradient is going to be toward the middle of the image itself, so you're going to need to drag from the top of the image window down, like so, quite a bit, in order move that gradient into place. And now I'm going to drag down even farther, and I want the center of the gradient to be about here, is what I'm thinking.
So notice that it reflects and becomes lighter down, and up as well. So we want the darkest area to be located right about there, where I am moving my cursor. So I'll drag it down maybe just a little more, like so. And now I'm going to change the Blend mode from Normal, to Multiply, in order to achieve this darkening effect. All right! That's great where the color is concerned, but I want to create a little bit of highlight, especially along the edges of that blood that's sort of bubbling out in the middle of his lips. So I'll go ahead and turn on Bevel and Emboss, and that immediately just ruins the effect.
However, we are going to change some settings around here. I want you to reduce the Depth setting down to 30%, and I want to raise the Size value to 15 pixels, change the Direction to Down, and then go ahead and turn off Use Global Light, and I want you to reverse the Angle value to -135 degrees. And that doesn't actually send it in the opposite direction. Notice that moves the light source from upper left to lower left. Now I'm going to take the Opacity value for the Highlight all the way up to 100%, and we are not looking for any shadows where Bevel and Emboss is concerned, so I'm going to take the Opacity value for the Shadow mode down to 0%. And then I'm going to increase the sharpness of these highlights by changing the Blend mode from Screen, to the ultimate brightening mode, which is Linear Dodge (Add).
Next, we're going to change the Gloss Contour. Click inside this little semaphore flag in order to bring up the Contour Editor dialog box. If you have access to my Exercise Files, then go ahead and click the Load button, navigate your way to the 07_ refine folder, and click on the contour setting, which is called Blood reflect.shc. By the way, if you're working on a Mac, you're going to see tons of files inside this open dialog box. When you're working on a PC, you only see files that have the extension, shc.
Now go ahead and click Load, and you end up with this wavy contour line right there. Now, for those of you who are following along without the practice files, and you want to get a sense of how this contour is put together, I'll walk through the settings. So go ahead and click on the very first point there. Notice the Input and Output values are both set to 0. So this is where the effect starts; this is the baseline. And then if I press the Plus key, I'll go ahead and jump to the next point, which has an Input value of 15%, an Output value of 45%. I'll hit the Plus key again; that jumps to this point. It has an Input of 30%; an Output of 95%.
Jump to the next point. Input 50%; Output 30%. Press the Plus key to advance to this point: Input 85%, Output 40%, and then finally, the last point right there in the upper right-hand corner has Input and Output values of 100%. Now I'll click OK in order to accept that contour, and we end up with this pretty abrupt lighting effect that looks just great here toward the central portion of the lips. Now, I'll go ahead and click OK in order to accept the effect. The problem is, this portion of the blood would not catch the highlights like this at all. We have to allow for the fact that this portion of the image, especially this area right there, would be in shadows. And so we're going to have to pull apart this effect, and customize it, and we'll do that in the next and final exercise.
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