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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."
Our next job is to take this Smart Object tiles layer and blend it with the layers below using a blend mode, of course. Now what blend mode do we want to use? Well, we presumably want to use a Contrast mode, because we want to map the tiles into the background. So that means we're going to go ahead and start with Overlay and then work our way from there. So, with the tiles layer active, and by the way, I'm working inside of a new version of the document called Smart object.psd. If you're just joining us, you'll find it inside of the 10_Advanced_Blend folder.
With that tiles layer active, you can press Shift+Alt+O or Shift+Option+O on the Mac to switch to the Overlay mode. It looks pretty darn good actually, the Overlay mode does. Let's go ahead and Shift+Tab away the palettes, so that we can keep an eye on the big picture here. I'm going to press Shift+Plus to advance to Soft Light, Shift+Plus again for Hard Light, nice. Shift+Plus again for Vivid Light. Actually that looks really good. Shift+Plus once again for a Linear Light. It's okey-dokey, a little too harsh for my taste. Shift+Plus again for Pin Light. That's right out. I don't think that works at all.
Then Shift+Plus again for Hard Mix. Now, off hand, Hard Mix may seem like the worst setting possible and here's the reason we're going to work with Hard Mix for a moment. It is one of the Fill Opacity 8. In fact, it's the most obvious of the Fill Opacity 8 and the Fill Opacity 8 are eight blend modes, 8 out of the 25 blend modes that respond differently to the Fill Opacity value, this guy right there, the Fill value, than they do to the Opacity value. Hard Mix is the most obvious of them. That's why we're going to work with it.
You might wonder what in the world the Fill value does. Especially if you have played with it in the past, if you just assign the Fill value to a layer, it's going to deliver exactly the same result on a standard layer, that the Opacity value does. So the two darn things seem to be exactly the same under normal conditions. One of the many things that the Fill Opacity does and the main reason it exists is to allow you to modify the contents of a layer independently of the layer effects. So if you have some text, imagine you have some white text with a drop shadow, you could go ahead and set the Fill Opacity value to zero to make the white text disappear but the drop shadow would still remain visible.
So that's the main reason Fill Opacity exists. We'll see that there are other reasons for it as well. But yet another thing that it can do is modify the Fill Opacity 8 differently than the Opacity value. So check it out. We've got this layer set to Hard Mix. If I press 6 to reduce the Opacity value to 60%, it still looks like garbage, right, it still looks like a terrible effect. It's just that terrible effect at 60% Opacity instead of a 100% Opacity. Well, I'm going to go ahead and press zero, to raise the Opacity value back to a 100%.
Compare that to pressing Shift+6, which changes the Fill Opacity value to 60% and notice that we get a very different effect indeed. We get a real blend of the tiles layer and the layers in back of it. So much better setting, right. Remember, if you decide to use Hard Mix, which you probably wouldn't, normally you would just skip it, but Hard Mix becomes much, much more useful once you combine it with the Fill value and again to change the Fill value from the keyboard, when you have one of the selection tools active here, you press Shift, along with a number key, or if you want a very specific value, you would press Shift with two numbers in a row, for example, if I press Shift+57, I change the Fill value to 57%.
But for my money, I think, Shift+6 for 60% is just fine. Now as I said, it's the Fill Opacity 8, there is a total of eight blend modes that fall under this heading that respond differently to Fill than they do to Opacity. Here they are just in case you're curious. They include these guys right there, Color Burn, Linear Burn, so you're over the top effects, essentially react differently to fill. Color Burn and Linear Burn, you also have Color Dodge and Linear Dodge (Add), plus you've got Vivid Light and Linear Light and you've got Hard Mix and Difference.
Those are the guys that respond differently to Fill Opacity than they respond to the Opacity value. So once again, that's your Fill Opacity 8, a very little known fact inside of Photoshop, something to lower to over your friends, this knowledge is. In the next exercise, we will be applying the Smart Filters to the tiles layer and we will be blending those Smart Filters as well in order to create the swirling background effect.
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