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In the all-new Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Mastery, the third and final installment of the popular series, join industry expert and award-winning author Deke McClelland for an in-depth tour of the most powerful and empowering features of Photoshop CS5. Discover the vast possibilities of traditional tools, such as masking and blend modes, and then delve into Smart Objects, Photomerge, as well as the new Puppet Warp, Mixer Brush, and HDR features. Exercise files accompany the course.
Recommended prerequisites: Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals and Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Advanced.
I've said my progress as Dodge & Subtract.psd found inside the 26 masking folder. Notice that this time the file is a native PSD document, because it contains multiple layers. Now I've made a little bit of a mistake where this channel is concerned so far and I'm leaving the mistake in, because fixing the mistake provides us with an important lesson where masking is concerned. As you work along, you want to check your work against the original image to see how your mask is faring, because any mistake you make can get amplified as you develop the Alpha channel and part of the reason is because you're working in a less forgiving environment.
Bear in mind that when you're creating an Alpha channel you have no layers at your disposal. Everything's a flat destructive modification. So you have to take a little bit of extra care. Now in my case the mistake is that the hair is entirely white. Notice that the entire region inside of the hair has no detail whatsoever except for the face. But the fact of the matter is I don't need the face, because it's going to be falling entirely inside the mask. In fact, I could take my Lasso tool and draw a circle around her face and press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete because the foreground color is white that fills the selection with white and I could just get rid of that area.
I don't need it. What I need is some of the detail inside of the hair which I'm entirely lacking at this point. So you know what, I'm going to go ahead and throw that channel away. It's a bad channel. We can re-create it very easily in just a moment. So I'll drag it to the trash can and then I'm going to switchover to Layers panel and I'm going to turn off the Dodged layer for a moment and notice these regions of background that are showing through the hair. There is one area and there is another right there and then there is these areas around her face. None of those were showing up in our Alpha channel and that's because I neglected to dodge them on that Dodged layer.
So let's go ahead and solve that problem. I'll turn on the Dodged layer to make it active. I'll click in the image to deselect it and then I'll press the O key to switch over to the Dodge tool once again. Increase the size of my cursor and paint inside of those areas of hair that need to be lightened up such as this one right there. Then way down there next to the shoulder I want to brighten this region up as well without overly brightening the hair details above it and in fact if I go a little too far remember that you can reverse the behavior of the Dodge tool by pressing and holding the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac.
So if I Alt+Drag over this region like so then I'll burn it back into place. So that we're darkening the areas that should be hairs. Now I'll increase the size of my brush and paint on the left-hand side of the face. Don't worry if you end up brightening the heck out of the face. That doesn't even matter. We'll come back to making sure that this area is delineated properly in a subsequent exercise. For now we can just let the face get over exposed. And then I might paint up above inside of the hair some more, because it's dawning on me that I left a little bit of darkness around some of those hairs that is not going to serve me all that well in the future.
It's not a deal breaker, but I might as well as long as I'm here get rid of some of this darkness and I'll paint away over here little bit as well. This guy is the trickiest area right along this hair. So I'm trying to paint on either side of it without painting over it, because after all I want to bolster that hair as much as I can. So you know what, I'll reduce the size of my cursor a little bit and I'll Alt+Drag along this hair to darken it up and then I'll paint next to it a few more times possibly in order to further lighten the background. I might as well click a few times in these hairs and at some point you have to stop.
That's my problem as I just feel like I ought to just sit here and work forever on these details. But this is looking pretty good for me. So I shall stop. What the heck! Now then it's time to re-create the Alpha channel that is after I click a few more times. Here we go! I'll go up to the Image menu choose the Calculations command and with any luck I'll see the same settings I applied before. That is all my channel information will remain intact. I still have both layers set to Dodged. That's good. The first channel is Blue, the second channel is Red with Invert turned on.
Subtract is my blend mode and my Offset value is 255. Now I could take this Offset value down a couple of clicks. I might press Shift+Down Arrow couple of times in order to darken the details up ever so slightly so that we get this affect here. So the Offset is now to 235, fair enough. I'll click OK, in order to accept that change. Go to the Channels panel so that you can see my new Alpha channel, double-click on its name and rename it subtract 235 (dodged), like so, so that I know where it came from, once again very important.
I'm now ready to develop the channel in earnest. Usually, my first change is to apply a pass to the Levels command just so that I'm increasing the contrast of the image to a halfway decent extent. So I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+L or Cmd+L on the Mac which is a keyboard shortcut for levels. Bear in mind we have to apply a static adjustment, that is, we can't use an adjustment layer, because there are no layers in the world of Alpha channels. What you do then with levels is you go ahead and decrease the white point value and increase the black point values so that you're adding contrast to the image.
However, in our case it looks like I am gumming up the works pretty well. So I'll go ahead and Alt+ Click on that Reset button. When you press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac Cancel changes to Reset and that'll re-establish my original settings there. Another way work is to grab these eye droppers. So if you select the white eye dropper and then click in an area that should be white in the image, it's going to make it white, but looks like this whole area here is already white because I didn't change the white point value at all. So let's instead grab the black eye dropper and I'll click in an area that should be black, like for example let's say I want go ahead and make this area right there black.
I'll click and that raises my black point value as you can see to 26, but I also lose that fragile hair that I had just a moment ago. So that's no good. Well, I'll click someplace else in the background like right about there let's say. That was already black. That resets my black point value to 0. It does bring back the hair, but I haven't done anything. Black is 0, White is to 255. So I've accomplished nothing inside this dialog box whatsoever, except to see that applying levels is not going to do me any good. So I'll click on the Cancel button.
So what do I do? How do I better distinguish the foreground elements from the background? Well, you can paint in contrast here inside Photoshop using a combination of the Brush tool and the Overlay blend mode, and I'll show you how that works in the next exercise.
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