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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 show you how to use the Color Range command to directly generate a layer mask inside Photoshop. I'm still working inside Vibrant skintones.psd found inside the 09_layer_masks folder. And let's say at this point, I want to go ahead and brighten the midtones inside the image, and I'm going to do so by combining an Adjustment layer along with the Blend mode. So I'll bring up the Adjustment panel, in this case by double-clicking on the Vibrance thumbnail there inside the Layers panel and that will take me to the Vibrance options as you can see. If I want to return to the Adjustments list, then I can click on this left-pointing arrowhead in the lower left corner of the panel.
Now let's say at this point, I decide you know I would prefer when I create an Adjustment layer to go ahead and add a layer mask along with, then I'd go up to the Adjustment panel's flyout menu icon there, click on it and then choose this command, Add Mask by Default, and that way from now on I'll get a blank layer mask associated with each one of my Adjustment layers. Now I was telling you way, way back in this set up videos, that's not the way I prefer to work. I actually find that it interferes with my ability to get things done, but regardless of my opinion I want to go ahead and show you a different way to work, so you can decide for yourself.
Now I'm going to Alt+Click or Option+ Click in that first icon in the first row which represents Brightness/Contrast and because I Alt+clicked or Option+Clicked that brings up the New layer dialog box. I'm going to go ahead and call this layer, midtones and then click OK, and notice I've created a new Brightness Contrast layer with a blank Adjustment layer as you can see. All right, eventually I'm going to go ahead and fill up that layer mask, but before I do, I'm going to switch the Blend mode from Normal to Screen and when you apply a blend mode to a blank Adjustment layer, in other words, I haven't changed any of the settings associated with this Adjustment layer yet.
When you apply a Blend mode, then you essentially, in this case, screen the image with itself. So you use the original appearance of the image in order to brighten itself as we've done here. That means I need to compensate of course, otherwise I'm going to have crazy blown highlights. So I'm going to reduce the Brightness value almost as low as it goes down to -125, and then I'm going to crank the Contrast value to its very maximum, which is 100. Make sure the Use Legacy check box is turned off, by the way,.
Now just to give you a sense of what this would normally do to the image, I'll switch the Blend mode back to Normal and notice how very dark the image looks at this point. So in other words, when we apply Screen we're taking the version of the image that you see now and we are screening in into that original. So screening in even such dark colors ends up brightening the midtones fairly considerably. So if I turn the layer off this is what the image looked like before, notice I goes ahead and gives those skintones a little bit of kick.
The problem is it's really kicking the heck out of the highlights, so we are over brightening the highlights in his shirt and in his forehead of course, so we need to add a layer mask and we'll be doing so using the Color Range command. And so you could go up to Select menu and choose Color Range if you like, and then you'll deposit whatever modifications you make inside the Color Range dialog box, directly into that layer mask. But I want to show you different way to work. I'm going to go to the View menu and choose the Masks command and if you've loaded my DekeKeys you'll see that I've given you keyboard shortcuts for the Adjustments panel which is at F10 and for the Masks panel which is Alt+F10 or Option+F10, and note, because the layer Mask is active, all the options are available to me here inside the Masks panel.
Now if I were to click on the Adjustment layer icon instead then those options would become dimmed, and I'd rather have to click on the layer Mask thumbnail to wake up those options, or I could press Ctrl+Backslash or Command+Backslash on the Mac to select the layer Mask from the keyboard, or I'll show you one more way. I'll go ahead and click on that Adjustment layer thumbnail again. You can also click on these little icons next to the words, No mask selected. So notice that this first icon says Select the pixel mask that is the layer mask, by the way, and it does not have a Plus sign next to it, because the layer mask already exists.
Its next-door neighbor says, Vector mask and it's indicated by that little pen, it also has a Plus sign next to it indicating that if you click on that icon you'll actually add a vector mask and we'll see more about vector mask in upcoming exercises, but for now, I'm just going to go ahead and click on that first icon and that selects the layer Mask and goes ahead and wakes up the options. Now I'm going to click on the Color Range button that produces exactly the same effect incidentally as choosing the Color Range command from the Select menu. Now things are going to look awfully wonky at first, especially if you set your Selection Preview to Grayscale.
So go ahead and switch it to None if you want to see the full-color version of the image. Also turn off the Invert check box, so we're not inverting the mask, and then go ahead and click on the woman's forehead, right there in the middle of her forehead like so, and I want you to see something. Notice that not only are we seeing a preview of the mask as we're building it here inside the Color Range dialog box but we're also seeing a preview as we're building the mask here inside the Layers panel and the mask is being automatically applied to the image on the fly. So it's a pretty interesting way to work.
I'm going to go ahead and increase that Fuzziness value to 100 and not only is the preview inside the Color Range dialog box affected, but so is the preview inside the thumbnail, inside the Layers panel and we're seeing a full-color preview of the effects of the layer Mask your inside the Image Window. All right, once your settings match mine, go ahead and click OK and that friends, is how you use the Color Range command to directly generate a layer Mask here inside Photoshop.
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