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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 will show you how Photoshop mixes the Red, Green and Blue Channels to produce the full-color RGB composite. And we will also see how RGB, is that one color model that's best suited to masking in Photoshop. I have gone ahead and restored the saved version of Toucan with swatches.psd. Now before we go any further, I want you to understand the relationship between the Channels and Layers panel's, here inside Photoshop. Contrary to what many people think, there are not somehow variations on a common theme.
Every full-color photograph that you open will begin life with multiple Channels. It will probably be an RGB image that contains Red, Green and Blue Channels, but it will definitely contain at least three channels of information. Whereas, every digital photograph begins life with no layers whatsoever. It's up to you to add the layers therefore, layers are optional and Channels are absolutely essential. Also worth noting, a channel will always show you a flattened composite view of the image.
So, for example, if I click on the Red Channel, and then I switch back to the Layers panel, and I turn off that swatches layer, then the Swatches will disappear in my Red Channel view. However, the channel itself is flat. You cannot add layers to independent channels. Meanwhile, you can add extra channel data to a layer in the form of a layer mask. And we'll see more about what that means in future chapters. But I just want you have an understanding of that upfront. All right, I am going to go ahead and turn that swatches layer back on.
Switch back to the Channels panel and click on the Red Channel. Now, the reason I bring all this up, is because I have got this different version of the image that I've assembled. It's called RGB revealed.psd. And what I have done is I've taken all of the Channels the Red, Green and Blue Channels and I've assembled them on independent layers. So you can see the Red layer here inside the Layers panel looks exactly like the Red Channel inside the full-color image. All right, so I will go ahead and switch back here.
I've also got the Green Channel on its own layer I will go ahead and turn it on. Now currently the layer is opaque. But if I go up to the Blend mode pop- up menu and change it from Normal to Lighten so that all Photoshop is doing, is using one layer to Lighten another. Then I end up getting the very same effect, as if I was to switch back to the full-color composite image, switch to the Channels panel and turn on the Green Channel. So the moral of the story is, when you're working in the RGB mode, Photoshop mixes the channels together so that one primary color lightens another.
All right, just to further prove this. I will go and switch back to my RGB revealed image, switch back to the Layers panel, turn on the Blue layer, click on that layer to make it active, change its Blend mode to Lighten as well and we end up getting the full-color composite image. Now switch back to the full-color image, switch to the Channels panel, click on RGB colors so that we are seeing the full-color view, and I can now press Ctrl+Tab or Command+Tilde on the Mac in order to switch between my open images and they look absolutely identical and that's because, that lightning trick is what Photoshop is doing automatically in the background.
All right now, where this gets interesting from your perspective, I will go ahead and switch back to the full-color image is that Photoshop is always using one channel to lighten another as it mixes the full-color composite. You can do anything you like as you're creating your masks. So if you want to mix these channels together in different ways, that's totally fine, and you can get some very different results that may turn out to be truly beneficial, as you generate your masks inside Photoshop, which is why RGB color is such a useful masking mode, because you do have these three different variations on the image and every single one of those variations is typically in good shape and provides a very different view of your image.
In the next exercise, we will take a look at the Single-Channel Grayscale Image.
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