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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."
In this exercise, I am going to show you how to make a path inside of Photoshop and let me make sure the distinction is clear. So you know what to expect from this exercise. I am not talking about drawing a path. We are not going to see how to draw with the Pen tool quite yet instead, I want to show you how to make a path in the Paths palette. How to create an entry in the Paths palette, because by default the Pen tool and the other Shape tools are set up to draw a Shape layers which is all very well and good. But it's not what you want if you are trying to select or mask an image using the Pen tool.
You want a path instead. So let me show you what that's about. I am working inside of an image called Photographs & Paths.psd that's found inside the 15 Paths folder and you can see that these are the core images, the base images here inside the Layers palette. We've got the Baracuda layer which is the image from photographer Tammy Peluso and then we've got the Profile here. If I were to turn it on of that lovely woman from Alexandra Alexis. And then we have the text layers as well that you can check out if you want to. Now you are going to have to have the right fonts installed otherwise you're going to get a font warning. These are fonts that ship along with the full Creative Suite 3. They don't ship with Photoshop by itself. But I had to use some fonts so that's what I decided to go with. And the fonts in question are Nueva Standard and Adobe Garamond.
So just so you know if you don't have those fonts if you get a font warning, you are going to have to make do with some other fonts on your system and you can play around with those if you like. Anyway, I am going to turn off all but the Baracuda layer for now. And I am going to move over to the Paths palette that's in the same neighborhood as the Layers and the Channels palette right next door because it is another way of creating items. Basically these are your items palette and they all kind of have some common elements like a Trash can. And you can convert them all to selection outlines by Ctrl or Command+Clicking on them. So you'll see, but anyway there is a Paths palette. You can also get to it by going up to the Window menu and choosing the Paths command.
And I've created a total of four paths for you in advance that we'll be using throughout this chapter. I am going to encourage you to actually draw many of these paths. But they are there just in case you reach a certain level of frustration and you want to be able to call on them and get sense of how they are crafted and so on. And this is the way to go. If you are going to select a mask an image using the Pen tool or one of the other Shape tools, you do want to create paths you are inside the Paths palette. So let me show you what's going on there. I am going to go ahead and bypass the Pen tool for now because it's the same thing where this exercise is concerned. It works the same way, but obviously it's a tougher tool to master. So we're going to come to it in the exercise, I'll start showing you how it works.
But let's bypass it for now and go to the Shape tools. Just because they are easier to work with and you know how to work with them already essentially. Especially, if you just select the Rectangle tool right here and notice that the Shape tool brings up a fly-out menu. So if you click-and-hold on the tool icon you'll see this fly-out menu. Go ahead and choose the Rectangle tool and I want to turn your attention to these guys right here. Notice these three icons up here in the Options bar. By default, you can see that this button that says Shape layers is selected. But you can also have this guy selected which is Paths. Or you could have this guy selected which is Fill pixels. Let me show you the difference. I am going to go ahead and go over to the Layers palette for a moment here. And I am going to draw a rectangle. Just by default, this is the way things work. As soon you get done drawing that rectangle, it goes ahead and appears as an independent Shape layers, you can see right there.
Now it's not necessarily going to come in as 70% Opaque as mine did. It'll probably come in as a 100% Opaque like this. It also probably be filled with black like this. So I'll go ahead and switch things around so it's filled properly. So that would be your Shape layer. It's an independent layer. It happens to be a dynamic fill layer which is one of these guys that you can create by choosing this command right here. Solid color from that black/white icon. That's how you make a dynamic fill layer normally. And it has what's called a vector mask around it in the shape of a rectangle. Now we'll come back to that how vector masks work and so on in later exercises. But just so you have an idea right now that's what's happening by default. Now that's not really any good when you're trying to select an image.
And the reason is because you are obscuring the stuff that you are trying to select as you're drawing inside of the program here. So that makes it a pretty bad way to go. So what I recommend you do instead, there's two ways to create a path instead of creating Shape layer like this. Go ahead and Undo, actually I'll just back step here in order to get rid of that Shape layer that I created. And I am going to go back to the Baracuda Layer to make it active. And I am going to switch over to this guy right here which is Paths notice that. So click on it and now when I draw with a Rectangle tool, notice that I get this rectangular outline but I don't get any new Shape layer this time which is great. And I am not obscuring anything in the background, so I can accurately trace it. Albeit not with the Rectangle tool. I wouldn't really use a Rectangle tool to trace a bunch of fish but you get the idea.
Now I am going to move over to Paths palette. Where does this thing live? It lives inside the Paths palette now and you can see that it appears as Work Path, you would go ahead and rename it in order to make sure that it doesn't go away because watch this, it'll go away really easily if you don't rename it. Right now, if I click off of it down here in the bottom region of the Paths palette. And if you are not seeing a bottom region then you can do this as well. You can just Shift+Click on the item in order to deactivate it and make it go away. Notice it is italicized, so that's Photoshop's way of showing you it's just a temporary item. That it's keeping track up for you. However it's not going to keep track of it anymore if you draw a new path. Watch this, as soon as I draw this new path here and I'll move it down to a different location. I am doing that using the Spacebar you recall that works with the Rectangular Marquee tool as well.
And as soon as I release, notice the old Work Path goes away and we get this new Work Path. So I just lost my previous work. If you don't want to lose your previous work, Undo Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the mac in order to get your original Work Path back and then go ahead and double-click on it in order to name it. So this is both naming it and saving it. Notice that it comes up with this dialog box saying that it's going to save the path for you and you can call it whatever you want them. I'm Just going to call this one Rectangle and click OK. Now this is a saved path. If I click off it to deactivate it and I start drawing something new that becomes a new Work Path. So you can only have one Work Path at a time is the idea. All right, so that's one way to draw a path.
Another way to ensure that you are drawing a path no matter what and this is actually the way I recommend. I am going to switch back over here. Oh by the way, I should show you really quick. There's also this Fill pixels option which you will probably, well hopefully you're never going to use it, it's not very useful. What it does is it actually adds pixels to the active layer. So could go over here select it and I make sure my Opacity set to a 100% I have got. Black is my foreground color, fine and I'll go ahead and notice I just draw a rectangle filled with black pixels. This is the way the Rectangle tool works in other image editors, other lesser image editors that aren't as powerful as Photoshop. Let's go aback to Layers palette. You can see it didn't add a new layer, it just went ahead and polluted my old Layer. That's why I don't like that option. All right, I'll Undo that modification. So I really don't recommend you go with this item I recommend you stick with Shape layers actually.
Because sometimes you are going to want to draw Shape layers inside Photoshop and if you want to draw a path this is the better habit to get into. Go to the Paths palette and say upfront, you know what Joe being the Paths palette, I want to create a new path. So you click on this little new Path icon down here at the bottom of the palette and that creates a new path and notice that it's just named Path 1 but it's not italicized so it's not temporary. So it's not going to get erased accidentally at some point in time. And even better way to work, I'll go ahead and Undo that is to Alt+Click or Option+Click on the little Page icon to bring up the new Path dialog box and say New rectangle or whatever you want to call it. That way you're naming it as you create it. Click OK and now armed with a Shape tool or the Pen tool if you draw notice that Photoshop has gone ahead and switched over to the Path icon up here in the Options bar for you.
Now you are ready to draw inside of this new path that you created and you can add more paths to it if you want to and just have a ball basically drawing path outlines. And then you can use those path outlines to selections and masks as we'll see in future exercises. All right, so just a base boring info that you got to know before we start in using the Pen tool and that's what we're going to do start using the Pen tool in the very next exercise.
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