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Photoshop mastery can be elusive, but in Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Mastery, best-selling author and video trainer Deke McClelland teaches the most powerful, unconventional, and flexible features of the program. In this third and final installment of the popular and comprehensive series, Deke delves into the strongest features that Photoshop has to offer, including scalable vector graphics, Smart Objects, and Photomerge. Exercise files accompany the course.
Recommended prerequisites: Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Fundamentals and Photoshop CS4 One-on-One: Advanced, both part of the lynda.com Online Training Library®.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.
All right, so here I'm inside the image called Russell Preston Brown.tiff and all I have done so far is grabbed the Red channel and duplicated and renamed it my mask. Our next step is to take this alpha channel and convert it into this Final mask right here. So step number one was to duplicate the channel, we already did step number one. Step number two is to increase the contrast of the channel so that we can get essentially about 50% there. All right, so I'm going to go back to my mask that I'm working on right there; best way to increase the contrast of a channel in my opinion, go to the Image menu, choose Adjustments and choose Levels. If you need more control go with Curves, you can even get away with Brightness/Contrast. Humorously enough if you use Brightness/ Contrast which you can do, you would want to turn on Use Legacy because notice if I increase the Contrast, I don't really get all that far; I do make some progress but I don't make as much progress as I like to.
Whereas, if I turn on Use Legacy, so that I can now to go ahead and clip luminance levels inside of the image, then increase in contrast does a lot of work really fast. You can see now I'm changing a lot of the background to black and a lot of the foreground to white. So you can work this way and you can create great masks using Brightness/ Contrast by the way my friends. I'm not going to, because I'd rather get the control that's afforded to by the Levels command. So let's go to Image, let's choose Adjustments, let's choose Levels. We can see the Histogram. We have got some gianormous bumps going on here on the left hand side of the Histogram, indicating our big areas of shadow detail and then we have quite bit of highlight detail as well and we have some clipped highlights and some clipped shadows inside of this image.
Not that great of a photograph in the first place but what you could do now at this point is just increase the contrast all right, and we want the background to be black, so I could just say fine, it's all going to be black, at black point value of 101, I'm saying everything that has the luminance level of 101 or darker becomes black, super duper, that gets rid of the background. Then let's go ahead and reduce the white point value until everything inside of Russell is going white and now we have a ton of contrast, isn't that great? Well the problem is our edges. We really need those edges to look just absolutely awesome and they don't; they look very ratty and very jagged. Also we are losing some contrast between stuff we don't we don't want like the o in the logo of my beloved book publisher O'Reilly, we don't want that coming out of Russell's head.
So we need better definition right in that area and we are losing it, thanks to trying to get too much done at once here inside the Levels dialog box. So what I caution you to do is to work patiently in incrementally, a little bit at a time. So I'm going to back off that white point value to something like about two-ten, I'm just working with even numbers so that it's easy to track what I'm doing and then I'll take the black point value down to something like 70. Now that works for this image. Don't you dare think for a second that these are magical numbers that are going to work for every image; they are not. They are just for this image. I'm looking at the image in the Image window here and making a judgment call, as I'm modifying my slider triangle values here.
All right, but that looks good, I like that. So we have increased the contrast quite nicely, we still have a little bit of contrast between the O and the top of Russell's head. That's probably the worst of the contrast right there. Certainly it's going away at this point but we'll take care of that you will see and we still have some nice contrast here around the hand, which is another area that we are starting to lose. So you can see that we have some pretty dark shadow detail right next toward to some very dark shadow detail and we can exaggerate the contrast at that point later. But otherwise, I think we are looking good and the hairs are standing out just beautifully aren't they? All right click OK in order to accept that modification.
Now this is about the point at which I save my work because I have done a little bit of work at this point. Something about saving alpha channels inside of Photoshop, little bit of note. You can't save to the JPEG formats. So if you are working on a JPEG image, you have to switch to a different file format, if you are working from a Raw image and this comes up as a DNG file, you are going to have to save to a different format because you can't save the DNG or any of the other Raw formats from Photoshop. You are going to have to go with either TIFF or the native PSD format. Let me show you how to do that. Go up to the File menu, choose the Save As command and then what you want to do is you want to go ahead and rename the image. I'm going to call mine something like mask in progress, make sure Alpha Channel is turned on. That's very, very important. That check box must be on if you want to save these alpha channels along with the image. Now presumably you are looking at a different format right now but you would switch either to TIFF or PSD. Now which one win? Well here is my rule of thumb; if your image contains layers, or you plan on adding layers to the image, then go ahead and save the image out to the native PSD format right here. The file format does have some compression associated with it by the way and that will become important in just a moment when I explain how that compression works but not quite as much as much as TIFF but anyway, just know that that's the file format if you've got layers.
If you don't have any layers and you are not planning on adding layers to the image, just as I'm not because I'm just building up the alpha channels here, then you switch to this format right there, TIFF, instead that's what I recommend. And if you decide to go with TIFF, then you go ahead and click the Save button, you are going to get another dialog box here that's asking you about things like Pixel Order, which you would leave set to Interleaved, and Byte Order, which you would set to anything you want. It doesn't matter if it's PC or Macintosh; they are both compatible on both platforms. If you have got a customer that's working on the Mac and you just want to make sure that they don't have any problem with this image whatsoever, then go ahead and select Macintosh even though you are working on a PC, for example, you shouldn't have any problems every with the Byte Order.
So anyway, I'm going to leave it set to IBM PC because that's what I'm working whatever. Don't turn on the Image Pyramid. This is the thing that I want you to change. Image Compression. By default it's set to None. What that does is it just saves every pixel completely uncompressed and you have gianormous images on your hard drive, taking up all kinds of room that could be spent on more and more images. You want LZW. So go ahead and turn on LZW compression, this is lossless compression, it is not going to harm your image, it's not JPEG and it does a terrific job specially where alpha channels are concerned of minimizing the size of the alpha channels, because what LZW compression does is it looks for neighboring pixels that are of the same color. So lots of white pixels for example, or lots of black pixels, it just group them altogether and as a result, creates a smaller file on your hard drive, it's the same size in memory, it's the same size when you open it up as it ever was but it smaller on your hard drive, thanks to LZW compression and way smaller where alpha channels are concerned.
Click OK in order to save out that image and you have now saved both your full color image and your alpha channels for future use and you can save all kinds of alpha channels. Now in the next exercise, we still have more work to do, of course, inside of this image. What we have got to do is basically get from here my mask to Final mask and we are going to do that by painting inside of the alpha channel. But as you will see this painting is fairly automated. It's not a lot of grunt work; it's a lot of great work. Stay tuned and you will see how it works.
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