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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, we're going to customize our layer effect, specifically this edge highlight, so that the blood looks like it's integrated into the scene. I've saved my progress as Strange syrup .psd, found inside the 07_refine folder, and the first thing we're going to do is take this drips layer right there, and we're going to create a copy of it by pressing Control+J, or Command+J on the Mac, and that goes ahead and jumps a layer, of course. Turn off the Bevel and Emboss effect for the lower drips layer. Might as well collapse the effects as well, and then turn off Gradient Overlay for the top drips layer. And so we've gone ahead and separated the two effects, so that we can modify them independently.
I'm going to go ahead and collapse both that top drips layer, and the lips layer as well, just so that I have a little more room to work. Then you want to click on the layer mask thumbnail for the top drips layer, and go ahead and grab the Brush tool from the toolbox, or by pressing the B key. You don't want to be painting with white; you want to be painting with black. If your foreground color is white, as it is for me, go ahead and press the X key to make it black. And notice that I've already lowered the Opacity value to 50%. You want to go ahead and do that too, by pressing the 5 key. I'll right-click to show you that I've reduced the Hardness value to 0%, because we're just going to be incrementally painting some of this layer mask away.
Then I'll press the Enter key, or the Return key on the Mac, in order to hide that panel, make my cursor nice and big right there, and I'll just go ahead and click once in the upper right region of that effect. That goes a long way toward diminishing those highlights. And again, this area of the image, I want to stress, would be in shadow, so it wouldn't be really picking up the highlights. Now, the next thing I want you to do is to reduce the size of your brush by pressing the left bracket key a few times. Paint around the highlights over here on this right-hand drip, so you should just have a wee little bit -- I am not painting anymore; I'm just showing you -- just a wee little bit of highlight along this left-hand edge.
And we want to go ahead and do the same thing for this big thick left-hand drip as well. So I'll paint along this region, and then I'm going to increase the Opacity of my brush to 100% by pressing the 0 key. So notice the Opacity value went to 100. And I'll reduce the size of my cursor further, and I'm going to paint away the bottom of the drip, like so, and that goes ahead and elevates that highlight. Otherwise, the highlight ends up kind of creating a strange, little bubble right there at the bottom of the image, because that's where the mask ends. All right! Now I'm going to increase the size of my cursor a little more.
Press the 5 key once again in order to reduce the Opacity value to 50%, and I'll paint along the edge of the highlight, just to mitigate it that much further. Now, if you feel like you've gone too far, you may feel like well, gosh, I don't really have a lot of options available to me, because I just kind of painted all over this mask. If I wanted to paint a little bit of extra edge, then that would be very difficult, because after all, what I've essentially done is applied a much of destructive modifications. Well, you can paint inside of the confines of your old drips just by loading them up.
Go ahead and press the Control key, or the Command key on the Mac, and click on the layer mask thumbnail for the lower drips layer, which still has that original mask altogether intact. Then you can press Control+H, or Command+H on the Mac, to hide those selection outlines. Then press the X key to switch your foreground color to white. So now it's permissible to paint with white, because you're painting inside the old mask. I'm actually going to reduce the size of my cursor a little bit, and just paint up, like so. And then I might go ahead and reduce, let's say, the Opacity value to 30%.
Let's click right about there, just to brighten things up ever so slightly, and that ends up achieving the effect I'm looking for. That's enough modifications where the drips are concerned. Go ahead and press Control+D, by the way, or Command+D on the Mac, to deselect the image; very important for this next step. In looking at this image and reviewing it, I noticed that this hair right there was kind of in the way, and its kind of cutting into this blood trail, and essentially we just have too much going on inside of a very small area.
So we're going to heal it away, and we'll do so by Alt+clicking, or Option+clicking, on the eyeball in front of the dude layer -- the layer that contains the original model -- and I also want you to turn off the Color Overlay effect, like so. Switch to the Healing Brush, which you get by choosing the Healing Brush tool from this Healing flyout menu, and you want to click on that layer to make it active. So some layer needs to be active, and then you want to press the Alt key, or the Option key on the Mac, and click right about there on the lips.
So notice I'm about a pica over from that hair that we want to get rid of. So I'll go ahead and Alt or Option+click there, and that sets the source point for our cloning. Now, I don't want to paint directly on the layer. For one thing, that's a destructive modification. For another thing, I can't, because it's a smart object, and I don't want to rasterize the smart object, so I'll click Cancel. And then I'll get this additional layer message just for fun. I'm going to click OK on that as well. Instead, what you want to do is you want to create a new layer by pressing Control+Shift+N, or Command+Shift+N on the Mac, and I'll go ahead and call this new layer cover-up, and click OK.
In order to make sure that you are healing onto this layer, as opposed to just cloning, you need to change sample from Current layer, to Current & Below. Next, go ahead and paint over that hair, about like so, and Photoshop will go ahead and heal the brushstroke into place, just as it normally would. All right! Now, we're in kind of a pickle, because we've turned off a bunch of layers here. So I'm going to go ahead and turn on the Color Overlay effect, for starters. I'll go up to the Select menu -- this is the easiest way to work -- and choose the All layers command, or you can press Control+Alt+A, or Command+Option+A on the Mac, in order to select every single layer in the composition.
Then go up to layer menu and choose Hide layers; I know that's not we want, but you have to start there. Then drop down to the bottom of the list of layers inside the Layers panel, and I want you to Control+click, or Command+click, on an empty portion of this white layer in order to deselect it, because we don't want to turn it on. That was a layer that I created while I was putting this composition together, by the way, in order to test the integrity of my mask, even though we never ended up using it inside of this project. Now I will go back to the Layer menu, and I will choose Show layers in order to turn all on all the layers inside the composition. All right! Now I'll just click on one layer to make it active.
I'll press the M key in order to switch back to the Rectangular Marquee tool. And let's go ahead and press Control+0, or Command+0 on the Mac, in order to zoom out from the image, and I'll press the F key a couple of times in order to fill the screen. That is the final version of our ghoulish vampire, thanks, in no small part, to the power of color range, refine edge, and of course, the larger discipline of masking, here inside Photoshop.
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