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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 introduce you to the Color Range Command. Now because it was originally designed as a kind of replacement for the Magic Wand tool, it's best understood in the context of the wand, so we'll start things off with a brief wand refresher, then we'll move into the Color Range command and you'll see how it's similar to the Wand, but it produces better results. I'm going to switchover here from the Quick Selection tool to the Magic Wand tool and, by the way, if you're working along with me you should see vertical guideline to the center of this image. If you don't see it press Ctrl+; or Command+; on a Mac.
Now I've gone ahead and restored the default settings for both the wand and for the eyedropper, by the way, so the eyedropper set to Point Sample, because that affects the performance of the Magic Wand tool. Now I'll go ahead and switch back to the Wand. Notice that the Tolerance is set to 32 as by default. If I click right there on that vertical guideline I'm going to select 32 luminance level lighter and 32 luminance level darker as averaged across all three of the color channels, but let's say that's not what I want, I want a higher tolerance value. So I'm going to raise that guy to 120 let's say and then press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac.
My selection outline does not change, because that's a static modification, so I have to press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac and start again to create a larger selection. I'm going to click a little bit to the right of the guideline and because of the way this gradient was designed that helps me better center the selection. Notice because the Contiguous check box is turned on we're just selecting adjacent pixels, we're not jumping the gap, so that we can see what the selection looks like I'm going to switchover to the Channels panel and I'm going to Alt+Click or Option+Click on that save selection icon to bring up the New Channel dialog box and I'll call this wand selection and I'll click OK.
Now click on the wand selection channel, so we can take a look at it press Ctrl+D or Command+D on a Mac to deselect the image and I'll zoom in and you can see that even though the Anti-alias check box is turned on, we have nothing in the way of gray pixels going on here this is a jagged selection outline and that's because of the dithering that's inherent in the gradient. And dithering, by the way, is a random variation in the coloring of neighboring pixels that helps the gradient look smoother. However, it doesn't work very well with the Magic Wand tool. Anyway I'm going to zoom back out by pressing Ctrl+0 or Command+0 on a Mac, let's see how things work similarly but better with the Color Range Command, I'll switch back to the RGB image then, if you're working along with me go ahead and tap the D key to ensure that you've got your default color selected.
In that way you'll get the same results as me then go up to the Select menu and choose the Color Range command or if you load a dekeKeys you can press that keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+Shift+Alt+O or Command+Shift+Option+O, because this is such a great command I wanted to make sure you have easy access to it. Now I will go ahead and choose the command, what we're seeing here are the default settings, so you should still see the full-color image out here in a Image window, if you don't change your Selection Preview to None and you should also see a black rectangle in the center of the dialog box, if you see something else if you see the full-color image, for example, go ahead and click on Selection and that is what we're seeing.
So all the selected pixels in the image all the pixels that color range is going to select that is, are white meaning, it's not going to select anything at this point and everything that is not going to select is shown as black and so the Color Range command is showing us what the selection will look like as a mask. As I say so far we don't have anything selected, because we haven't defined the base color, you do that by clicking with this little eyedropper in the Image window, so I'm going to click right there on that center guideline and you'll see now that I'm starting to select some pixels.
So in other words the eyedropper is your magic wand when you're working inside the Color Range command. By default, this Fuzziness value set to 40, it works a lot like the tolerance value. In that we're selecting 40 luminance level lighter and 40 luminance level darker. However, there are two big advantages to it, for one thing, it's dynamic. So if I go ahead and increase that Fuzziness value to say 120, then I'm expanding the selection down here in the Selection Preview on the fly.
Also it's a gradual drop off. So in other words the color on which I clicked is absolutely selected, the colors that are 121 luminance levels away are absolutely deselected and everything in between is partially selected based on how close in color it is to that base color the color on which I clicked. So we've got this nice gradual drop off that's more in keeping with the continuous tone image. Also notice that the selection jumps the gap, so Color Range is always selecting non-adjacent pixels.
Now in next exercise I'll show you how this localized color clusters function allow you to sidestep that a little bit, but it works very differently than the Magic Wand tool. All right now I'm going to click OK in order to generate the selection outline and notice even though we were seeing the selection as a mask, Color Range goes ahead and generates a selection outline and that's always true unless you're working inside of a layer mask. All right, now that I've created this selection I'm going to go ahead and save it off by Alt+Clicking or Option+ Clicking on that save selection icon and I'll go ahead and call this one color range, and then I'll click OK and now we can compare the two.
Press Ctrl+D, Command+D on the Mac there is our wand selection, doesn't jump the gap jagged as all get out and there is the Color Range selection it does jump the gap, but it also generates these very soft selections as you can see it's doing a brilliant job of following that contouring and dithering pattern at work inside the gradient. All right, so there is your introduction to the Command. In the next exercise, I'll show you how to work with the other functions inside the Color Range dialog box.
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