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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.
Just so as you know I went ahead and double-clicked the Clouds Filter a few more times until I achieve this effect right here, and then I went ahead and saved it off as Masked sunrays.psd. In this exercise we're going to finish off the composition by adding a burst of light coming out from underneath the clouds and we are going to embellish that light using a couple of smart filters as well. Again, if you're working along with me go ahead and scroll up to the top of the list here inside the Layers panel and you'll find this layer called sunlight.
I want you to go ahead and turn it on and notice it's just this black area with this blob of white in the upper right- hand corner that I painted rather roughly. I must have been using the Brush tool. And not I'd like you go up to the layer menu and choose the Arrange command and then choose Send to Back, or we can press Ctrl+Shift+ [, Command+Shift+[ on the Mac and that'll send that layer all the way to the back of the stack directly above the background image.] So go ahead and drag it up in front of rays, like so.
If you want you can collapse the rays layer, so it takes up a little less room there inside the Layers panel. I'm going to collapse that kite layer as well. The next step because we'll be applying Smart Filters. I want you to convert this layer to a Smart Object by going up to Layers panel flyout menu and choosing Convert to Smart Object or press Ctrl+, or Command+, on the Mac if you loaded my D keys. Now let's drop out the blacks and keep that white blob by changing the Blend mode from Normal to Screen and we end up creating this bright effect here.
I've figured that wasn't quite enough. If this light was really coming directly at us and we were trying to capture this scene using a digital camera then there would be a little bit of obligatory lens flare involved. To add that lens flare, go up to the Filter menu, choose Render and then choose Lens Flare and we're going to start things off with the default settings. I'm going to change the Lens Type to 50- 300 millimeter zoom and increase that B Brightness value to 100%. Now this preview is worth beans, it's just so tiny and so difficult to follow.
What you want to do us drag that little plus sign until the effect looks like its a little bit high. We really wanted to encircle that sort of cloud thing, but you need to move it a little bit high for that to happen. So it should look more or less like this. Then click OK in order to create the effect. And it looks like I did a pretty good job. If for any reason whatsoever, you feel like you didn't absolutely nailed the effect then you just go ahead and double-click on the word Lens Flare here inside the Layers panel and you drag that guy up, for example,.
Here is the problem though, we want to drag it up maybe 1 pixel and that's not terribly easy to do of course. Go ahead and try it out to see if you can get it to move around to a better position, click OK and that is going to be good enough for our purposes because I don't want to fool around with this all day. It's going to end up looking pretty good anyway. I don't want to introduce those aberrant pinks. So I'm going to get rid of the additional Lens Flare coloring by double-clicking in the slider icons to the right of the words Lens Flare and here inside the Blending Options dialog box I'm going to change the mode from Normal to Luminosity that I'll drop out those colors and keep the natural colors from the sky.
Click OK in order to accept that modification. Now at this point I thought hey, if one Lens Flare affect looks good then two Lens Flare affects will look awesome. So I went back to the Filter menu and chose that very first command Lens Flare, or you can press Ctrl+F, Command+F on the Mac. Because we're working with the Smart Object that brings back the Lens Flare dialog box, now I want you to change the Lens Type to 105mm Prime, reduce the Brightness value to 75%, at least that's what I came up with, you can go your way. And I drag this little plus sign which indicates the center of the effect over and down to the left.
So it's down toward the bottom-left side of that bright blob and then clicked okay to create that new effect. To get rid of the coloring where this effect is concerned as well double-click on its little slider icon and once again change the mode from Normal to Luminosity and then click OK. If we zoom-out here a little bit, notice that there is a bunch of Lens Flare effects down into the left of the model's face. I don't want that. So I'm going to create a filter mask, but I want to create the filter mask from scratch because that's the easiest way to work.
So go to the existing white filter mask next to the word Smart Filters here, right-click on it and choose Delete Filter Mask. Then go ahead and grab the Elliptical Marquee tool and drag from the center of the cloud like so and as you drag, press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, to create a big huge ellipse that cuts through the model as you see here. So it should basically just go right through the model's face. And now we're going to recreate that filter mask by right-clicking on the word Smart Filters and then choose Add Filter Mask and that will go ahead and filter away the effect on the left side of the image.
Right now, we've got a very harsh transition and that transition could end up showing up later. So why don't we soften things? By making sure that the filter mask is active. Then I'm going to collapse my Color panel here and I'll go up to the Window menu and choose the Mask command and I want you to increase the Feather value to say about 50 pixels and press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac and that way we're applying a parametric nondestructive softening effect to this filter mask. Let's go ahead and collapse the Mask panel once again.
I'm going to go ahead and zoom-in on my image and they're just too more finishing effects that I want to apply. First of all I decided that I wanted to regain a little bit of the hair around the model's head and you can do that if you like by going to this layer that's called M1 R40. That's the multiplied version of the image and currently I've masked away all that brightness around her head. In that way that not quite white background wasn't going to darken the rest of the scene.
Now that we've added all of these rays of light, which have tremendously brightened the scene as you can see here, we can afford to go ahead and introduce a little bit of darkening by Shift+clicking on the layer mask that's associated with that M1 R40 layer. That'll turn the layer mask off and bring back some of the finer details of hair inside of that multiply layer and then finally I'll scroll to the top of the stack and turn on this text layer that I've created for you in advance. Let's go ahead and check out the final version.
I'm going to go ahead and zoom-in on the image just a little bit here, and then I'll press the F key a couple of times in order to switch to the full screen mode. And here is the final version of the composition in which we've managed to isolate and blend two of the toughest image elements there are, hair and feathers using a combination of conventional every day masking and compositing techniques, here inside Photoshop.
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