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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 the previous exercise, we mapped some rivets on to this guy's back, using a combination of the Hard Light Blend mode, and some Luminance blending. In this exercise, we are going to peel the rivets away from his arms and shoulders using a layer mask. Now I am working inside of an image called I need a dermatologist.psd, because this guy's back is broken out in rivets and it contains the armor layer and the back layer and a couple of hidden layers called edge and title as well. And bear in mind that we're building up essentially a heavy metal CD cover, that's the idea. I am going to go over to the Channels palette. You can see that I've already created the layer mask that you need to use, if you don't want to create it along with me.
So if you are just going to want to load it up or if you start getting frustrated or have problems with it. This is what the layer mask looks like right there. It basically traces the contours of the guy's shoulder, believe it or not. This doesn't look like his back, but that's basically what it is and it traces down his collar. This little indent is from a bracelet that the guy is wearing. All right, so I am going to switch back to the RGB image. I am going to show you how I made it and then we'll go ahead and load that contour selection. So I am using the Elliptical Marquee tool. It's all done using the Elliptical Marquee tool and the Lasso tool. You need to use a Elliptical Marquee tool in order to select his shoulders. So there is lot of creative license here, you can choose to select the shoulders differently than I am going to.
But basically, you may notice that he is kind of muscly, he's got these sort of lumps going across his back, they're good healthy lumps, but they are still lumpy. So I can select those lumps using the Elliptical Marquee tool. So I draw one ellipse at the top there and then I am going to Shift+Drag to draw another ellipse across this lump. Then Shift+Drag to create another ellipse right about there and then Shift+Drag to create another ellipse right there and so on. So you just basically select these areas using the Elliptical Marquee tool as I am doing here. Again, exactly how you decide to select the lumps is totally up to you, you don't have to slavishly do exactly what I am doing, as if you would be able to, really. I mean, I am not sure that you would be able to follow exactly what I am doing here on screen. All right, so one more Shift+Drag, I think, so far I have described basically four ellipses for each shoulder.
Now having selected this rough area right here, I am not going to continue to try to meticulously select along his back. Instead, I would just go ahead and grab the Rectangular Marquee tool, which I get by pressing the M key once again. Then I am going to go ahead and drag down his back like so, taking care to start things off of the intersection of the shoulder and his back right there on the right hand side and then I'll drag over to this side. So I have got the Shift key down, so I am adding this rectangle to the previously existing selection outline. I am also going to Shift+Drag up here at the top of the image in order to select his neck and that would be the beginning of my layer mask. So I would now go down to layer mask icon, make sure that the armor layer is selected, and then I go back down to layer mask icon and click on it in order to convert that selection to a layer mask and we end up with this mask right here.
Now I need to go ahead and get rid of some of the arm detail and I am going to do that using the Lasso tool. So I would go ahead and Alt+Click, actually, or Option+Click in order to describe a polygonal lasso around the arms, like so. Then I'll go ahead and Shift+Drag down here and release the Shift key with the mouse button still down, remember that technique from several chapters ago. Then I am going to press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, and now I can continue clicking Shift. Because I had the Shift key down, I told Photoshop that I wanted to add to the selection. Because I now have Alt or Option down, I am describing a polygonal selection outline.
Once I get done selecting that arm, I would release the Alt or Option key and then I would need to get the Ellipse tool once again. So I'll press the M key a couple of times in order to get that Elliptical Marquee tool. Then I would Shift+Drag just around that little bit of bracelet right there. If you are having problems seeing exactly what you need to trace, then you can turn the armor layer off for a moment. I have selected the areas that I think are going to work well for this. Now with the layer mask still selected, I would make sure that black is my foreground color. So I would press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete to fill those areas with black and then I can click off the selection in order to deselect.
That looks pretty darn good. Now, I am going to, just to make sure that everything lines up perfectly right, because this edge layer needs to line up with these contours that I just drew, I am going to go ahead and trash that layer mask. I am going to go ahead and throw it away. Another thing you can do, by the way, if you want to delete a layer mask, you can go ahead and click on it, make sure its active, and then just Alt+Click or Option+Click on the Trash can icon. As long as the layer mask was active, only the layer mask will get deleted. I'll go back to the Channels palette. This is just so that I have a very accurate selection outline. I am going to Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on that contours channel right there in order to load it as a selection. Now I'll go back to the Layers palette, with the armor layer selected, I'll click on the layer mask icon and that will go ahead and mask that armor inside of his back.
So here is the reason I wanted things to line up properly. This edge layer only works if everything is exactly aligned. So I am going to turn on the edge layer, and you can see that it covers up his shoulders and his neckline and so on. Now in order to make sure that we're just seeing the edges there, I am going to go ahead and clip this edge layer inside of the armor layer and I am going to do that by selecting the edge layer, so click on it. Then go up to the Layer menu and choose Create Clipping Mask or press a keyboard shortcut, Ctrl+Alt+G, Command+Option+G. The reason it's G is because this function used to be called a clipping group, back in the old days.
Anyway, I'll go ahead and choose the command and now you can see that the edges are clipped inside of the armer, so we have these nice D&D edges. Again, this is perfect armor for summer. I am now going to turn on the title for this heavy metal CD. Now we have a band in residence here at lynda.com essentially. It's a group called the Jellybricks, and strictly speaking, they are not heavy metal. Nothing of this sort, but I am figuring this would be a great breakout album for them here. This album doesn't really exist. This album called boltback, it's just a suggestion on my part, but the band really does exist, check them out, they are actually very, very good. Anyway, I am thinking, they do a couple of Evanescence covers, they set the type in old English, they are set to go, this could be a great breakout album for them, I think.
So that's the first of our creative layer masking projects. We'll begin another one starting in the next exercise and that project will involve the masking of glass.
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