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All right, so here I am reviewing the composition. Love the smoke, but it's possible we have a little bit too much of a good thing going on. After all, the smoke is doing a pretty good job of obscuring every bit of those cable-like I-beam extrusions. So in this final exercise, we're going to back off the effect using a knockout layer, and then we'll also add an adjustment layer to enhance the contrast. I've saved my changes as Painted in smoke .psd, found inside the 03_cables folder. I'm going to scroll up to the top of the Layers panel and turn that letters layer back on, just so that we have a sense of the overall composition.
Make sure that the smoke layer is selected. Now, normally I'd go ahead and create a gradient inside of the layer mask, but we spent so much time getting that layer mask exactly right that I don't want to take a chance of hurting it. So we're going to add a knockout layer instead. And as you may recall, knockout layers require a fair amount of set up, so let's get everything established in advance by pressing Control+Shift+N, or Command +Shift+N on the Mac, to bring up the New Layer dialog box, and I'm going to go ahead and call this layer knockout, and click OK. Then we need to put both of these layers in a group, so Shift+Click on the smoke layer to select it, and then go up to the Layers panel flyout menu and choose New Group from layers, and I'll go ahead and call this group KO group, and then click OK. And then I'll twirl it open so I can regain access to those layers.
Double-click on an empty portion of the knockout layer in order to bring up the Layer Style dialog box. Reduce the Fill Opacity value to 0%, and set Knockout to Shallow. That's very important, by the way; we don't want deep. And then click OK. So that's all there is to the set up. Now let's go ahead and create the gradient by pressing Control+Minus, or Command+ Minus on the Mac, to back out a step, then grab your Gradient tool, which you can get by pressing the G key. And just to make sure that we're both on the same page, right-click on that little gradient icon on the far left side of the options bar, and choose Reset tool.
Then click the down pointing arrow head next to that gradient bar, and select the second gradient in, which is Foreground to Transparent. You can also get to that gradient, by the way, by pressing the period key; just a little trick. Anyway, I'm going to press the Enter key, or the Return key on the Mac, to hide that panel. Then tap the D key, just to make sure that your foreground color is black, and begin dragging about a pica, or so, below the bottom of the canvas up to the top of the inside of the A. And I'm pressing the Shift key, by the way, to create a vertical gradient, and then I'll release in order to create that knockout.
So any portion of the knockout layer that's opaque turns the layer below it transparent, and any portion of that knockout layer that's transparent leaves the layer below it alone. That may seem like some pretty strange reasoning, but that's the way it works. All right; now I'm going to zoom back in. Let's enhance the contrast by adding a levels adjustment layer. I'll press the Alt key, or the Option key on the Mac, and click that black/white icon at the bottom of the Layers panel, and then choose the Levels command. And I'm going to go ahead and call this guy contrast, and then click OK. And, by the way, if you loaded dekeKeys, you can also create a levels adjustment layer by pressing Control+Shift+L, or Command+Shift+L on the Mac.
I'm going to take this white point value down from 255, to 250, just to enhance the highlights ever so slightly. And then I'm going to click in this middle gamma value, and I'll press Shift+down arrow three times in a row to reduce the value to 0.7, which darkens the midtones. That looks pretty good to me. I'm going to go ahead and hide that Adjustments panel. Problem is that even though we've got some decent contrast going on now throughout the image, things aren't faring so well down here at the bottom of the composition.
Notice the I-beam extrusion behind the word pow is turning pretty much jet black, and so we're losing some definition there. What I'd like to do is create a gradient layer mask for this adjustment layer that hides the bottom portion of the image. Well, it turns out I've already got that. Right there, that knockout layer is already providing me with that mask. All I need to do is grab the contrast layer, and drag it below the knockout layer, and release. And that goes ahead and brightens up that bottom portion of the image, because the knockout is cutting through the two layers in this group below it.
And that's by virtue of the fact -- I'll go ahead and double-click on an empty portion of the knockout layer. That's by virtue of the fact that we set Knockout to Shallow, and that's just how it works inside of Photoshop. When you have a shallow knockout, it goes to the bottom of the layer group. All right, and that takes care of it. I'm going to go ahead and press the F key a couple of times, and zoom in on the image. Not only have we managed to create these twisting, cable-like I-beam extrusions, but we've also managed to exactly accurately mask every single surface of the letters, and of the extruded sides, here inside Photoshop Extended.
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