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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."
You may not know this, but masking goes through the heart of a more common function in Photoshop layers. Every layer carries with it something called a Transparency mask which defines the boundaries of the layers, that is, which pixels are opaque and which are transparent. You can load that Transparency mask as a selection at any time by pressing the Ctrl key. That would be the Command key on the Mac and clicking on a thumbnail in the Layers palette. But that's just a beginning. You also have layer masks which allow you to temporarily erase portions of a layer or control the area affected by an adjustment layer.
You can use a Clipping mask to house the contents of one or more layers inside a base layer and you can use Knockouts, wonderful blissful knockouts to bore temporary holes inside layers. With the exception of the Transparency mask, layer-based masks exist independently of the layers themselves, so you'll always have access to your original pixels. Layer, thy name is Flexibility, Flexibility J Layer to be exact, ain't it the truth.
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