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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 we'll load an alpha channel from an entirely different image to select that wrench, and then we'll make the wrench glow. I've saved my progress as Blasting rays. psd, and notice that I also have opened an image called Wrench.jpg and I want you to keep an eye on his wrench as I switch between the images. Notice that Wrench.jpg contains a single channel and that channel serves as a mask that is exactly aligned with the wrench in the other image. So this image is the same physical size, the same number of pixels wide and the same number of pixels tall.
And how in the world did I create this image? Well, as I always preparing this file for you, I went ahead and created an alpha channel for the wrench, and then I went ahead and saved it out as a new image, and you can copy a channel to a new image just by right-clicking on the channel. For example, in this case, I'm right- clicking on the eyes channel, I'll choose Duplicate Channel, and then you change the document setting to New, you go ahead and give it a name if you want, and you click OK, and now I have an independent image called eyes. The problem is that this is a multi- channel image, and you can confirm this by going to the Image menu, choosing the mode command, and then noting that Multichannel has a check mark in front of it, which presents a problem when saving the image.
Because notice, if I go to the File menu and choose the Save command, there are very few file formats that are compatible with multi-channel, typically, you would just go and choose the native PSD format and click the Save button. I'm going to go ahead and click the Cancel button, because I did something else entirely. Given that I only have one channel, I don't really need the multi-channel format. I can go ahead and convert this image by going up to the Image menu, choosing mode, and then choosing grayscale. Now that'll change the name of the channel from Eyes to Gray, however, now notice, if I go to the File menu and choose the Save command, that I have all kinds of file formats to choose from, including JPEG and that's what I did.
I went ahead and saved my wrench image as a JPEG file, as you can see right here inside the dialog box. Anyway, I'm going to cancel out, because I already have that Wrench.jpg image ready and waiting. If you're working along with me, you want to make sure you have this file open as well. Then switch back to our image in progress, I'll go ahead and click on RGB in order to see the full-color image. How in the world do we take a channel from a separate file and load it up as a selection outline? Well, the only way to work in this case is to go up to the Select menu and choose the Load Selection command, and then you change document to Wrench.jpg.
The Channel option will automatically be set to Gray, because that's the only channel we have to work with, and then you click OK, and you go ahead and load up that selection outline. All right, now let's put the selection at work. Switch back to the Layers panel, click on that fused image layer which contains the original version of the wrench and press Ctrl+Alt+J or Command+Option+J on the Mac, and name this new layer Wrench, click OK. All right now let's go ahead and move the wrench to the top of the stack by dragging it up in the Layers panel, and now we're going to assign a couple of layer effects.
Drop down to the fx icon and choose Outer Glow to bring up the big layer Style dialog box. I'm going to move it over to the side so I can see what I'm doing. And I started it by dialing in a bright orange, so I clicked on that pale yellow swatch there and I changed the Hue value to 40 degrees, the Saturation to 100%, and the Brightness to 100 % as well, then click OK. Now I'm going to crank the Opacity value up to 100% and I'm going to increase the Size value to 25 pixels, you can see that that gives us a nice soft glow, I don't want a nice soft glow, I want something much harsher than that.
So I'm going to change the Blend mode from Screen to the brightest blend mode of them all, which is Linear Dodge ( Add) and that gives us this hot glowing effect right there. We also have to make the wrench look like it's hot, so I'll click on Color Overlay, that will initially make the wrench red; obviously that's not what we want. So go ahead and click on the color swatch and let's dial in an orange once again. I'll go with the Hue value of 20 degrees, a Saturation of 100%, and the Brightness of 100% as well, click OK. Now this result in an opaque orange covering up the wrench, to blend the orange with the wrench in a very hot style, change the Blend mode from Normal to Vivid Light, and then finally, let's take the opacity down a few notches to 70% and then click OK in order to accept that effect.
The result is a serviceable, if somewhat nutty composition. Thanks to the fact that we can save our selections as alpha channels and then load those channels anytime we like, and put the selections back in play.
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