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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're going to create the effect of hot rays blasting out of this guy's eyes, using our Front and Rear alpha channels along with the Radial Blur Filter. I've saved my progress as Glowing eyes. psd and I'm going to switchover to the Channels panel, and scroll down a little bit and Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on that front channel, in order to load it as a selection outline. Now let's switch back to the Layers panel and press Ctrl+Alt+J or Command+Option+J on the Mac, that keyboard shortcut that allows us to jump the contents of the layer and name the new layer at the same time.
And I'll go ahead and call this layer front and click OK in order to create that new layer. Now ideally what we do at this point is go up to the Filter menu choose the Blur command and then choose Radial Blur, which allows you to either spin the image or zoom it, and we would switch to zoom, and then we crank the amount value up to 100, but here's the problem, how do we set the center point of this zoom? I want the effect blast out of the eye going to the right, so that means I need to move the center point to the inside of that left goggle.
Well, I have no idea where that is, because this is ultimately a very bad preview. And between you and me, this is an old filter that hasn't seen any love lately, and as a result we can't really tell what we're doing. You can take a stab in the dark and click OK, but that stab in the dark probably isn't going to look very good. So let's press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac to undo the effects of the filter. Here is how you help Photoshop out a little bit. You go ahead and load the selection for the layer, and you do it in exactly the same way that you convert an alpha channel to a selection.
You press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac and you click the thumbnail for the layer, you must click the thumbnail for that front layer, in order to properly load that selection outline. Now go up to the Filter menu and you can press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac as you choose Radial Blur or better yet, just integrate Alt or Option into the keyboard shortcuts. So in other words, I'll go ahead and escape out here. You press Ctrl+Alt+F or Command+Option+ F on the Mac, in order to revisit the Radial Blur dialog box, then go ahead and move that center point to the far left-hand side and make sure that it's more or less centered vertically, and really you're just going to have the eyeball it, because there's no way to find the exact center.
This looks pretty good to me, might look a little high actually, that might prove to be a little bit better. Now I'll click OK in order to apply that filter and actually that ends up looking great. All right, now what I want to do is blend this layer with the layer below it by changing the Blend mode from Normal to Screen, and then we get this bright interaction. All right now let's do the exact same thing for that rear goggle. I'll switch to the Channels panel and I'll Ctrl+Click or Command+Click on the rear channel. Now you might well ask at this point, well, why didn't we just press Ctrl+Alt+8 or Command+Option+8 on the Mac? And the reason is who would know.
Photoshop is assigning these keyboard shortcuts to our alpha channels on the fly and unless you're paying awfully good attention to what's going on, then you're not going to remember which shortcut goes with which alpha channel. So it's usually easier just to switchover, Ctrl+Click or Command+Click, switch back to the Layers panel and then click on the fused image layer, in order to make it active. Press Ctrl+Alt+J or Command+Option+J on the Mac, to jump the image to a new layer and name that layer at the same time. I'll go ahead and call my layer rear and click OK, and now load this selection outline for that layer by Ctrl+ Clicking or Command+Clicking on its thumbnail, and then you can just repeat the last application of the Radial Blur Filter by going up to the Filter menu and choosing that first command or pressing Ctrl+F or Command+F on the Mac and now let's integrate that layer with the layer below by clicking on the word Normal in the upper-left corner of the Layers panel and choosing Screen, and we end up getting this effect here.
And now you can press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac in order to deselect the image. All right folks, we're almost done with this composition, just one more step. We absolutely have to make this wrench glow, but we don't have any mask set up in advance for that, how are we going to select the wrench? Well, I've already done the work for you and saved my work to a separate file, and I'll show you how to load that selection and use it to create the glowing wrench, in the next exercise.
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