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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."
If you were with me in the previous exercise, then you may recall fairly vividly I hope that we brought over this young lady right here whose name I gather is Rosalie at least that's what is claimed by the Metadata for that file. And we brought her over from her original home and that image by photographer Klaas Lingbeek-van Kranen and we transferred her to this new underwater environment, and of course the water was captured by Tammy Peluso, both photographers with iStockPhoto.com.
And I have gone ahead and named this beautiful composition Undersea Rosalie.psd and what I want to do is I want to show you an alternate way of approaching what we just got through doing. Now this might seem like busy work but I am having you do it for a good reason, I want to show you something I have not shown you before, something that you may find quite interesting I think. So here is what I want you to do, go ahead and turn off this Model layer inside of the Undersea Rosalie.psd image. And you can turn on the Color Invert layer if you want to. We are going to reimport Rosalie basically and we need to see those edges again but we are going to bring her over in a different way, we are going to do a drag and drop this time around.
I am going to switch to the Multiple Windows mode here by pressing Shift+F. Then I am going to press Shift+Tab to hide the palettes for a moment. And I have gone ahead and restored the original version of the My name is Rosalie.tif file that's found inside the 14 _Calculations folder. Actually I am going to bring back the Channels palette for a moment just so that we can load this mask here. I am going to go ahead and Ctrl+Click on the Mask channel or Command+Click on the Mask channel on the Mac. Now lets go ahead and press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac in order to invoke the Move tool, go ahead and drag with that key down, then press and hold the Shift key and release her. And that will go ahead and register her in place inside of the new image because both images are exactly the same dimensions, don't you know? Now press the F key in order to switch back to the standard maximize screen mode here inside Photoshop CS3. And this time around she does not have layer mask, all right so this time around if I go over to the Layers palette you can see that previously I had the entire Rosalie image that was masked which is the better way to go frankly between you and me because that provides you with more versatility, you are not permanently damaging the pixels necessarily. Unless you go in there and start painting in the way we did.
In this case though our transparency is now defined and you can see how there is a little checkerboard pattern at the back of the young lady here inside of this thumbnail. Let's go ahead and call her Rosalie this time around, what the heck, just to shake things up a little bit. So we still have to do that color painting technique where we grab the Paintbrush tool, set to the color mode and I will go with the bigger brush here and I will Alt+click to lift a color from her hair and then I will start painting and you can see -- well that works really great for hair. It doesn't do the background any terrific favors here because we are just kind of painting big slather mud all over the place and that's bad.
So let's go ahead and undo that modification, that's because when you start painting in the transparent areas, the brush just goes ahead and invokes the normal mode, there is nothing for it to react to where the color mode is concerned. So it just goes ahead and defaults back to the normal mode, let me show you what I mean. If I paint over her, notice I colorize her but then as soon as I paint over transparent pixels I am just painting normally. All right, so as I say bad thing, fairly obvious I think, what you can do to avoid this happening so that you are only painting the pixels that already have color associated with them, that are already to some degree opaque or translucent. You can lock the transparency of the layer and you can do that by clicking on this little checkerboard just to the right of the work lock, here inside the Layer palette.
So go ahead and click on it, then you have locked in the transparency. Another way to work, I will give you a keyboard shortcut here is to press the Slash (/) key, watch this icon. If I press the Slash key, it unlocks the layer, then if I press Slash again, it locks the layer. And the Slash key is that same key that has a question mark on it on American keyboards. Now notice if I paint I am only painting the opaque pixels or the translucent pixels as well but I am not painting the transparent pixels. I am not going to paint any pixels where the blend mode wont take effect so in other words everything looks totally great and then of course we would do the same old thing of lifting many colors from her shoulder of course, if want to do a good job in painting those in and so on.
Now in our case, we are not really too terribly concerned, what did I do there? That's look awful. Let's go ahead and Alt+click and paint some good color in there. But I am not too terribly concerned about getting rid of all the blues because after all we are going to get rid of this color invert layer and everything is going to look hunky- dory so I just want to make sure that the hair is colored properly. But I do want to show you that when you have transparency locked as we do here, this is heck of a trick actually. Another one of those heck of a tricks that I like to pass on. This is very, very useful because it means that I can go through and reassign colors all over the place if I want to. I can paint fairly arbitrarily inside this layer just as if I am painting inside of a selection outline so basically the original selection outline is now serving as a mask for this layer so the transparency mask that is associated with this layer is serving as a mask for my brushing as well.
So check this out, let's say, I want to make her look like she is truly under sea. I am going to go ahead and hide those palettes for a moment, I will Alt+click inside of the sea in order to lift that blue and I will reduce the Opacity of the brush to 50% by pressing the 5 key and then I can paint just like indiscriminately. Check this out, I am just painting inside of our any old place and that ends up doing just a picture perfect job and she does have sort of underwater quality. Now I am assuming that she can breathe underwater, that's the idea.
So she is kind of a mermaid or something along those lines, as opposed to Laura Palmer who is going to be dredged up later, you understand. All right, so anyway there we go, I think she looks splendid, it's a result of course some blue screening, some blue screen masking bringing the image over, painting inside of her with the transparency locked down and again you can lock and unlock that transparency just by pressing the Slash key.
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