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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."
All right, how are you doing? You are enjoying this smooth points, really powerful things, smooth points and control handles; that's where the real power of the Pen tool resides. I am working in a document called Shoulder in progress.psd because the shoulder has just four points associate with it, so far four out of its total five points. Here I am the Paths palette working on the new shoulder path. You may notice that my old shoulder and my new shoulder are little different from each other, that's okay, every single one of the paths you draw with the Pen tool is going to be different. That's just the name of the game because you are creating these paths manually and that's to be expected. So it's an artistic process.
It's basically what it comes down to your vision of the path outline; maybe different than mine and that in of it itself is okey-dokey, that's actually a good thing. All right, I am going to press the F key in order to enter at the full screen mode once again because I keep having this switch back to the maximize screen mode to show you to the title of the document and I am going to reactivate this path by clicking on it. Actually that doesn't entirely reactivate the path, clicking on it with the white arrow tool because I have got the white arrow tool selected right now. You would have to click on the end point with the Pen tool but tell you what, I want a lob off this handle right here and if I were to just click on the Pen tool and let's say click it in other location then I would get this control handle that sort of doing this half a curve, that's assigning a, kind of, limo curvature to this segment right there. And the reason is this is another one that of the rules, that you want to keep track of when you are working with the Pen tool.
If you have a control handle associate with one side of the segment you should have another control handle associate with the other side of the segment, once again, so that you get a nice smooth fluid curve. Anyway I am going to undo that modification. What I want to do is just create a flat edge, a straight edge at the bottom of the shoulder path. So I am going to Shift+Tab away my palettes so that I am not seeing them. And I am going to lob off, hack off this control handle at the bottom of the point and I am going to do that and this is a weird technique but it works throughout the Adobe applications.
You press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and you click on that point with the Pen tool. All right, so that's an Alt or Option+Click on the end point with the Pen tool, goes ahead and cleaves off, lobs or cuts or cleaves or whatever you want to say off that control handle. So notice that if I go ahead and press Ctrl+Z to undo it or Command+Z on the Mac, there is a control handle as soon as I Alt or Option+ Click in a point the control handle goes away. I cut it away and now I am going to Shift+Click over here in order to create a straight segment between these two cusp points, this is a cusp point by the way. Any point, any corner point that has a curve segment associated with it whether it's coming into the point or going out of the point then it becomes a cusp point. So we have got a cusp point that's joining to a standard corner point over there.
Now I am going to add a control handle to this point, to this corner point here and I am going to do that just by dragging away from it. I don't' have to press the Alt or Option key, I just drag away from the corner point to add a control handle. So if you want to get rid of a control handle that's associated with the smooth point then you Alt or Option+ Click in a point. If you want to add a control handle to an existing corner point then you just drag away from it. I know it's confusing, it's a lot to take in here, that's why we have got video training for you, you can rewind and watch again anytime you like.
Now let's go ahead and close the path. I can close the path by dragging from this point, this initial end point, the first point that we created but if I do that I run the risk of modifying the curvature of this segment right here; the first segment I drew and that's kind of a bad thing, I don't really want to play with the curvature of that segment because it was already good in the first place. So I will undo that closure instead I am just going to click on that close point and what Photoshop does, I will now Ctrl+Click or Command+Click in that point to select it; what Photoshop does is it retains the original angle of those control handles. Then I can drag this one away a little bit if I want to so that I create a nice continuous curve here because bear in mind you need that third rule right there where each control handle is extending one third the way into the curving segment.
Now you can do this number, this is also a variation on that one-third rule, that's called the two-thirds rule which is both of the control handles when taken together, add up to two-thirds of the links of the segment so that only one-third is left open. And you can work that way too if you want to work with a more advance technique. But you know you can't lose with a one- third rule. Each one of them takes up one-third of the entire link more or less. You know, you don't have to get out, you are measuring paper or anything but about one-third the link of the entire curve segment right there.
All right, and let's adjust this guy a little bit and so on, looks good to me. You know, this curve segment that I am setting here playing with doesn't really matter right as way inside of her neck, so we are going to combine this path with another path to create the vector mask so you may say why you are taking this much time. I just want to make sure that I have a good approach to the rest of the shoulder, to the actual visible area of the shoulder and then I am going to go ahead and switch to my white arrow tool for a moment here. I want to make sure I have a good amount of additional room down here at the bottom to work with, like so. So that I have a lot of room outside of the layer because I have got some extra layer associate with this image. It goes beyond the canvas size in other words so that our drop shadow works properly and so on.
So anyway, this is the shoulder I am going to go with, that's my final new shoulder path, I just go ahead and save it to update the file on disk. In the next exercise, we are going to combine this path with a more complicated face path in order to create the final vector mask for this layer.
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