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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."
So here we are, looking at that more or less messed up version of the American Flag image that I created in the previous exercise, and it may have occurred to you to wonder why in the world we are working on an American Flag in the first place? And the answer is, because we are going to make it wave, we are going to apply a custom wave using a displacement map. And so go ahead and press the F12 key in order to revert to the original version of the flag. I do have opened an image called Rough trade.psd incidentally. And I also have opened this image right here. You don't have to open this one. We will be applying it though in a moment. It's called Wave V.psd. It's found inside the Demap subfolder that's in the 18 Displace maps folder.
And notice what I have here, is really a series of gradients going from gray to black and then black to gray and then gray to white and then white to gray, and I am keeping my edges, my left and right edges gray so that I don't have any movement on those edges. So I am just stretching the pixels away from the edge without modifying those exact, those specific edge pixels. But I am going to have some movement at the top and the bottom because the black bar and the white bar go all the way from the top edge of the image to the bottom edge of the image there.
Now you may wonder how in the world I created such a deliberate image as this with these precisely placed guidelines for example, and I am going to show you. I am just going to make it in front of you. I am not suggesting that you do this along with me. But I just want you to see. I am going to go ahead and press Ctrl+N or Command+N on the Mac to make a new image and I am going to set my units to pixels and the Size of this image should be 1800/1400, just because that's the size of the images that I am working on here. That's the size of my American Flag image. And I am going to make this a grayscale image and that's it. Now I click OK in order to create the new document. I am going to zoom in.
Now, in order to make those guidelines, I am going to go up to the File menu, choose Scripts and I am going to choose the Custom Script that I wrote, called Make regular guides. And a reason that I am showing you this script is that you can find out all about it if you want to. Scripting is something you are interested in doing. I have a series on the Lynda.com Online Training library, that's called Photoshop CS2 Actions and Automation. That's called Photoshop CS2. But most of the stuff I discussed in the series works just as well for CS3, including all of this scripting stuff here.
So if you are premium member, you can actually load these scripts from that series. You want to check out Chapter 10, Real World Scripting incidentally. I am sort of plugging this series for a very good reason. I want you to see just how powerful this stuff is, because I know lot of people aren't that inclined to check out scripting. It seems like it will be complicated, little bit scary, awfully nerdy as well. But it can be extremely powerful. I am going to go ahead and choose this command, Make Regular Guides. And by the way, this script is available to you if you go, check it out. And I am going to go ahead and enter three Vertical guides as I think how this one wants to work, and one Horizontal guide. And if I want to confirm that those are the proper settings, I would go ahead and click on the Preview button right here and you can see that it's gone ahead and added these guidelines to my image. So a very powerful script as you can see, something you might find useful on a regular basis and I should say my brother Daniel, actually was the one who wrote this script and put together the dialog boxes. Very talented fellow! And I will go ahead and click OK in order to accept those guides.
And then I just went ahead and got the Gradient tool right here and I set up a default gradient. So I am going from foreground to background and we want a Linear Gradient of course. And I want the background color here to be a nice neutral gray. So I will set this to 50% gray, like so. And I want to draw it like this. I will go ahead and draw the gradient. Let me go ahead and hide those palettes there. I will draw the gradient from here to here, this direction, and then I will turn around and let's go ahead and make a selection actually, that's inside of this area of the image. I will turn around and make a gradient from here to here like so, and I am snapping to the guidelines. So that's actually very convenient.
And now, let's go ahead and bring back the palette here. I will change my foreground color to white and I will make a different selection. I will go ahead and select this portion of the image and I will draw my gradient this direction, like so, and then finally I need to make one more selection right there. It's very easy to make these selections with these guides in place and I will draw my gradient from here to here like so. So it's that easy to set up a Wave Displacement Map, a displacement map that's going to generate waves inside of another image. And then you would go ahead and save this off obviously. You go up to the File menu, choose the Save command. You will make sure you are working on a flat image as we are and you would save it as something, whatever name you want to call it, My own Wave or something like that, and this would be a native PSD document. Make sure to save it in the Photoshop format and then click on the Save button and you are good to go.
All right, so I am going to go ahead and return to my Rough trade.psd image here and I am working on the Background layer once again, that's important, and I am going to go up to the Filter menu and Displace was the last filter I applied. So I can just go ahead and press Ctrl+Alt+F or Command+Option+F on the Mac, and I want to take these values up. Let's go with a Horizontal Scale value of 50 and a Vertical Scale value of 50 and we will do Stretch To Fit and Repeat Edge Pixels, and then I will click OK and now I will locate my Wave V file or I could go with my own wave, the one I just got done saving. Either one is going to work out fine for me. Let's actually work with my own wave since I just created it there.
But you would go ahead and select Wave V.psd and then click Open and you will get this custom wave just as we are seeing here, and notice here are the repeated edge pixels. So the pixels I got moved down at the top were repeated and then these pixels I got moved up from the bottom here, they were repeated as well. So we just get a bunch of stretch marks going at the top and the bottom of the flag. The other thing we can do, let's back step a couple of operations. The other we can do, I will press Ctrl+Alt+F or Command+Option+F on the Mac in order to bring up Displace again. I will say Wrap Around instead for those undefined areas. These areas up there and down here, were undefined. I will go ahead and say Wrap Around. Click OK. Go ahead and load my own wave once again and click Open and you see what happened this time. It grabs this red that used to be located at the bottom of the image. Like it shoved off the bottom of the image, wraps around to the top. The same thing happened over here. it's not as obvious because it's red on red.
All right. So, there we have it, a custom wave applied as a displacement map. Now you might look at this and say, okay, well, that's pretty cool. We moved the pixels down into the right where the displacement map was black and up into the left where the displacement map was white and you can't see the horizontal movement as much as the vertical movement. But it is three. But this is more of a zig-zag effect. Really, it's not a rolling wave effect. It's more of a jagged, down and then up and then down effect. How do we get more around this inside of the displacement map? I will show you in the next exercise.
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