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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."
We are now going to transition from displacement maps to lighting effects. Now the two functions are related and that they are both ancient filters that are very powerful to this day even though rendered strangely. And lighting effects is no exception; it's a very odd little filter. And of course they both rely on channels, the contents of channels in order to work their magic, but there is a couple of differences. The displace filter wraps an image around another image, around the contours of another image in order to perform a custom distortion effect whereas lighting effects goes ahead and lights the edges. If I go ahead and zoom in here on these letters you can see that we have these natural highlights and shadows and it is a true sculptural lighting function. It's really, actually, very, very good. Also the displace filter is looking for channels inside of an independent image file whereas the lighting effects filter is looking for an alpha channel that is inside the active image, inside the image that you want to modify.
So here is what we are going to do, over the course of the next couple of exercises, I am going to show you how to create an embossed watermarking effect that you can apply to your own photographs if you want to and the great thing about this effect is that it does disway people from copying your images, it also shows off a URL. And you can still see through to the original underlying image, so the image isn't completely covered up, so people have an idea of what they are actually looking at. And you will see we are not harming the original image. The embossing is a function of a couple of additional layers as you are seeing right there.
So I will go ahead and turn those layers back on and here inside the Channels palette, we can see that there is an Alpha Channel called URLs. In this exercise, we will create that Alpha Channel which actually takes a little bit of work because we have to setup a tile pattern and we have to rotate it as a layer because that's the only way it's going to work out and then we will convert the layer into an Alpha Channel as you will see. And then in the next exercise we will employ this Alpha Channel along with lighting effects in order to create the embossed watermark and it's a real true embossed watermark by the way. We are not using the embossed filter which is a big fake.
All right, so here is what we are going to do, I am working by the way inside of an image called Woman in blue. psd and you may find it familiar, this composition is found inside the 18 Displace maps folder. But we originally saw the underlying image way back in Chapter 02, comes to us from photographer Alexander Alexis, just a beautiful image. And the URL that we are seeing, www.istockphoto.com/aldra is the URL for this photographer and so it's a real job, is basically what it comes down to. I also have opened this image right here which is called aldra url.tif and I have gone ahead and rendered this text out as pixels. I went ahead and flattened the file so that we could work with it, we don't have to have the font in order to edit the file. The first thing I need to do is I need to offset the URL down and to the left, so that we have offset URLs. You may recall in this file right there that each URL, each row of URLs is offset with respect to the row below it. So it goes back and forth and back and forth and we are going to do that right now.
First thing you want to do is note the size of this file, if I press Ctrl+Alt+I or Command+Option+I on the Mac, we can see that Width of the image is 900 pixels and the Height is 200 pixels and when we offset this URL which has room below it, notice it has room for another row below it. We are going to have these values. We are going to cut each of these values in half in order to figure out exactly the offset values we need. So 900 and 200, divide them by 2 and we get 450 and 100, those are the values we are going to apply. All right, so Cancel, let's go up to the Filter menu, choose Other and choose Offset and the Offset Filter allows you to wrap an image around the canvas essentially. I will show you what I mean. I am going to go ahead and enter those values I was telling you, 450 for Horizontal and 100 which shifts the pixels down for Vertical. And make sure that Wrap Around is turned on, so you are wrapping the URL around the image. And it looks like it's breaking the h and to but it's actually a perfect break. So this will turn into a seamless tile pattern, you will see that in just a moment.
All right, I will go ahead and click OK. Now of course I ruined the top URL so I need to blend the filtered image with the original image and I will do that by going up to the Edit menu and choosing the Fade Offset command or pressing Ctrl+Shift+F, Command+Shift+F on the Mac. And the blend mode I want to use, I want white to disappear, I want to keep the black, so of course I am going with Multiply. So choose the Multiply blend mode, 100% Opacity, you don't want to change that, click OK. And we now have a perfect tile pattern. This is awesome. Now I want you to go up to the Edit menu and I want you to choose Define Pattern and we will call this pattern aldra url just without the tif, there is no need to have the tif there and I will click OK. Now let's switch back to the other image that we have open, Woman in blue.psd. Now ultimately I want to go ahead and apply the tile pattern to an Alpha Channel. But the problem is if I were to do that right now, I wouldn't have room to rotate the URLs in the place, if I rotated the Alpha Channel then I would leave a bunch of wedges in the background because the Alpha Channel wouldn't be big enough to rotate inside of this canvas area. In order to do a big rotation like that I need to be working with an independent layer.
So things are going to have to start off, the tile pattern is going to start off here inside of a layer. And I will go ahead and click on the top layer just so that we are working on the layer in front of that and I will go ahead and Alt+click or Option+click on this black/white icon and choose the Pattern command right there. And I am going to go ahead and call this URLs for now and click OK, we don't want the Clipping Mask checkbox to be on. So just go ahead and click OK at this point. And it should go ahead and bring up the last tile pattern you created here, if not, click on the down pointing arrowhead and choose it manually. And 100% is fine, that's great, we don't care about Link with Layer or any of the other garbage there. Just go ahead and click OK and notice how every single one of the URLs is seamless. We are not seeing any division through the h; everything looks totally hunky-dory as a result of that Offset Filter. So this is perfect.
I need to rotate this pattern, but again if I just start rotating, now we can't rotate a pattern layer but if I were to render it out and then rotate it, why then we would end up with those wedges still again. So we need to make the layer bigger than the canvas and we are going to do that by growing the canvas while we are still working with this pattern layer. Here is how, press Ctrl+Alt+C or Command+Option+C on the Mac to invoke the Canvas Size command. Make sure that Relative is turned on and a Chiclet is active in the center here. I want you to change both the Width and Height values to a 1000 pixels so we are growing the canvas out by 500 pixels in all directions. And I will click OK in order to make that occur so we have got a big whopping image now and a big whopping pattern layer as well. If I turn the pattern layer off for a minute, you can see we have got all this extra room going on, that's fine.
Now I am going to go ahead and turn it back on. I will right-click on that layer and I am going to choose Rasterize Layer. So right-click on an empty portion of the layer and choose Rasterize Layer and that goes ahead and rasterizes out the layer of course. It's converted in other words from a dynamic pattern layer into static pixels. Now let's go back to the Canvas Size command, Ctrl+Alt+C or Command+Option+C on the Mac and let's clip it. Let's enter -1000 pixels, of course Relative is still turned on, and the Chiclet is still in the center, Tab, Tab here on Windows. It's just one Tab on the Mac. -1000 pixels for Height as well, so we are just back stepping what we did a moment ago. Click OK and it's telling me that some clipping will occur that it's going to essentially crop my image.
What it's really doing, it's going to clip the background which is fine, so we just can get rid of that white stuff that we created, that excess white canvas. Otherwise the independent layers are not going to be effected at all; their edges will just be hidden, so that's fine. We will just click Proceed; everything is just fine, nothing to worry about. Now Ctrl+T or Command+T on the Mac in order to enter the Free Transform mode with this ULR layer and I am going to go ahead and rotate the URLs like so. I ultimately want the rotation to be at an angle of -15 degrees, so I will just go ahead enter that value up here in the Rotate option in the Options bar and then I will press the Enter key a couple of times on the PC, the Return key a couple of times on the Mac in order to apply that modification. We now have the URLs the way we want them, if you want to move them around, you can by Ctrl+Dragging them into a different position so that you get them exactly right.
Now then, go over to the Channels palette, we need to convert this layer to an Alpha Channel, it's an opaque layer. So all we have to do is go over to the Channels palette and grab any one of these channels, doesn't matter which one. I will just grab Red and I will make a duplicate of it because they are all identical to each other. I will go ahead and call this new URLs or something along those lines since I already have the old ones and that's it. Now we have got an Alpha Channel filled with these URLs, I will go back to the RGB composite image, return to the Layers palette. Let's go ahead and turn off all of the layers except for the Background layer, we are now ready to create the embossed watermark which is what we are going to do in the next exercise.
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