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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."
I like to say that masking is the art of using the image to select itself. And that's generally true. But the Pen tool is an exception. In this chapter I'll show you how to use the Pen tool to draw meticulous pain staking selection outline, one point and control handle at a time. The Pen tool is unlike just about everything else in Photoshop in that it doesn't see or modify pixels. Instead, it lets you create and edit vector outline just as in Adobe Illustrator. In fact with some tiny differences, Photoshop's Pen tool and Illustrator's Pen tool are one and the same.
So what good is it and why are we discussing it in the channels and mask series, because the Pen tool enables you to trace outlines that no other function in Photoshop can see. You can draw organic outlines that look super sharp, super smooth, super precise with every edge exactly where it needs to be. Then you can convert the path to a selection outline complete with a best anti-aliasing in all of Photoshop while leaving the path intact for further refinement. Now I'll be honest. The Pen tool is the tough tool to master. It's a little tricky to come to terms with. There are no good shortcuts and you have to hand position each and every anchor points and control handle. But the results are well worth the effort.
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