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In these next couple of exercises, we're going to explore filter masks. Now, I've got open that same image from the previous exercise, Large filter comp.psd, which is the larger version of the image with three Smart Filters assigned. Now notice right there, there is our filter mask, this guy right there. It's created, by default; there is no way to turn it off so that it doesn't come up, by default. I wish there was an option because often times, I wish it wasn't there. We'll see why. But for now, what I want to is I want to take these three filters and I want to relegate them to the darkest details inside the image, i.e. the shadow details, because that's where the real action is happening. The light details out in this area, in this area as well. That's where we don't have much in the way of stuff that we want to sharpen. We just have the hairs, and the pores, and that kind of stuff. It's the dark details that contain the actual wonderful detail, the stuff we really do want to sharpen.
So if we can just sharpen the dark stuff, we're going to have a better composition. So we're going to work from a luminance mask and we're going to turn it into a density mask. Here is how that works. It's actually really easy to do, it sounds hard, but it's not. We'll start by turning off this eyeball, so that we turn off all of the Smart Filters, and we restore the original version of the image as photographed by Joey Nelson of iStockPhoto.com. I want to give some props to him because we're using this image a lot inside of this chapter. Now switch over to the Channels palette, and we've got the Red channel and the Green channel, of course, and let's not forget the Blue channel.
The Blue channel is where everything starts going to heck in a handbag. If you zoom in on the Blue channel, it is just a disaster; really it's very softly focused. It has some of the garbage in it, basically, the least flattering details, right here, very apparent inside of the Blue channel. I mean this is a beautiful woman as well. Bear that in mind, if she is suffering, we're all suffering. Whereas, if we go to the Red channel, she is looking great, she is looking dynamite, as do we all in the Red channel. At least we're going to look as good as we look. So let's work from the Red channel. So let's go ahead and Ctrl-click or Command-click on that Red channel to load it as a selection outline. Now go back to RGB, now return to the Layers palette, turn on the Smart Filter so that you can see all of them, and click inside of the Filter Mask thumbnail right there in order to make it active.
Now, the lightest portions of the image are selected currently. I want to protect the lightest portions of the image. So I'm going to fill my selection with Black, and currently, Black so set to my foreground color, it could be your background color, what have you. Anyway, since its foreground color for me, I'm going to press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete on the Mac in order to fill the selection with Black. You can see that has happened here inside of the Filter Mask thumbnail. Press Ctrl+D, Command+D on the Mac to deselect the image, and I'm going to have you Alt-click or Option-click on that Filter Mask thumbnail so that we can see the filter mask by itself. It's an inverted version of the Red channel.
So instead of being a luminance mask, it's another kind of found mask inside of Photoshop. It's a density mask, because it measures ink density. So it's protecting the light areas and it's revealing the dark areas inside the image, the shadow detail, which is exactly what we want. So Alt-click or Option-click again on that Filter Mask thumbnail in order to return to the RGB version of the image. Just to get a sense of the difference that this mask is making, because it's actually fairly significant, I'm going to Shift-click on it, Shift-clicking, by the way, disables the mask just as it does for a standard layer mask.
And this is what the image looks like without that mask, and in this case, we are sharpening all the light details and dark details uniformly. I beg you to watch the image. I'll go ahead and Shift-click on that filter mask again and you can see that we're smoothing over and protecting those light areas inside the image. Now I'm going to zoom in a little closer so that we can see it better because it is a subtle difference. This is without the mask. Let's go ahead and move this up so we can see more of the cheek there. You can see that this area, for example, under her eye is popping a lot more than it was before. This is with the mask, and that's a lot smoother down in this region, but we still have a very nicely sharpened image.
Let's say I want to go even farther with the softening effect. I want to go ahead and blur the lightest details inside the image. How would I manage to accomplish that, especially since, were I to assign blur to this image right now, I would blur just the darkest details, because that's what the filter mask calls for. Well, I'll show you how you can assign multiple filter masks using Nested Smart Objects inside the next exercise.
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