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Photoshop Smart Objects explores the creation and use of Smart Objects, one of the most technically demanding tools in Photoshop. Deke McClelland walks through the four primary purposes of Smart Objects, and focuses on one of their most practical advantages, non-destructive transformations. This feature allows any object to be manipulated in any way, while still maintaining its original pixel information. Finally, Deke shows how to crop compositions without affecting a single pixel, even in masks. Exercise files accompany this course.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.
I have gone ahead and saved my progress as Base alpha channel.psd and I am working inside the base mask channel here inside the Channels palette. And this is the point at which we need to increase the contrast of the silhouette of this model here, so that she's absolutely white against that pitch-black background. And then we will take that Alpha channel, once we have refined it, and will apply it as a Layer Mask to our Smart Object in progress here. Now if you have ever seen any of Channels Mask video, whether for Photoshop CS2 or CS3, I have lots of them here at the lynda.com Online Training Library.
You know this is the point at which we need to do some brushwork. So I am going to go ahead and grab my Brush tool. I could press the B key, and then I am going to switch the mode from Normal to Overlay, and that allows us to enhance the contrast as we paint. Now I am going to go ahead and press the right bracket key a few times to increase the size of that brush, like so. And notice that we can paint here inside the Alpha channel, even if I were to go the Layers palette, I might see that my Smart Object was the last layer selected.
That doesn't matter. I can't paint inside the Smart Object, but I can paint inside of an independent Alpha channel because it's layer-independent at this point. All right, so I am going to go ahead and zoom in on my image, a few clicks here until I get it to the 100% view size, like so. And there is a couple points at which I need to darken, mostly I need to lighten this image, but there is a couple of points that need darkening. So I am going to reduce now, the size of my cursor, by pressing the left bracket key because I need to hone on this area right there. And I am going to press the X key in order to make black my foreground color, and then I'm just going to click around this area right there.
And the reason I'm clicking here in order to darken this region is that were I switch over to the RGB image for just a moment, you can see I can no longer paint, of course, because now I'm working inside the Smart Object, but I can see that the background dips into the hair at this location. So I don't want this sliver of white showing up, better if it gets filled in with the sky background. So I want to paint that away, and black means you're concealing as you may recall, white reveals. I also want to conceal this area right there.
So I am going to switch back to my base mask yet again and I could do this from the keyboard if I wanted to by pressing Ctrl+6. Notice that's the keyboard shortcut, Command+6 on the Mac. And then I am just going to click right in there, maybe a little bit in here in this region as well. And that's about all the darkening we want to do. Otherwise, we want to lighten the image. So I am going to press the X key to switch the foreground color to white and then I am going to paint in a few details inside of the face. Notice because I have the Overlay mode selected, as I paint the Shadows are protected. So I am painting with white. If I had the Normal mode selected, I will go ahead and switch this guy back to Normal for a moment, and I were to paint in white in this region, I just paint over everything.
So, I will go ahead and undo that, obviously. Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac. I will go ahead and switch that mode back to Overlay. By working with one of these Contrast modes - and Overlay just happens to be the when-in-doubt Contrast mode - when working with one of these Contrast modes you protect the Highlights and Shadows, so you protect the Shadows when you are painting with white and you protect the Highlights when you are painting with black. Anyway, I definitely need to reveal this back, right here, the back of her dress and her just flesh back. That needs to be nicely revealed, so that we don't have any weird lumps going on.
And we will probably have to do a little bit of work with the Brush tool later on that. But anyway, we might as well get it as good as possible. That looks pretty good. Now let's paint up into the ears and the hair like so and up in this region and paint around here and up at the top hairs as well. We want to get this nice and white because later we are going to have to tweak this back a little bit, as you'll see in the next exercise. But for now, let's just go ahead and paint in white to the best of our ability. Let's go ahead and paint in this region as well.
Now that we are inside the face, and we are well inside of the outline we can go ahead and switch the Blend mode back to Normal. And what I am going to do, I am going to go ahead and press the Escape key, so that Mode option up there in the Options bar is no longer active. That's something you have to do on the PC. You don't have to do it on the Mac. I am now going to press Shift+Right Bracket four times in a row, so that I have the hardest brush possible because I don't want to paint in a bunch of blurriness here. And then I will just paint away this stuff, the lips, and the face, and the cheeks staying well inside of the lines notice this.
I might get kind of close like this, but if I do it, I click right there, that's all I am going to do is click, I am not going to drag. I will just click in a few spots like so just to fill in some of the details. That looks pretty good. If we have a few stray black areas here and there, that's okay. All right, so this is great. We are now ready. Notice that she appears as a solid white silhouette against the black background. Perfect. Now, I am going to switch back to my Marquee tool just because it gives me better cursor. It's not blocking my view of anything else here. I'm going to load my mask as a selection outline and then convert that selection outline to a layer Mask, and here is how that works.
Once again, if you have never seen this before, you press the Ctrl key or the Command key on the Mac and then you hover over this base mask channel, and notice that your cursor changes to a hand with a pointing index finger, but you also have that little Marquee inset there. And what that tells you is you are going to load this item as a selection outline. So Ctrl+click or Command+click on that base mask, so load it as a selection outline. Switch back to the RGB image. You can also do that by pressing Ctrl+2, Command+2 on the Mac here inside Photoshop CS4. Switch over to the Layers palette, make sure you're Smart Object layer is active, as it is for me.
And then dropdown to this icon at the bottom of the Layers palette, and click on it, its Add layer Mask. And that goes ahead and adds a mask to this layer. Now, in my case, I do see that I have masked this layer right here, the Smart Object layer, but for some reason we are not masking the image. She is still totally opaque. Well, that's just because we have this white layer underneath. So let's go ahead and redo that so we can see the difference there. I am going to press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac, to restore the selection outline, get rid of the layer Mask. Let's turn off the white layer, so that we are seeing this instead.
That white layer was there just to make the creation of the base Alpha channel a little bit easier there with the Calculations command. Anyway, now with the Smart Object layer active, the sky in the Background, I am going to go ahead and click on this Add layer Mask icon and that goes ahead and adds the layer Mask to the smart object layer and we get this effect here. Now, it's really pretty darn good. This is an accurate mask. Check out some of those hairs. I mean look at this guy right there, perfectly selected, beautiful. Problem is, of course, we have some halos. We have some color fringing going on.
So we have those white halos that were brought over from the original background, which was, of course, white. No way to avoid those. When we create our first mask we want to have those fringes going on there because then we have the flexibility to turn around and eliminate them. And I am going to show you how to eliminate that color fringing so she looks perfectly credible against her new background, in the next exercise.
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