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Photoshop Masking and Compositing: Fundamentals is the introductory installment of Deke McClelland's four-part series on making photorealistic compositions in Photoshop. The course shows how to make selections, refine the selections with masks, and then combine them in new ways, using layer effects, blend modes, and other techniques to create a single seamless piece of artwork. Deke introduces the Channels panel and the alpha channel, the key to masking and transparency in Photoshop; reviews the selection tools, including the Color Range tool , Quick Mask mode, and the Refine Edge command; and shows how to blend masked images so they interact naturally.
In this final exercise, we are going to take that over-the-top cartoon rainbow and turn it into a kind of photorealistic rainbow through the magic of masking and compositing. I have saved this version of the image as Garrish rainbow.psd found inside the 06_color_range folder, and the first thing we need to do is mask the rainbow behind the grass. We're going to do that using the Color Range command, but you may recall that the Color Range command always sees the composite image. So, if I went out to the Select menu, and chose Color Range, and then tried to click inside the grass let's say, and I will turn off the Invert check box, that's kind of a problem right now, you'd see that I can select a lot of the grass, but notice that the rainbow is kind of digging into it.
I can't get to the portion of the grass that I need to mask the rainbow away, because the rainbow is in the way. So I will cancel out of there. What you need to do is Alt+Click or Option+Click on the eye in front of the Background layer, so you see that layer, and nothing more. Then, go up to the Select menu and choose the Color Range command and again we are going to have to turn off that Invert check box, make sure your Fuzziness value is set to 40, by the way, as by default, and then press the Shift key and drag across the top portion of the grass like so, and you'll end up getting this great top of the grass selection.
Then, click OK to generate that selection outline. Now, Alt+Click, or Option+Click on the eye in front of the Background layer again. Make sure the Rainbow layer is active and go ahead and click on the Add layer Mask icon in order to mask that rainbow away, but I did it wrong. What I meant to do was Alt+Click or Option+Click on that icon in order to mask the bottom of the rainbow, not the top portion. But, all I need to do to correct that problem is press Ctrl+I or Command+I on the Mac and that will go ahead and invert that layer Mask and give me the exact effect I am looking for.
Let's say you decide that you want to transform that rainbow some more. It's a Smart Object, so that's perfectly okay. It's a nondestructive modification. You would just go ahead and click on the Smart Object thumbnail, and then you go up to the Edit menu and choose the Free Transform command. Photoshop is going to bark at you. You might think this is one of those typical alert messages where you just click OK and ignore it. This one isn't, you have to pay attention to it. It's telling you that a Warp Transform has been applied to the Smart Object. But, Warp Transforms are not allowed for linked layer masks associated with Smart Objects.
Who knows why that is? It's just a rule. Please unlink the layer Mask and try again. Click OK and then click the Chain icon between the Smart Object and layer Mask thumbnails in order to unlink the pair, and then go back to the Edit menu, and choose Free Transform, or press Ctrl+T, Command+T on the Mac, and you will see all of your numerical options in place. The reason our position options look different is because the center reference point is selected. But, if I selected the upper-left reference point, I would get those back as well, and then I could click on Warp and I could modify my Bend value, I could do whatever I wanted to, and because the layer Mask is unlinked, I am not going to harm that grass mask.
So that will be okay as well. Anyway, I don't want to make any modifications. I just wanted you to see that. I will press the Escape key in order to leave the Free Transform mode. The last thing we need to do is apply some blending, and for starters, I am going to change the Blend mode by clicking on Normal, and then choosing Linear Light which is the most over-the-top contrast mode of them all and is going to give us the most cartoony effect possible. However, we can take it down like crazy and make it look great by reducing the Fill Value to a mere 15%.
Not Opacity, by the way, you need to change Fill in order to achieve this effect. I will explain what's going on with the Fill value where Linear Light and a few other Blend modes are concerned when we get to the advanced blending course. I will press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac in order to accept that modification. At this point, this rainbow is way too sharp. Real rainbows aren't in this kind of focus. So I'm going to go up to the Filter menu, and choose Blur and then choose Gaussian Blur. Before you do that, make sure that your Smart Object thumbnail is selected, here inside the Layers panel, you blur the Smart Object and not the layer mask.
And because it's a Smart Object, this is a nondestructive editable modification, I'll take the Radius value up to 14 pixels in order to achieve this effect, click OK, and that's it. The only thing left to do is to turn on the text elements group here at the top of the Layers panel and that goes ahead and finishes off the composition, a floating shark casting a shadow with a rainbow in the background. Thanks largely to the power of the Color Range command here inside Photoshop.
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