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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."
All right. So if you have been working along with me, you know that so far we have managed to combine the best versions of three out of our four band members, which includes Melody in the foreground here, just looking great, just looking dynamite. The floating magical Paavo, the gravity defying Paavo back here, in the far background and then of course, just look at Megan, she looks absolutely awesome. Doesn't she with her blowing in the background, the shadow down here. Her feet pointed so beautifully. She got a little dirt on her foot, that's perfect, and she is got sort of a mermaid quality to her. But Jehf, I'm quite disappointed by Jehf's behavior in this photograph so far. He is only a few millimeters off the ground and his arms are hiked up and I told him not to have an expression on his face and look, he's got an expression on his face, what's he trying to pull? All right. So let's go ahead and add Jehf. We have got a good Jehf layer right here and it's called Jehf, in fact, and by the way, if you are just joining me.
I don't know what makes you think you can join us at this stage in the project, but if you are just joining or you have made a mess of your particular image or what have you, then you can open this one, it's called Masked members.psd and it's found inside the 11 layer mask folder. I want you to turn on the Jehf layer right here, the Jehf layer and notice now Jehf looks great. Look at that, he is quite far off the ground, his body is elongated, no expression, much better done, kind of a little bit of a stock expression, but that's what I want out of him. He is going to be a rocking cool band member here. You can see his tattoo as well. He is kind of the one authentic guy. I think actually he plays an instrument and he is got a little bit of a band thing going. So hence, he is actually tattooed, which is a plus.
So let's go ahead and mask him into place. Now the reason I have reserved Jehf for an independent exercise here is because he and Melody are so very close together. Now in real life, they are not close together, meaning, he is way in a background, hence he is very short stature when compared to Melody. Right now he looks like he is kind of this, a small child that she could pick up and cradle in her arms. That's actually not the case. He is in the background. It's little thing known as perspective. So it's my fault that they are so close together. It's my fault as the photographer, but I need to take special care. It's basically what comes down to, because you can see the Jehf layer and without the Jehf layer, with or without the Jehf layer, Melody's hair is sort of straying into Jehf's arm.
So here is what we are going to do. Turn on the Jehf layer, click on the Jehf layer to make it active, Alt+Click or Option+Click on the layer mask icon down here at the bottom of the Layers palette in order to temporarily turn Jehf off and then we are going to go ahead and grab the paint brush, make sure that the foreground color is set to white, which it is and now let's start painting in the layer mask, look how much higher he is. That was like a good jump Jehf. He has even got a nice surf going in back of him, which is really cool and look at that Mr. Fantastic action right there. He is got the big stretchy arm going.
Let's go ahead. I take that back, because it looks kind of -- it looks a little sort of like a grill arm, I think. Then we will paint in his legs down here and his shadow too. It's very important that we paint in the shadow and we might want to roughen the seaweed and stuff, although that should pretty much remain the same. Now, here is what I was talking about things getting tricky. We have got a duplicate, now I do; you might have something else going on. I have got a little bit of a duplicate of Melody's, what would that be, her right arm, as well as a little bit of a duplicate of her right hairs on her head and if we were to paint farther and you could see I duplicate her shoulder and so on. So we don't want that is, is effectively what it comes down to.
So I'm going to reduce the size of my brush a little bit, you can tell that I have zoomed in as well. I am going to zoom in to a 100%, so I can really see what I am doing. You can see that we have got this ultra-grainy photograph, once again a function of the fact I mentioned this earlier, but a function of the fact that I had my ISO through the roof. I had it set to 800, and I usually used ISO or typically, you would use a raised ISO in order to capture a low light shot. For example, at night. But in this case I used it because I wanted that grain so that we had sort of this edgy, sort of band photograph going. So that these kids look like they have just got all the life experience in the world. They are gritty.
Now what I am going to do at this point is I am going to increase the hardness of the brush by pressing Shift+] about three times in a row, which gives me, if I click this down pointing arrowhead you will see the hardness is now 75%. So I went a little bit of softness, I don't want 100% hardness, but I don't want too much softness. Got it? All right. So now let's go ahead and press the X key. I am going to reduce the size of my brush and of course pressing the X key, makes the foreground color black and then I will paint back in the original hair. Now if I paint too far, you can see I am going to paint in the original arm as well, that is Jehf's arm from the Melody layer back here in the background. So I am going to have to press the X key again, so it's really just a function of painting back and forth in order to get a half way realistic effect going here. So I'm going to paint toward her hair like so.
Now the part I am having problems reconciling is this rock area, right there, notice that. So I am going to go ahead and click to set some more rock into place and I will press the X key and click over here in order to move the rock back. I don't know that anybody is going to look at this and go, ha! That's a mysterious area of rock. I think we have gone enough action going on to distract people from it, but I could always go back and clone some sort of gritty material into that rock if I wanted to. All right, let's move down here and we are going to paint away this hand as well this extra hand of Melody's and that looks pretty good to me. Now I will go ahead and zoom out and take in the combined version of Jehf and Melody.
Things are actually looking quite nice. I will go ahead and Shift+Tab away my palettes. There are the best versions of each of our band members, Jehf, Melody, Paavo and Megan. In the next exercise, we are going to finish off this poster here. We are trying to create a poster for their debut album, as we will see. If you would like to join me in that endeavor then by all means advance to the next exercise, during which we will crop the image and we will add the finishing text elements.
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