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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.
Alright, now that we've seen just about everything there is to know about layer masks and Vector masks and the Masks panel, let's take a look at some more advanced compositing options. I'll be showing you how to mask an entire group of layers, I'll show you how to create a knockout layer that bores through the layers below it, and finally I'll toss in a clipping mask, and along the way I'll show you how to mask glass. So we're going to take these two images here, both of which once again held from the Fotolia Image Library, and we'll merge them together to create this final composition, and believe it or not it's actually not all that tough, although as you can see over here in the Layers panel it does require three variations on that glasses layer.
We're going to perform some basic masking upfront. I'll switch back to the starter file which is called Sunset celebration.psd, found inside the 09_layer_masks folder. And ideally, we would find a single blend mode that would keep the highlights, keep the shadows, keep the colors in-between and somehow merge everything with the background. So what I'm describing here is a contrast mode. I'll go ahead and click on Normal up here in the upper-left corner of the Layers panel. Whenever you're thinking of experimenting with the contrast mode you're going to start with Overlay and that just goes to show you that contrast modes are not what we're looking for.
Because we have that white background, we're brightening up the area inside the rectangular photograph, and we're not really doing that greater job of darkening the shadows and we're exaggerating the contrast across the board and so forth. So you're not going to find a single mode that's going to do the trick for you. The closest we might come is to choose Multiply, because at least that gets rid of that white background, keeps the shadow details, burns in some of the colors inside of the champagne as well. But we're totally missing the highlights. So this isn't exactly what we want but it's a start.
At this point, go ahead and press Ctrl+ Alt+J or Command+Option+J on the Mac to copy the layer and bring up the New layer dialog box, and let's go ahead and call this layer multiply because we have set it to the Multiply Blend mode. Then drop down to the original glasses layer. Let's turn the multiply layer off for a moment and press Shift+Alt+N or Shift+Option+N on the Mac, this assumes, by the way, that one of the selection tools is active and that will switch us back to Normal mode. All right, what we need to do is mask away that background and believe it or not the best way to get rid of the background is not the Color Range command because the Color Range command will select whites throughout this layer and that's not what I want.
I just want to select the white background which is a job ideally suited, again, believe it or not to the Magic Wand tool. So I'm going to go ahead and grab the Magic Wand, the Quick Selection tool is not going to do it for us by way, grab the Magic Wand tool, and I want to set the Tolerance to 12, so we snag all of the whites in that background and turn the Anti-alias check box off. So here's the deal where the Magic Wand tool is concerned, the biggest problem is the Anti-aliasing is generally no good, and it gets in the way, and ends up creating some ratty edges, you're better off trying to create the softness or the smoothness using the Refine Edge command which we'll follow up with in just a moment.
Make sure Contiguous is turned on, by the way, and then click in the background like so in order to select everything outside the glasses and then Shift+Click inside the glasses in order to select the interior region as well, drop down to the Add layer Mask icon and go ahead and click on it. And in this case I goofed up, because I masked away the glasses and kept the background, that's exactly the opposite of what want I want. Now what I can do at this point is just press Ctrl+I or Command+I on the Mac to invert that mask. The other way to work though I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Alt+Z a couple of times, Command+Option+Z on the Mac is to Alt+Click on that Add layer Mask icon, and that will go ahead and mask away the selected portions of the image.
All right, notice that we have these vertical lines surrounding the glasses, we don't want that obviously. So I'm going to zoom out a click, then I'll Alt+Click or Option+Click in the layer Mask icon there inside the Layers panel, and I'll press the M key to switch back to the Rectangular Marquee tool, select this region well inside of the black boundaries here in the left and right-hand sides. You want to leave a margin at the top as well but you want to select tight to the bottom of the image. Then go up to the Select menu and choose the Inverse command or press Ctrl+Shift+I, Command+Shift+I on the Mac, and in my case the foreground color is black, so I'll press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete to fill the selected region with black like so, and then I'll press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac.
Now if you go ahead and zoom on in you'll see that we have some additional problems here. Notice I have this little snivel outside the glass. I've got a little bit of a crack on the inside of the glass as well. Also notice if you zoom in tight here that these are jagged edges, because I turned off the Anti-alias check box, we have no smoothing whatsoever. So what that means is we need to continue to work jagged in order to get this mask the way we want it. And the best way to paint in jagged brush strokes is to go over to the Brush tool, click and hold in order to bring up the flyout menu and switch to the Pencil tool which always draws jagged lines.
Now increase the size of your cursor by pressing the right bracket key a few times, paint black over that area outside the glass that needs to be painted away. Press the X key to switch the foreground color to White and then go ahead and paint that crack out of the picture, paint that little guy out of the way as well if you want, press the X key in order to switch to Black and click on that little aberrant pixel. And I think that's about all there is, otherwise I think we're in pretty good shape. Now obviously we've got jagged edges, everything is really super lumpy and that's why we need to enhance this mask using the Refine Mask command in the next exercise.
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