Photoshop CS3 Channels & Masks: Advanced Techniques
Illustration by John Hersey

Masking with the help of the History brush


Photoshop CS3 Channels & Masks: Advanced Techniques

with Deke McClelland

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Video: Masking with the help of the History brush

You may recognize this bird; it is a Military Macaw that was captured by photographer Chris Russel of We have made this kind of progress with this bird. This is the mask channel; right here this guy, that I have been working on. The top of the head is rendered just beautifully and the bill also rendered beautifully and the front feathers, quite the problem, actually not so beautiful. In fact, something of a disaster in this region right here.
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  1. 2h 12m
    1. The Odyssey Continues
      2m 39s
    2. Mapping one image onto another
      7m 12s
    3. Making a custom contrast mode
      7m 9s
    4. Luminance blending
      8m 39s
    5. Forcing the visibility of underlying layers
      4m 3s
    6. Adjusting the appearance of clipped layers
      4m 33s
    7. Selecting a Blend If channel
      6m 11s
    8. Enhancing highlights by hiding them
      5m 8s
    9. Smart Object first, layer mask second
      7m 22s
    10. The Fill Opacity Eight
      4m 30s
    11. Blending Smart Filters
      7m 24s
    12. Cleaning up edges
      7m 38s
    13. More fun with luminance blending
      6m 22s
    14. A first peek at the Calculations command
      12m 11s
    15. Masking a softly focused model
      11m 46s
    16. Moving layers and masks between images
      7m 34s
    17. Matching colors
      9m 12s
    18. Building transitional blended layers
      6m 33s
    19. Restoring normal colors
      6m 49s
  2. 2h 32m
    1. Layer masks, clipping masks, and knockouts
      1m 20s
    2. Rotating and stretching
      7m 54s
    3. A jet of motion blur
      9m 17s
    4. Keyboard tricks
      5m 4s
    5. Merging sky and landscape
      6m 2s
    6. Masking an adjustment layer
      6m 37s
    7. Creating two windows into an image
      7m 42s
    8. Whitening teeth and adding other highlights
      3m 46s
    9. Mapping a texture onto an image
      4m 0s
    10. Isolating a texture with a layer mask
      6m 44s
    11. Welcome to the glass composition
      3m 18s
    12. Balancing shadows and highlights
      5m 51s
    13. Masking the glass
      7m 24s
    14. Masking the text
      9m 23s
    15. Adding and blending the goldfish
      8m 44s
    16. Assembling the perfect group photo
      5m 12s
    17. Aligning photographs automatically
      5m 26s
    18. Masking in each person's best shot
      5m 18s
    19. Masking densely packed people
      6m 17s
    20. Crafting the perfect final poster
      5m 15s
    21. From the improbable to the impossible
      1m 56s
    22. The fantastical "world of clones" effect
      10m 0s
    23. Upsampling and blurring a background
      8m 39s
    24. Adding a knockout mask
      8m 3s
    25. Choking edges with Gaussian Blur and Levels
      3m 46s
  3. 2h 26m
    1. The corrective power of masking
      1m 6s
    2. The amazing luminance mask
      7m 21s
    3. Brightening and neutralizing the eyes
      8m 21s
    4. Adjusting a nondestructive composition
      5m 52s
    5. Creating a corrective mask
      6m 3s
    6. Averaging away irregular flesh tones
      3m 52s
    7. Modifying specific colors
      7m 46s
    8. Initiating the color mask
      5m 59s
    9. Refining the color mask
      6m 39s
    10. Adjusting the edges around fabric
      7m 55s
    11. Perfecting hair
      9m 34s
    12. Sharpening with a High Pass layer
      10m 12s
    13. The also-amazing density mask
      4m 47s
    14. Adjusting the knockout depth
      8m 48s
    15. Fashioning a depth map
      6m 12s
    16. Invoking a depth mask from Lens Blur
      6m 38s
    17. The perfect depth-of-field effect
      6m 25s
    18. Sharpening an archival photograph
      7m 7s
    19. Creating an edge mask
      8m 29s
    20. Making a High Pass sandwich
      7m 45s
    21. Applying the edge mask
      6m 1s
    22. Customizing your sharpening effect
      4m 6s
  4. 2h 3m
    1. Channel Mixer, I am your father!
      1m 39s
    2. Three ways to gray
      7m 48s
    3. Meet the Channel Mixer
      8m 26s
    4. Mixing a custom black-and-white image
      7m 9s
    5. Creating a professional-level sepia tone
      5m 36s
    6. Employing the Black & White command
      8m 0s
    7. Extreme channel mixing
      4m 50s
    8. The infrared photography effect
      6m 42s
    9. Taking shadows to the brink of black
      3m 56s
    10. Elevating highlights, leeching saturation
      5m 58s
    11. Deepening a black-and-white sky
      5m 49s
    12. Infusing luminance levels with color
      5m 43s
    13. Creating an opposing colorization scheme
      4m 58s
    14. Bolstering contrast with the Green channel
      5m 37s
    15. A tiny improvement to a terrific technique
      7m 38s
    16. The simple (but wrong) approach to red-eye correction
      6m 39s
    17. Channel-mixing red pupils
      9m 17s
    18. The expert approach to red-eye correction
      5m 20s
    19. Fixing problem coronas (pupil edges)
      8m 8s
    20. Making pupils match
      4m 7s
  5. 2h 33m
    1. Chops are dead; long live maskops
      1m 36s
    2. The Calculations command
      8m 16s
    3. Blue Screen blending
      7m 40s
    4. Refining the Blue Screen mask
      5m 53s
    5. Brushing away color fringing
      7m 24s
    6. Locking the transparency of a layer
      6m 21s
    7. Nondestructive layer painting
      7m 36s
    8. How the Add blend mode works
      8m 40s
    9. How the Subtract blend mode works
      6m 43s
    10. Focus, noise, and other masking challenges
      5m 32s
    11. The Add mode in action
      7m 51s
    12. The Subtract mode in action
      8m 24s
    13. Comparing two channels with Difference
      5m 23s
    14. Enhancing the contrast with Curves
      9m 10s
    15. Gathering details with Apply Image
      9m 43s
    16. Dodge highlights, burn shadows
      6m 6s
    17. Dodge and Burn in action
      8m 24s
    18. Painting in the scalp
      10m 0s
    19. Painting away the face and chin
      4m 52s
    20. Compositing complementary images
      4m 13s
    21. Multiply, Minimum, Blur, and Apply Image
      6m 40s
    22. Crafting the final composition
      7m 7s
  6. 1h 57m
    1. Mark of the Pen tool
      1m 34s
    2. The big paths project overview
      6m 51s
    3. How to make a path
      8m 24s
    4. Corner points and freeform polygons
      8m 6s
    5. Editing paths with the arrow tools
      5m 2s
    6. Adding and deleting endpoints
      5m 14s
    7. Adding and deleting interior points
      6m 6s
    8. Converting a path to a selection
      3m 35s
    9. Converting a path to a mask
      6m 38s
    10. Smooth points and control handles
      8m 57s
    11. Making cusp points
      5m 59s
    12. Combining paths in a vector mask
      7m 54s
    13. Turning a path into a shape layer
      8m 57s
    14. Combining paths to make a layer mask
      7m 52s
    15. Mixing layer and vector masks
      10m 14s
    16. Editing character outlines as paths
      8m 39s
    17. Using the Convert Point tool
      7m 8s
  7. 3h 17m
    1. Where there's a will, there's a way
      1m 18s
    2. Masking natural cast shadows
      4m 9s
    3. Applying the cast show
      4m 2s
    4. Creating a difference mask
      3m 7s
    5. Applying an arbitrary map
      3m 50s
    6. Making the flesh mask
      7m 16s
    7. Roughing in an object mask
      6m 48s
    8. Drawing missing details with the Lasso tool
      4m 7s
    9. Combining flesh and object masks
      3m 52s
    10. Amplifying the cast shadow
      4m 10s
    11. Selectively choking edges
      3m 58s
    12. Power duplication in Photoshop
      7m 8s
    13. Masking blond hair
      5m 48s
    14. Using Levels to mask iterations
      3m 14s
    15. Drawing an iteration boundary
      4m 54s
    16. Merging the best of two Levels iterations
      4m 4s
    17. More fun with Dodge and Burn
      6m 14s
    18. Fixing edges with the Pen and Stamp tools
      7m 28s
    19. Pulling from another file with Apply Image
      4m 52s
    20. Blending clipped layers independently
      5m 42s
    21. Building the flame mask
      9m 21s
    22. Amplifying the flame
      3m 52s
    23. Masking an image against a busy background
      5m 15s
    24. The Freeform and Magnetic Pen tools
      6m 52s
    25. Masking with arbitrary maps
      9m 32s
    26. A more deliberate approach to arb maps
      10m 51s
    27. Combining arb maps with paths
      9m 28s
    28. Masking with the help of the History brush
      11m 38s
    29. Creating a High Pass mask
      7m 24s
    30. Coloring in the outlines
      8m 31s
    31. Mastering Calculations
      7m 28s
    32. Subtracting and merging the beak
      11m 5s
  8. 1h 33m
    1. The meaning of bit depth (and why you care)
      2m 49s
    2. Scanning line art in 8-bit and 16-bit
      5m 8s
    3. Measuring the 16-bit difference
      8m 8s
    4. Correcting 8-bit images in the 16-bit space
      9m 31s
    5. Opening a raw image directly in 16-bit
      6m 12s
    6. Editing in Camera Raw, opening in 16-bit
      8m 21s
    7. 16-Bit/channel vs. 32-bit/channel (HDR)
      8m 17s
    8. Working with auto-bracketed photographs
      5m 6s
    9. Using the Merge to HDR command
      5m 59s
    10. Adjusting the HDR preview
      6m 0s
    11. Building a 32-bit sky mask
      6m 29s
    12. Properly exposing land and sky
      4m 24s
    13. Modifying a layer mask in 32-bit
      4m 56s
    14. Converting to and correcting in 16-bit Lab
      12m 7s
  9. 2h 8m
    1. Photoshop flirts with the third dimension
      1m 13s
    2. The displacement map
      8m 24s
    3. Making custom waves
      7m 14s
    4. Creating a Gaussian distribution
      4m 31s
    5. Using a two-channel displacement map
      6m 27s
    6. Creating a rustic edge effect
      8m 21s
    7. Distorting and shading with a DMap
      6m 33s
    8. Moonlight reflecting off water
      8m 48s
    9. Mapping the reflection onto the water
      7m 3s
    10. Dipping the moon into the water
      6m 18s
    11. Turning flesh into stone
      7m 55s
    12. Wrapping the stone around the face
      7m 27s
    13. Softening a displacement map
      8m 4s
    14. Making a repeating watermark pattern
      9m 21s
    15. 3D embossing with Lighting Effects
      10m 47s
    16. The amazing credit card type effect
      6m 56s
    17. Lightening the credit card letters
      6m 16s
    18. Wrapping the background around the text
      6m 27s
  10. 1m 43s
    1. Goodbye
      1m 43s

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Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop CS3 Channels & Masks: Advanced Techniques
20h 48m Advanced Nov 21, 2007

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

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."

Topics include:
  • Distorting and shading with a DMap
  • Understanding bits and channels
  • Creating paths with the Pen tool
  • Using blend modes and the Dodge and Burn feature
  • Understanding channel mixing
  • Using layer masks, clipping masks, and knockouts
  • Applying Smart Filters
Design Photography
Deke McClelland

Masking with the help of the History brush

You may recognize this bird; it is a Military Macaw that was captured by photographer Chris Russel of We have made this kind of progress with this bird. This is the mask channel; right here this guy, that I have been working on. The top of the head is rendered just beautifully and the bill also rendered beautifully and the front feathers, quite the problem, actually not so beautiful. In fact, something of a disaster in this region right here.

That's why in this exercise we are going to fix said disaster using yet another application of an arbitrary map, this time applied to a piece of image that will bring over from a different channel. So I am working in an image called All but the front.tif, because obviously we have managed to select all but the front of the bird. It's found inside the 16_tough_stuff folder. You may feel like if you have been working along with me, Deke you are moving so quickly through this, you are impossible to keep up with. In which case, I will take that criticism in hand. But I would advise you obviously to pause the video and sort of work through it and then play the video again.

But this is more designed for you just to get a sense of how you might go at this, because this really could become a three-hour exercise in selecting your bird, because it does get a little difficult. You also have to bear in mind that if I were really working through this bird, I would have it selected in about ten minutes, if I were just sitting here doing it. The fact that I am narrating it is slowing me down a little bit and the reason I am saying that to you is because I want you to know that something that would take me and you've probably already gotten a sense of this from working through other things in this series, something that would take me like two minutes to select, takes me like 20 minutes to explain because of all the things that are going on and I really want you to understand the logic.

This time I am starting to work through it more at a real pace and so it's becoming pretty fast stuff. But that's just because otherwise we are going to be at this forever, you understand. All right, I didn't have to explain that to you, you knew that, here is the deal. Let's check out a channel where things are handled better. First of all, let's go over to the actual bird, Ctrl+~ or Command+~ on the Mac. Let's select the area that's probably a problem area. In other words, I want to select this region right here and I am doing that by dragging with the Rectangular Marquee tool and I have been Shift+Dragging with the Rectangular Marquee tool around this region.

The reason I am thinking that is going to be better handled in a different channel is because looking at the RGB image we have got green and it's pretty obvious green stuff going on here, against sort of this brownish background, this sort of reddish, almost purplish-brown background here. Then once we start getting into this region, that's totally a different color scheme that's going on. So now if I press Ctr+5 to go back to my mask channel, Command+5 on the Mac, sure enough, it pretty much encircles the problem area of the bird maybe a little bit too much, but that's okay.

This area down here is not selected. This is actually a fairly decent shape. So it's this area that is a problem and I might even extend outward since we have some guck over here that needs to be resolved as well. Where is it handled better? Well I bet, given that it's so green that it is handled better in the Green channel. So let's press Ctrl+2 or Command+2 on Mac, and sure enough, we have a high degree of brightness going on inside the feathers and a middling amount of darkness going on in the background here. So let's go ahead and grab it, Ctrl+C or Command+C on the Mac in order to copy that to the clipboard. Then let's press Ctrl+5 or Command+5 on a Mac to move to the mask channel, Ctrl+V or Command+V on the Mac in order to paste this information into place.

Now, here is something that you might want to know. This is a good precaution by the way, I am going to Shift+Tab my palettes back up and I am going to open up the History palette, which is just full of a million meaningless history states at this point. But know that right before I pasted was actually a step that I liked. I mean, the bird was in good shape by this point. It was just this area that was in bad shape and I am not sure how this is going to work out, right. So I make kind of crossroads, I am feeling a little bit timid about moving forward because I don't have a layer to protect me here when I am working in an Alpha channel, but I do have History to protect me. So I am going to go back to this Rectangular Marquee state here and I am going to click in the little Camera icon in order to create a snapshot and I will go ahead and call this something like safety net or anything, you could call it something a little more meaningful than that if you wanted to.

But that way I am protected. Now look Paste is still sitting there ready for me to go back to it. I will go ahead and click on Paste and I am in good shape. Now I can come back to safety net. The only thing that's going to mess me up is if I crash. History states are not saved along with the image. So it's just saved in memory, so it's a temporary thing, but it's unlikely you are going to crash during this, hopefully, crash your fingers, but you should be okay. Now let's apply another Arbitrary Map since that's the name of the game here. Press Ctrl+M or Command+M for the Curves dialog box and this time around I think we are going to do this. I am being a little vague here because I am not sure if I inverted the image first, nope this is right.

So from a 100 input of a 100 right there, there it is, all the way over to the left I want to send to black. So I am going to drag along the bottom of the graph and then from a 101, let's go ahead and find that a 101 all the way over to the right we are going to send that to white. Then I am going to go ahead and click the Smooth button once, anyway, and you might click it twice. Let's go ahead and load the Preset and see what I did there. Choose the Load Preset command and once again, big old dialog box, thank you very much Windows, and let's switch files of type from Curves to Map Settings, another thing that can't be remembered for the life of this dialog box. I get so snotty about -- but I get tired of it, why? I have been in here now five times, and it can't remember this, I mean honestly. Let's go ahead and click on the Green addition.amp file and I will click Load in order to load that up and that is indeed the setting I just applied.

I only click the Smooth button once and just look at all these presets now that I have to work with, isn't that great? But anyway, click OK in order to apply that modification and its pretty good stuff. Now, I might say well gosh! Did I really want to go that far up there? Because now I am getting this sort of vague stuff going on in this region that might not work as well as what I had before. Well, you have that History state, right? So you can go back to safety net and say well, actually it was better before. So let's go ahead and click on Curves to keep it and move the source state from Military macaw there to safety net and then close that down and leave the selection intact. Go ahead and get your History Brush right there, and by the way, get the History Brush not the loopy Art History Brush tool, the Art History Brush tool is -- well, I don't want to say it's a lame tool, I am sure it has some sort of use inside the program. It's just that I haven't used it since it was introduced like 15 versions ago. This is the good tool.

So I just want to make sure that somebody went ahead and switched it to the Art History Brush for you. That's going to give you really wacky results; we want the History Brush tool. Then you want to be just painting in this area in order to paint back what we had before and so long as you have a soft brush you are going to get a soft transition and now things are looking pretty darn good. Now we would switch over to the Burn tool and make that Burn Brush bigger and go ahead and burn that stuff away like so and down here as well and down in this region as well, as well. I don't know what I had to say as well twice, but it was necessary.

Now I am going to press Ctrl+D or Command+D on the Mac in order to deselect this region. Then I am going to Alt+Click around this region with the Lasso tool in order to select it. Option+Click on the Mac, of course, in order to select this stuff because I want to get rid of it all going up to here. Then I would press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete on the Mac in order to fill that area with white and let's see what's going on here. Let's take a look at the real parrot; actually it's a macaw sorry, my bad.

Let's go ahead and turn on the mask. It's like Australians and New Zealanders, they don't like to be confused with each other and neither do parrots and macaws. All right, so this looks like I could sort of drag out here and select it like so with the Lasso tool and oops! Let's not affect the bird, let's go back to the mask and press Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete to fill that with white. Or of course, I could go over here to the Art History Brush, which you get by pressing the Y key incidentally and I could kind of do this number in order to merge the two into each other just to brush that in, because that edge looks actually pretty darn good to me.

And then I will turn off the bird so that I can focus on the mask. I would press the O key in order to get the Burn tool. Let's go ahead and just burn this region in and now it's not seeming quite so successful as I thought, so you know what, Ctrl+Alt+Z, Ctrl+Alt+Z, Ctrl+Alt+Z a couple of times because actually the Lasso tool trick was better. That would be Command+Option+Z, several times on the Mac. The Lasso trick looks like it's going to work better for me. I will go ahead and press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac in order to fill that area with black and this is still kind of a rough little area there. So you know what I am going to do? I am going to resort to actual painting. I am going to right-click on this down pointing arrowhead and choose Reset tool so that I get my default brush.

I am going to make it a little bigger and a little harder by pressing Shift+] and a little smaller actually than that, I think, and I am going to make sure that I am painting with black by pressing the X key and then I am going to paint along here to paint that nice and smooth. Now that may or may not be in or out of the parrot and you can check that by turning the parrot on for a moment, macaw, my bad once again. It looks like it's in pretty good shape. It's not exactly tracing the contours of the animal and it is an animal by the way. But it's doing a pretty good job, it's going to be credible, I think.

I will go ahead and now notice that Photoshop has automatically switched my foreground color to white. So I will go ahead and paint this area white and I will paint some of this area too and I will paint down here. That's very essential because I have that weirdness going. Then I will zoom out and see what's going on at the top here. There is a little rough edge, if I press the ~ key you can see what I am talking about, see how there is a rough edge here. I will press ~ again so I can see whether it's in or out of the bird. The bird sort of goes like this right here. So I will go ahead and paint along it and press the ~ key again. That looks like a pretty darn good edge to me.

Then we have got a little bit of roughness right there and I could either attack it with the Burn tool again or what the heck? I will just go ahead and paint with my Brush tool along this area and along this area too in order to fix that stuff. That looks like a pretty darn good mask to me, I have to say. I am going to go ahead and Shift+Tab away my palette, zoom in to the 50% view size so we can make a little more sense of this. The top of the head looks great; this area here looks good enough I think. Actually, it looks pretty darn good. I think it worked out pretty nicely. That is the finished mask, thanks to Arbitrary Maps.

So we have taken Arbitrary Maps to an absolute conclusion here. In the next exercise, however, we are going to switch over and we are going to take a look at using the High Pass filter. We are still going to be working on the Macaw; I am going to show you how the High Pass Filter works. We are not going to take it all the way through, I am just going to give you a sense of what's going on there, because it is the most tedious of the techniques, I have to warn you. It's tedious but it's also more or less guaranteed to work. So it's one of those tricks that if you are willing to put in the labor it's going to deliver the results.

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