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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 exercise, we're going to get rid of that gas at the top of the glasses, and we're going to do so by combining the light glass layers into a group and then assigning a layer mask to that group. I've saved my progress as Gassy glasses.psd found inside the 09_layer_masks folder. If I were to turn off both the screen and soft light layers, you can see that the gas goes entirely away, because the part of the image that's responsible for that gassy effect is actually the white that's showing through from the background and the white is dropping out entirely because we've assigned the Multiply mode to this layer.
If I turn on the screen layer, why then the gas comes back with a vengeance, that's no good. So I'll go ahead and turn it off. If I turn on the soft light layer, it's not nearly as bad, but I don't want that strange brightness at the top of the glass, no matter what. These glasses need to look transparent so that we're seeing through to the sunset background. So we need to take both of these bright layers right here and combine them into a single group. So click on the screen layer, Shift+ click on the soft light layer so both of them are selected. Then go up to Layers panel flyout menu and choose New Group from layers, and I'll go ahead and call this group bright layers because these are the bright versions of the champagne glasses.
Now Photoshop goes ahead and collapses a group, by default. Go ahead and click on the triangle to twirl that group open, so that we can keep track of what we're doing. Now the next thing I want you to do is with the group selected, the folder item that is, drop down to the Add layer Mask icon at the bottom of the panel and click on it and that adds a blank white layer mask. All right! I now want you to select the Gradient tool which you can get by pressing the G key, and then I recommend just so that you and I are totally on the same page, go up to the Options bar, click on that Gradient icon and choose Reset tool.
In that way, you'll set things up so that we're creating a white to black gradient assuming that white and black are your foreground and background colors respectively. If they aren't, go ahead and tap the D key. Now notice these three little bubbles right here on the left-hand side of this right-hand glass. I want you to drag from the bottom of the third bubble upward. Press the Shift key as you do so, so that you're creating an absolutely vertical gradient. And you want to move your cursor till it's more or less in line with the end of the bubbles in the left-hand glass.
So right about here will do, and notice that that entirely eliminates that gas inside of the glasses because we've created a white to black gradient mask that's affecting both of those layers inside the group. Now the wonderful thing about this is it's such a flexible solution. If I don't like this gradient, I could redraw it like so, I'll draw a much taller gradient this time around, and that means that I can affect one mask without affecting what are essentially the sub-masks inside the group. So each and every mask is independent because it's assigned to an independent layer, so I'm applying strictly nondestructive modifications. All right! That's not what I want though.
I'm going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo that modification. Also, here is another thing you can do. If you click the Chain icon between the folder and the layer Mask, then the layer Mask becomes independent of the layers themselves, and you can now Ctrl+drag or Command+drag it inside of the Image window to move it independently of those layers; all sorts of things that you can do now that you have independent mask working together with one another. I'm going to press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo that modification.
Now let's say, we want to go ahead and reinstate some of the highlights along the edges of the glasses and I'm going to do that by switching back to my Brush tool right here. So if your Pencil tool is selected, go ahead and click and hold on it and choose the Brush tool. Then right-click inside the Image window, notice that my Size value is set to 200 pixels, my Hardness is 0%. Those are both important, by the way,. Then make sure that your Foreground color is white once again and that your layer mask that is your group mask is selected and I want you to paint upward along the inside edge of both of these glasses like so in order to reestablish these highlights. All right! Now I think this looks pretty good, but the problem is after singing the praises of this nondestructive approach that I've been able to achieve, thanks to the fact I'm using multiple masks, I just applied a destructive modification to the group mask.
So if you Alt+click or Option+click on it, you can see that we've got the gradient with these two kind of blobby fingers sticking up into it. Well, what if I decide I want to change the nature of the highlights or what if I decide I want to adjust the gradient? Well, I can't anymore without redrawing things, because they're fused together. I'll go ahead and Alt+click or Option+ click again to bring back the RGB version of the image and sure enough, on further reflection, I look at those highlights and I think, they could be better, and in fact, in the final version of the composition, which is called The perfect evening.psd, they look way better.
We have so much more credible high impact highlight, and I was only able to achieve that by foregoing that group mask. You can see I went ahead and turned it off, and applying a knockout layer instead and I'll be showing you how that works in the next exercise.
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